It's not much of a stretch to say that in 2014, a list of the year's most ubiquitous models wouldn't read much differently than a page in US Weekly. With the likes of Kardashian kid sister Kendall Jenner and "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" alum Gigi Hadid scoring some of the industry's most covetable castings — they both appeared walked the runways for Chanel and Marc Jacobs this year, and starred in the campaigns for Givenchy and Tom Ford, respectively — the prevalence of "celebrity" models was on a swift rise.
Things came to a head during Paris Fashion Week, when the Sonia Rykiel Spring 2015 show featured a cast of models that was a veritable Who's Who of celebrity offspring: In addition to Jenner and Hadid, Hailey Baldwin — Stephen Baldwin's daughter, who is now an ambassador for Topshop — both Georgia May and Elizabeth Jagger and Ella Richards, the granddaughter of The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, all appeared on the runway. In the months since, these ladies seem to keep racking up more (and better) gigs. But will this industry trend continue in the coming year, or — like many fixations in fashion — will it be a flash in the pan?
"This 'trend' will only get bigger," says Francine Champagne, president of Vision, a model management firm in Los Angeles. "It's exciting for us as an agency — it gets us out of the same routine, and it opens doors for a more diverse look. Modeling has always been about a specific body type, and now it's getting to be less about having that 'perfect body' or face."
Champagne also brings up the most crucial point about why celebrity kids have taken off in the industry — they're famous. Regardless of whether a person is interested in fashion, he or she likely wants to know who these models are and what their lives are like; they have a little bit more of a story, more substance.
"With Kendall, people at first thought it would be a one-time thing [walking Marc Jacobs], but when clients look at her, it makes sense," Champagne says. "She and her peers are the ones who have the followers and all of the eyes on them. More clients call every day and say, 'Tell me about her followers.' Those are the girls who will get the job."
With clients' focus on social media and digital reach becoming more important every day, the bigger following a model has online, the better the likelihood of her landing a lucrative gig. A prime example is Jenner's recent contract with Estée Lauder, a blue-chip beauty brand (and the Holy Grail of modeling contracts) that has openly voiced its desire to reach a younger, more digital-savvy customer. Jenner has only been on the scene for a short while (and generally, beauty contracts this large come after years of paying your dues and building your name), but with 17 million Instagram followers and over 9 million on Twitter, she's leagues ahead of her more seasoned modeling competition.
"I believe, in fact, these 'celebrities-turned-models' do have longevity and it is not a passing 'trend,'" casting director Jennifer Starr — who's known for her work on the annual Pirelli Calendar — told us in an email. "If you have name recognition and a tremendous social media following, this guarantees your ability to speak to a wide audience — millennials and non-millennials. This means you appeal to brands much more than regular models, but social media presence is a must."
It's true that having a famous last name could discredit a model's image and perhaps her reputation in the industry — remember how Jenner was reportedly bullied backstage during Fashion Month because fellow models were angry that the reality TV star was stealing their hard-earned jobs? — but Starr insists that the cream rises to the top in these situations. Models simply cannot get by thanks to a famous last name alone.
"Gigi and Kendall are very charming and incredibly savvy professionals," Starr says. "A famous name opens the door, however, it could also hurt your career. You have to have a light and charisma that carries you further."
Yes, this year was huge for Gigi Hadid, and in recent weeks, her younger sister, Bella — who boasts 369K Instagram followers and 57K on Twitter — has started to show promise in her modeling career as well. Hailey Baldwin's cousin, Ireland Baldwin, starred in a lone Rampage ad campaign this year, but we expect her to make a few more appearances in 2015. Meanwhile, Cindy Crawford's 13-year-old daughter Kaia Gerber (who has 54K Instagram followers) was featured in Teen Vogue. Sofia Richie, Nicole Richie's younger sis who is sitting pretty at 599K Instagram followers, recently signed a contract with Select Model Management.
So, whether the industry is fully on board or not, fashion lovers should probably get used to seeing more and more famous last names on comp cards and casting lists in the year ahead.