Pin It
Models
L-R: Adesuwa Aighewi, Edie Campbell, Teddy Quinlivan, Krow, AwengIllustration by Callum Abbott

Eight models reflect on a decade of fashion

Models

As we race towards a new decade, models including Teddy Quinlivan, Aweng, Adesuwa Aighewi, and Lindsey Wixson look back on the 2010s and reveal their hopes for the future of fashion

Deep fakes, influencers, viral fashion – we live in a world unrecognisable from the one we stood in ten years ago. As a chaotic decade comes to a close, we're speaking to the people who helped shape the last ten years and analysing the cultural shifts that have defined them. Explore the decade on our interactive timeline here, or head here to check out all our features.

From blink-and-you’ll-miss-them trends rising up and dying as quickly as they appeared and the seemingly never-ending designer switch-around at the world’s biggest houses, to those who were with us at the start of the decade but sadly no longer are, fashion has shifted dramatically in the last ten years. 

As we race at breakneck speed towards the 2020s, what’s happening in the industry feels largely positive. No longer dominated by cookie-cutter white models exemplary of western ideals of beauty, runways are finally diversifying when it comes to race, gender, size, and ability, while the #MeToo movement turned the lens on its inner-workings, highlighting the unacceptable practices and behaviour that were once commonplace. 

Here, eight models who, to us, have defined the decade, reflect on their experiences, and what they hope the future of fashion will look like. 

LINDSEY WIXSON

“I was discovered in Wichita, Kansas in 2010 during a local fashion show with a local agency. My now dear friend Tony Perkins spotted me, and from the get-go I was keen to go to New York and get started on my global travels. My first job was a Lycra denim fabric campaign, but the next stop? Prada exclusive! 

Back then, it felt like anything was possible in the modelling industry – it wasn’t like the social media popularity contest it is today, and you could actually have a private life and detach from business more. In fact, the biggest changes in modelling over the course of the last decade are probably thanks to the rise of social media. The good, the bad, and the ugly truth is that modelling has basically become a spectator’s sport. 

“I think what we’ve seen this decade has been the beginning of something, not the end” – Lindsey Wixson

In terms of the Me Too movement, I was never personally affected, but I think for all the victims it has been a shining light in a world that, at times, can be pretty dark. And there’s a long way to go towards inclusivity, but I think what we’ve seen this decade has been the beginning of something, not the end. Going into the 2020s, I would love to be working alongside even more people of colour and LGBTQ+ individuals on the mainstream fashion runways and photoshoots. 

As far as my own goals go, the environment is my main focus now, so I hope fashion will move towards becoming fully ethical. We need to put more money into saving the world and doing better for the people.”  

TEDDY QUINLIVAN  

“Back in 2010, fashion looked like the ultimate dream: the industry appeared to be a place where beauty, elegance, sophistication, and intelligence were celebrated. I was so hungry to escape my shitty conservative home town and run away to this magical world. I always recognised the power of clothes and how they can not only be a form of self expression but also inform the world silently as to so much about who you are. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t care about what I was wearing. 

Fashion is art, darling, it’s always evolving. It’s definitely more diverse and open now – it’s not just for the wealthy white elites any more, and because of the Me Too movement the way people are treating each other has improved for the better. Still, models now are paid less than ever, and we don’t have workers’ protections, and while it is more inclusive, LGBTQ+ models are more than just a prop for Pride month. We exist 365 days a year, so I feel like we need to have more consistent representation. I’m tired of being the only trans model I see on most runways – there are so many capable trans women out there, so give them a spot in your show! What advice would I go back and offer my younger self? I wouldn’t, because all my fuck-ups led me to this point and I’m pretty content with who I’ve become.

“There is shit to be done, the world is in a state of crisis, and we need to act now. I don’t care what modelling will look like in another decade, I care about what our planet looks like” – Teddy Quinlivan

I have no idea what the fashion industry will look like in another ten years – to be honest, I hope I’m not a model by then. There is shit to be done, the world is in a state of crisis, and we need to act now. I don’t care what modelling will look like in another decade, I care about what our planet looks like, and it had better be more eco friendly because ain’t nobody got time for climate change.”

ALI MICHAEL

“I won a model search in Texas in 2005 and signed with DNA soon after – I was mostly bewildered and confused by it all because I didn’t find myself attractive and wasn’t regarded as attractive by my peers, but it was very exciting. My first job was for Teen Vogue with Arthur Elgort, and when I started out you had to wait for the magazine to arrive at the store to see the shoot and tear out the pages to put in your book – there was way less interaction with screens! The industry was much smaller in regards to models, publications, agencies, photographers, casting directors etc, and it was much more insular. The rise of social media has completely transformed the industry in ways that both bring us closer together and take us further apart. Obviously, having such a close relationship with it causes us to be less present, but it has also given so many people platforms and voices and accessibility to cause much needed change.  

“The understanding was that you did what you were told, didn’t have an opinion, and most likely had to disassociate from your body somewhat - at least, I did” – Ali Michael 

Since Me Too, people are being held accountable for their actions because everything is so much more transparent now. Before things like Instagram, if someone spoke up they would probably just be kicked out of the small circle that was the fashion industry, and there was an expectation to be submissive in order to be a ‘good model’ and to continue to work. The understanding was that you did what you were told, didn’t have an opinion, and most likely had to disassociate from your body somewhat – at least, I did. There was nowhere for your voice to be heard, but now there are repercussions for those who are found to abuse their positions. 

I hope as we move into the 2020s there will be less hierarchy in fashion. I feel like the industry has become a lot more inclusive: when I started out the pool of models was almost completely homogenous and made up of teenage white girls which is absurd for so many reasons. The idea that any specific aesthetic or body is the one that should be deemed more or less desirable than any other other is delusional. The more humans who are represented the better, because they are all vital parts of our whole.” 

ADESUWA AIGHEWI  

“My first ever job – I say job, it was more an internship I hated – was when I spent an entire summer dissecting mosquitoes and pipetting misery into petri dishes. Both my parents are scientists and I grew up in Nigeria. I was studying my whole life to be a doctor and then other things happened – we change and we adapt and we go with the flow, it’s cool. My story is a bit different in that it wasn’t linear but my break came about two-and-a-half years ago when I changed my hair to how I wanted it. 

Fashion’s Me Too movement was pretty strong, because fashion sells sex to the masses, you know? It has this dark underlying tone, which is a lot. There were a lot of hurt people, but now there’s this wave of self-expression coming from models which is great. Everyone is very cautious of each other now because there are immediate consequences with phones exposing things left and right. Without phones, a lot of social revolutions wouldn’t have taken place and we’d still be in the dark ages, blind to everything. 

“In 2020 I think the modelling industry will be non-existent: girls will be robots and there’d be no need for fashion shows because holograms are real and an Amazon Prime-only feature” – Adesuwa Aighewi

Right now there are a lot of body positive messages out there in the world which is outstanding, and there has also been a huge increase in diversity on the runway and in campaigns and adverts, but I still don’t think models have any rights in fashion to be honest. In terms of inclusivity, I only know my own experience as a black model which is an entirely different reality. 

In 2020 I think the modelling industry will be non-existent: girls will be robots and there’d be no need for fashion shows because holograms are real and an Amazon Prime-only feature. Maybe I’ll come back to the runway then, as a robot. Robots don’t discriminate. Robots just dance.”  

EDIE CAMPBELL  

“Ten years ago, when I was a wee pup, fashion was overwhelming and exciting, as well as really amusing and extreme. It seemed (and still seems) to me a really fascinating melting pot of weird and creative people and really great, camp stories. My big break came when I was cast in a ‘Young London’ editorial for Vogue, and I remember just being thrilled to miss a day of school and that there was free food. On-set catering both attracted me to this industry and threatened to be my undoing. 

“What will fashion look like in another ten years? Well, we’re on track for three degrees of warming by 2030, so we’ll be prepping for the global farewell tour by then I guess…” – Edie Campbell

The most surreal moment of my career was when I had the Louis Vuitton and Keith Haring logo painted all over my naked body, and then walking the show in just a crystal thong, which I still have in my possession. I think in the last decade shows have become a little less theatrical, perhaps because they’re mostly disseminated through an Instagram image, rather than just being for the audience actually present. One huge positive of the industry is the greater diversity we see now, both in terms of models and people who usually work in fashion – stylists, hairdressers, editors, photographers, and so on. Ten years ago it was quite ‘normal’ for a cast of a fashion show to feature only white people. I think the industry has become much more self-aware: that just because ‘that’s how things have always been done’ doesn’t mean it’s right. We’re seeing a new generation of young photographers and stylists come to the fore. 

What will fashion look like in another ten years? Well, we’re on track for three degrees of warming by 2030, so we’ll be prepping for the global farewell tour by then I guess…” 

KIKI WILLEMS 

“I loved clothes from a young age, especially vintage and high heels funnily enough, since I would never wear them in my free time now. If you talk to people from my high school, they’ll probably remember me stumbling around on heels, which I also used to wear to cycle the 45 minutes there and back. 

The first time I went to Paris, for SS15, I’d just been signed by my agency. I saw a lot of people and no one was really interested in the weird girl with the short fringe – I remember calling my mom and telling her how awful I felt and thinking maybe this business wasn’t the thing for me. The day after, I was asked to come to a casting for Saint Laurent, where Hedi (Slimane) was at the time. He booked me for an exclusive and it changed my life in ways I never thought possible. 

“Photos, designs, and even people are made to look good on Instagram because that’s where it sells and ‘matters’” – Kiki Willems

There is much more awareness and respect in modelling now than there was when I started. We didn’t have changing rooms or anything covered really: backstage photographers would roam around and I can recall numerous times where I had to get vocal and ask them not to take photos while we were changing. Social media has definitely changed the industry in both positive and negative ways: in some ways it’s beautiful, because it makes the world more inclusive and connected, but I also think it has taken away from the ‘craft’ of the job. Photos, designs, and even people are made to look good on Instagram because that’s where it sells and ‘matters’.

The Me Too moment was an empowering time for women, and I think it changed the industry a lot. Things that were seen as normal aren’t any more and everyone is definitely more careful, but we have a long way to go. We really have to look at who’s protecting the younger models coming up, and give them guidance in this crazy industry – because it’s pretty big scary world out there when you’re 16 and you’re coming from a foreign country without your parents.” 

AWENG 

“We’ve made a lot of positive changes in fashion over the course of the last decade. We had the first-ever black photographer (Tyler Mitchell) shoot the cover of Vogue, we had Naomi win the Model Icon Award, we had Anok (Yai) do an exclusive for Prada after two decades of no black girl ever opening it – doors that were closed to inclusivity are opening. Moving forward and upward is my favourite thing about fashion, it has one constant: rebirth. 

Me Too opened many eyes to the reality of the world and I respect every single person that spoke out, every person that is still healing and processing. When it first started coming out and the blacklist (a list of photographers accused of impropriety, published by @shitmodelmgmt) was revealed, it struck home for so many of us and became so prevalent – the names, emails, messages were all there and it was like ‘Here! Look! You cannot ignore!’ Fashion became aware that it was not exempt from the movement and that we all had to look not only at ourselves but the industry we were in and hold people accountable. 

“Valerie Campbell told me ‘The door...Push it, kick it, bang it open. Do not give up!’ It reminded me that if the front door doesn’t open, go through the back” – Aweng

Something that will forever stay in my mind was when I met Valerie Campbell earlier this year. She asked me about my dreams and what I wanted to do. I told her about my worries of never making it as a ‘top model’ and she told me, in a low whisper, ‘The door… Push it, kick it, bang it open. Do not give up!’ It reminded me that if the front door doesn’t open, go through the back. 

If I could go back and give younger Aweng some advice, I would tell her that her biggest win in life won’t be walking that show or shooting that cover or that campaign. I would tell her that her biggest win is her mind, and that she should constantly use it to her advantage and realise that no dream is ever too big. Silencing herself will not get her to the table she wants to sit at.” 

KROW

“Ten years ago I was a female model working in Japan. The modelling industry was quite different back then, but I also started modelling to learn how to be a girl. Surprisingly I haven’t found much of a difference between male modelling and female modelling, aside from how much more a female model makes doing the exact same job as a male – it’s interesting to see the differing values of gender in fashion.   

As a male model, my first job was with Louis Vuitton for its SS19 women’s show. Nicolas Ghesquiere was looking specifically for trans models to support and bring attention to the community and show that gender doesn’t limit your choice of fashion and beautiful clothes. Since then, I’ve done five Louis Vuitton runway shows, three Vogue covers, and one for Dazed. It’s been an amazing experience so far, especially meeting so many creative and kind people in the industry.  

“As a trans man, I am trying to bring representation to my community, and hopefully I can be the role model I never had but desperately needed when I was younger” – Krow

I’m glad to see much more diversity in terms of race on the runway now, and I’m starting to see the industry promote more varying sizes, so people can be proud of their body and not feel like they need to be the standard model size. For me as a trans man I am trying to bring representation to my community, and hopefully I can be the role model I never had but desperately needed when I was younger. By doing all these jobs and interviews in the fashion industry all around the world I can bring more understanding and acceptance to trans people by normalising the concept for the average person who happens to like fashion.”