nodel: from “non-model” or “not a model; a “real-girl” model; a nonprofessional, nontraditional fashion model (e.g., a person who is plus-size, a celebrity, disabled, a friend of the designer, or invited from the street).
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A few days before Fashion Week began, the avant-garde label Eckhaus Latta held a casting call in a Chinatown basement for its runway show. Women with pink hair, men with full-back tattoos, plus-size and transgender models, and not terribly tall civilians—all were fair game in the eyes of Rachel Chandler, the casting director who’d summoned them.
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Two years ago, Chandler and her business partner, Walter Pearce, who is a twenty-two-year-old downtown It Boy, created an agency called Midland, which aims to cast real people (with an emphasis on the eccentric or the unpolished) in fashion shows and ad campaigns. Their clients include Adidas, Gucci, Barneys, and the C.F.D.A.-winning designer Telfar.
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For Eckhaus Latta, Chandler hoped to cast a mix of working models and “nodels,” as nonprofessionals are called. Some of these are friends of hers and of the designers, and some are people whom she stops on the street. Last year, a friend she cast walked the runway with the middle buttons of her dress undone to reveal a pregnant belly. Eckhaus Latta’s line often features gender-neutral sizing, and a recent series of ads pictured models having sex. For another campaign, Chandler cast her assistant and the babysitter of a stylist friend; both were topless and wore clown makeup.
When it comes to casting models, the line between “real” and “too real” can be tricky to discern. The label’s designers—Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta, thirty-year-old graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design—were worried about coming off as gimmicky this season. Some agencies had misinterpreted their aesthetic and sent over candidates with obvious shticks, or with too many tattoos.
The hottest models now are, well, not models. Call Merriam Webster because the people to have on your runway now are “nodels.” Recent standout examples of the trend were Buzz Aldridge and Bill Nye walking at men’s fashion week; January’s entire Vetements runway show where real people wore the collection aimed at “stereotypes”; Camilla Deterre the daughter of Australian artist Mark Wilson and German restaurateur Ana Opitz walked Ekhaus Latta last season and the fabulous 85-year old Carmen Dell’Orefice stole and closed the Guo Pei show. Only time—and the next runway show—will tell who will be the next big nodel on the block.
As the call for diversity in fashion grows ever louder, brands are tapping into our desire to see ourselves reflected in the women who rock their wares. Designers want their brands to feel honest and inclusive. They’re also cognizant of the fact that the greater our voyeuristic interest in what goes on in their models’ lives once the camera stops snapping, the more attention we’re likely to pay their paid achievements. Thus, the “real girl” model, aka nodel, is on the rise.
“Maybe women are sick of looking at clothes on a size 2 model,” says Karley Sciortino, whose own size 6 curves landed her in two of Kate Spade New York’s most recent campaigns alongside the likes of style icon Iris Apfel, filmmaker Tracy Antonopoulos and composer Jon Batiste. The writer and founder of Slutever, who affectionately refers to herself as a “nodel” (not a model), is the latest in a string of “real girls,” who, with their own distinct looks and large social media followings, are bumping top models from their posts to front high fashion campaigns.
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[I]t seems an increasing number of brands are choosing the “nodel” route. (And let’s not forget Lanvin’s fall 2012 campaign starring 82-year-old former Apollo dancer, Jacquie ‘Tajah’ Murdock; Barneys’ spring 2014 ads featuring 17 transgender individuals; and Diesel’s continued commitment to selecting models from Tumblr.)
[A]fter the supermodel and the size-zero debate, we are entering a new era: the age of the “nodel”. Nodel – or non-model – is the breakout buzzword from New York fashion week, where designer Mike Eckhous of Eckhaus told Vogue that their diverse casting was about a “combination of working with models and ‘nodels’ – friends and peers. I think it creates a more dynamic texture and quality to the clothing.”
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