NEW YORK - Who’ll be the next Cindy, Naomi or Kate? Will there ever be another Cindy, Naomi or Kate — all supermodels simply known by their first names? (Crawford, Campbell and Moss, for those with short memories.)
Young catwalkers with dreams of being the next big thing began an eight-day audition Friday at New York Fashion Week.
The industry is ripe for a sensation because it has been five years — a lifetime in the fashion world — since the last household name: Gisele (Bundchen).
But even if a model breaks away from the tall, leggy pack in New York, she still has to impress in Paris and Milan, Italy. Then she has to score some choice magazine spreads and ad campaigns — something that’s become increasingly difficult to do as actresses such as Angelina Jolie, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Teri Hatcher consistently grace the covers of glossy magazines and hawk the fashion and beauty products that used to be models’ bread and butter.
‘‘The tide is really toward the celebrity culture right now,” says Kate Armenta, Vogue’s sittings editor. “Models have taken on a different role. . . . Gisele is well-known, but she’s known more for Victoria’s Secret or dating Leonardo DiCaprio, not by what ad campaigns she’s been in,’’ she says.
Nian Fish, creative director and senior vice president at KCD, which produces shows for top fashion houses, says that has kept new talent from being developed into the next generation of fashion stars. ‘‘It’s like how reality television takes away from actors, celebrities take away from models,’’ she says.
To achieve top-tier status — the ones who are chauffeured from show to show while carrying handbags that cost more than startup models’ monthly rent — you need more than a pretty face. Fish lists what matters most:
• Bone structure.
• Shape of head in proportion to body. (The classic fashion illustration of a small head and long body is indeed what the industry looks for.)
• How she looks in clothes. First, aspiring models have to find an agency willing to bring them to the attention of casting directors. They’re the ones who can see up to 500 models, out of which a handful make it to a session with the designers and creative directors.
‘‘A certain number of girls will start in New York City and get the good shows. The shows go immediately online. Then one or two models will start getting buzz, whether they do Marc (Jacobs), Calvin (Klein) or Karl (Lagerfeld), then they go on to a cool show in Milan and then THE show in Paris. . . . Daria (Werbowy) was the most recent wildfire,’’ Fish says.
Armenta from Vogue says Werbowy came at the right time. ‘‘I’d seen pictures and heard of her, but when (Steven) Meisel shot her for Prada, it blew her out of the water. She was unique. She had such presence. She’s so gorgeous and unique but not in an off-putting way.’’
Occasionally, it’s the shy girl who perseveres. Fish predicts that Heather Bratton, who did the Chanel, Chloe and Burberry Prorsum shows last season and was then shot by Meisel for Italian Vogue, will have ‘‘an amazing season.’’
Meanwhile, Armenta has her eye on Snejana Onopka, who has been photographed for American Vogue a few times since her turn on the Louis Vuitton, Valentino and Chanel runways last fall.
The models not only have to look good in clothes but also ‘‘fit’’ them, says Ivan Bart, senior vice president of IMG Models, which represents Werbowy, Bundchen, Moss and Jacquetta Wheeler.
Again using Werbowy — now the spokesmodel for Lancome — as the example, Bart notes that she had the hippie-chic look when everything coming down the runway had a bohemian style.
‘‘The main thing is the designers are always looking for the woman who best suits the collection, but, that being said, they always want a sure thing,’’ he says. ‘‘The bottom line through all of it is selling clothes.’’