Designer muses, social media icons and tabloid fixtures – whatever you think of the Hadids, they’ve become a fashion force to be reckoned with
This season, two sisters have left an indelible mark on the fashion week runways. No, not the Delevingnes, and not the Moosgaard twins who walked exclusively for Prada in Milan – but Bella and Gigi Hadid. The siblings’ presence at the SS16 shows (Bella’s first full runway season) saw them book gigs including Balmain, Moschino, Marc Jacobs and Versace – and made them impossible to ignore. High fashion muses, tabloid-fodder and social media sensations all at once, when it comes to the new gen of supermodels, the Hadids are leading the pack.
For many, the sisters need little introduction. Daughters of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star and former model Yolanda Foster and real estate developer Mohamed Hadid, they belong to the same super-rich, super-famous LA set as the Kardashians. As far as modelling goes, they are signed to the same agency that represents Kate Moss (IMG) and are experiencing a similarly meteoric rise to stardom as Kendall Jenner. A few years ago, the notion of American reality TV stars like Kendall, Gigi and Bella walking for the world’s most elite fashion houses would have seemed unlikely. Now, it’s to be expected.
“High fashion muses, tabloid-fodder and social media sensations all at once, when it comes to the new gen of supermodels, the Hadids are leading the pack”
But is it really so surprising? The Hadids are living, breathing, modelling proof that fashion loves personality. Cara, Kendall and more recently Lucky Blue Smith, Pyper America and Jordan Barrett are other examples of models whose appeal lies in their character and cultural clout, rather than just their physical appearance; they have the power to communicate. Naturally, this ties into their social media reach, which by any standards is gargantuan. Gigi has 6.8 million followers (roughly the same amount of followers as Balmain, Moschino and Versace combined) and Bella has 1.4 million. As many modelling agencies will testify – this is as important a factor as waist measurements in today's market. In fact agencies have started monetising it, treating their models’ reach as media space and charging for it accordingly.
Like Jenner before them, the Hadids’ presence at the shows has been met with mixed responses – some celebrating their success, others less than thrilled it. While it’s true that their background is one of privilege, causing questions over how fame played a part in their rise to the top, much of the negativity has been focussed on their appearance. This has been the case for Gigi in particular, who was subject to Internet trolling during Milan Fashion Week – while slim compared to the average woman, she is more curvaceous than the standard runway model.
“Loose (sic) at least 15 pounds please :( if you want to be taken seriously as a model” wrote one Instagram user, commenting on a picture Gigi posted of herself at the Versace show rehearsal. “...she is thick to be a model though,” wrote another user; “Fat,” someone else said simply. In a post shortly after, Gigi addressed these trolls directly. “No, I don’t have the same body type as the other models in shows,” she wrote in an impassioned retort. “I represent a body image that wasn’t accepted in high fashion before... Yes, I have boobs, I have abs, I have a butt, I have thighs, but I’m not asking for special treatment... If you don’t like it, don’t follow me, don’t watch me, cause I’m not going anywhere.” While Hadid may not have the typical model body, it in fact works to her favour – making her more accessible and, ultimately, aspirational to those outside of the fashion industry.
“Their social media reach is gargantuan. Gigi has 6.8 million followers (roughly the same amount of followers as Balmain, Moschino and Versace combined)”
But for all the body-shaming, Gigi and Bella have also got their fans – besides their collective 8.2 million Instagram followers that is. Christopher Bailey, Diane von Furstenberg, Donatella Versace, Jeremy Scott, Marc Jacobs and Olivier Rousteing – a roster of influential designers if ever there was one – have all employed one or both sisters to model in their shows this season. Sure, these designers are more accepting – or in the case of Scott and Rousteing, totally embracing – of people with pop cultural affiliations. But the same can't be said for Bailey who cast Bella in the Burberry show. While he’s got a soft spot for emerging British artists, when it comes to the catwalk, in general he only selects the best new faces. And then there's the fashion editors, stylists and casting directors who are highly influential in the casting process. These are industry-renowned individuals whose proverbial stamp of approval cannot be ignored.
Gigi and Bella have an old-school glamour, one that hearkens back to the 80s and 90s – an era in which their mother Yolanda modelled. Think Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Elle MacPherson. Unlike their androgynous or else otherworldly-looking contemporaries, the Hadids embody a sex appeal which is as accessible to the fashion expert as it is to the Topshop shopper (where Gigi is currently the campaign girl). They also have a versatility that belongs to this type of model – just as MacPherson could star in a Diet Coke ad and a Christian Dior haute couture show, so Gigi can feature in Sports Illustrated in a barely-there bikini and in a Versace show alongside Natasha Poly.
SS16 has seen the Hadids welcomed into the fashion fold. After a stellar first season, Bella has already found a spot on Models.com’s hot list, and Gigi’s career seems set to shoot further into the industry stratosphere. All hail the Hadids.