Model talkSupermodels, whose salaries and perks are...


Model talk

Supermodels, whose salaries and perks are at an all-time high, were at the center of a firestorm that was the talk of those gathered in Paris recently for the spring fashion shows.

The controversy was over the astronomical fees that top models such as Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington are paid and the bonuses they command. In addition, there's a backstage feud brewing as less well-known models watch the supermodels strut down the runways wearing the best of each collection.

The biggest issue is, of course, the money. Ms. Campbell and her counterparts -- all Americans -- are paid about $10,000 per show and may only wear about five outfits per show. They are flown first-class to Milan, Italy, and Paris and are put up in the best hotels.

The top models have gone from being a necessary commodity to the fashion industry's most sought-after status symbol.

Why do designers, who always harp about the expense of staying in business, spend so much on the supermodels? Because a designer whose clothes are worn by supermodels can almost guarantee that news services will transmit the photos around the world.

For example, the season when New York designer Gordon Henderson mounted a show with Ms. Campbell, Ms. Turlington and Ms. Evangelista, he received more press than he had in his previous four years in business.

But now that designer apparel costs more than some cars, many people are beginning to question the money paid to these models.

Maybe it was Ralph Lauren who originated this current dressed-up denim trend when be began attending ritzy black-tie events wearing a dinner jacket and formal shirt with weathered jeans and cowboy boots. That was a couple of years back, and up until then, nobody dreamed it was OK to go to fancy places wearing denim, one of the oldest, most rugged fabrics around.

Nowadays, denim with -- is headed for offices and restaurants and even some glitzy parties, but the credit goes to two other designers, New Yorker Donna Karan and Karl Lagerfeld, the man who makes the Chanel collections click.

A couple of seasons ago, Ms. Karan gussied up some of her moderately priced DKNY denim jackets by sprinkling them with pearls. The incongruous addition of glamour to a totally functional, casual item gave the jackets instant recognition and a funky kind of cachet.

Then Mr. Lagerfeld went much further with his current fall collection, combining wool tweeds and plaids with denim in suits with four-digit price tags, suits destined for hoity-toity haunts.

Now, dressy denims are going more mainstream with lots of designers and manufacturers turning out denim jackets, suits, dresses -- trimmed with braid or satin or jeweled buttons, teamed with chiffon skirts or shimmery gold bodysuits, priced at one-tenth the cost of a Chanel jacket.

Retailers predict that the next round of denim -- clothing that arrives in stores in coming months for resort and spring -- will appear in white, again following the lead of Chanel.

@ A catalog with clothing designed specifically for African-American women will debut in the spring 1993, and this "first" in the world of mail-order is being developed by Ebony magazine and Spiegel Inc.

To be known as "E Style," the seasonal catalog will include everything from casual, career and evening clothing to hats, shoes and other accessories. According to company officials, the book is being developed to reflect the fashion taste and style of contemporary black women.


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