The most serious fashion designers tend to like models who don’t smile or show any emotion so that the clothes don’t get in the way.
Q: Why do fashion designers have their models on the runway and in print ads make faces that look sad or angry? If the model wasn’t frowning, I would be more likely to buy an outfit.
C.M., Katonah, N.Y.
It’s easy to think of a fashion show today as a parade of beautiful, happy supermodels, like the group of slim, beautiful women who laugh and dance on stage at Victoria’s Secret fashion show every year. And that’s entertainment: a fashion and music show that has featured supermodels like Tyra Banks and Gisele Bündchen, who was just as important as Victoria’s Secret lingerie they wore down the runway.
But the shows that show off the designer collections during Fashion Weeks in New York, London, Paris, and Milan are more common. Even though there may be stage sets and famous people sitting in the front row, the focus is on the clothes. That’s why the most serious fashion designers tend to like models who look like human mannequins—models who don’t smile or show any emotion—so that the clothes don’t get in the way.
For instance, designer Giorgio Armani is known for dressing the hottest movie stars in his gowns and tuxedos and expecting them to smile and pose on the red carpet. But he does things differently at his formal fashion shows, where most of the people who come are fashion editors, retail buyers, and select private customers. Most of the time, Mr. Armani chooses professional runway models who don’t stand out—women or men who don’t have strong personalities and who look straight ahead as they walk. His runway models never steal the show from his clothes. Armani’s fashion shows are always about clothes.
It’s also true that some models on designer runways don’t just look bored—they deliberately frown, pout, and scowls, like a jazz musician or a rapper. In fashion magazine editorial spreads, models have the same cool, edgy look. It goes with the act: of fashion as a highbrow art form. This is an affectation that adds to the idea that something is unattainable. In fact, it’s the “cool factor” that makes us want to buy all the new fashion trends every season.