It’s been a while since the ramp gave India its next big fashion face and even longer since the term ‘supermodel’ actually meant being the “it” person of the fashion industry, the fashion designer’s blue-eyed boy, and the hunk all deodorant commercials died to get on board.
Muzammil Ibrahim, the youngest winner of Gladrags Manhunt at 18, went on to walk nearly 700 shows in his four-year modelling career and did many commercials and music videos. He feels like modelling has lost its niche. “I feel like there will not be a supermodel after me. Modelling has lost its niche with celebrities and cricketers coming into modelling endorsements. Also, international models do assignments for less money. Even now, my equity is the same what I used to charge earlier,” says Ibrahim, cocky as always.
Marc Robinson, who is now a fashion and grooming expert after kickstarting his career as a supermodel, has the same line of thought. “I started modelling when other industries were not ruling the ramp. It was up to us models to get eyeballs, and we were as good as our last campaign,” he adds. Dino Morea, who was first noticed when he was modelling for a fashion company and then went on to do Bollywood films, says that, earlier, models were the celebrities of their own industry. “The importance that supermodels had, with our faces plastered everywhere, and everyone talking about them, doesn’t exist anymore. So naturally, the supermodel doesn’t exist too,” he says.
Bikram Saluja was a major phenom back in the day and used to dominate the runway with men and women going crazy about him. He also feels the importance of a supermodel in a show is what’s largely missing from the picture. “Of course, there were brands who were taking cricketers or film stars, but mostly, brands were endorsed by models. Then the television industry started booming…” he pauses.
Another part of the modelling industry (as is with most industries) is the involvement of agencies and middlemen. Agencies will have a list of models that they’ll then recommend to casting crews, which also means a lot of filtering between the model and the client. Robinson, who is in the business of scouting talent, feels most of these agents don’t have a clue about what their models can do. “They’ll send 50 models to one audition. They will focus on the ones who are already famous, and not push for new talent. I’ve been dedicating myself to finding new talent and the models we find, ones we send abroad become international models and don’t want to come back because it’s so much better there, the work, the pay etc.,” he says.
Saluja feels like there is a pro to it. “The scale of production has increased and there are also more magazines now. The market is definitely growing and hence, the modelling agency is changing along with it. Also, almost all the showstoppers are Bollywood celebrities,” he points out. Morea adds, “I went to all production houses to give my photos myself. Agents now sell a whole market to the clients.”
That’s exactly what Robinson believes is the reason behind this conversation. Production has increased, there are more magazines, but has that worked in favour of supermodels? “I cannot think of the last time I saw a supermodel on the cover of a magazine, or the face of a clothing brand. Ask your neighbours if they know who the models today are. We used to be household names,” he says.
Ibrahim has some funny anecdotes to share too, to lighten the discussion. Did you know that FDCI chairman Sunil Sethi named him the Mick Jagger of India? “Girls used to stalk me in my rooms and it was crazy. One time, I just exited and there were a group of girls standing. One of them pulled her bra out and was like “will you sign my boob for me?” I was like “no no”. Sethi saw it and that’s why he calls me the Mick Jagger of India,” he recalls and laughs.
Morea points out a rather interesting and obvious difference in then and now: the advent of social media. “These days, everyone is their own model. Social media is full of people posing and gaining that attention. So it’s kind of an oversaturated market out there,” he says.
Robinson feels that people need to realise that the craft, attitude and personality is what sustains, and it’s fashion designers who need to push for new talent and bring back the importance of the supermodel. “The face of the Indian supermodel has changed because now, it has no face. Indian designers have evolved more than Indian models and I wish they did the same for the modelling industry,” he signs off.
But where do we see the supermodel 20 years from now? Saluja comments, “Once in a while it’s okay to add the celebrity factor, but dominantly, the focus should be on the clothes and people who are best suited to present your clothes, which is the model.” Morea says that just like any other industry, with the onset of technology, fashion and modelling will change too. “The future of fashion itself is going to change, right? Look at how much it has already changed,” he says. Ibrahim feels that celebrities are going to continue to take over in this space. “I feel like more and more actors will be endorsing brands, doing ads, stuff that models used to do before,” he concludes.