How hot models acquire their heat

Photo by Flickr user Tiago Chediak. Click for source3QuarksDaily has a fantastic article that examines how certain models became hot property during catwalk season by looking at the behavioural economics of fashion show buzz and why the success of top models is as much down to herd instinct as personal magnetism.

The piece is written by sociologist Ashley Mears, a model herself, who has been studying how the personal demands of the profession mesh and conflict with both the market for beautiful faces and the social world of the fashion industry.

The fashion modeling market also has a formal mechanism in place, known as the ‚Äúoption,‚Äù to ensure all tastemakers get in on the action. An option is an agreement between client and agent that enables the client to place a hold on the model‚Äôs future availability. Like options trading in finance markets, an option gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to make a purchase…

Options serve the symbolic purpose of ‚Äúsignaling‚Äù the model‚Äôs popularity to all other clients. During castings, clients are likely to ask models, ‚ÄúWhich shows are you optioned for,‚Äù thereby letting them know their competitors‚Äô tastes. Modeling agents drum up buzz using options as selling points too, as in, ‚ÄúRussell Marsh just optioned Coco Rocha for Prada!‚Äù To most fashion designers‚Äô ears, such words sound like warm honey; they greatly reduce the anxiety of having to sort Coco from 599 other striking teenagers…

In the language of economic sociology, options are performative; they create what they putatively just describe. In other words, the models have agency (that’s market models we’re talking about, not the fashion models, heaven’s no!). Options enable investors to anticipate other investors’ actions, which spurs herding behavior, where actors decide to disregard their own information (i.e., “That Coco Rocha, urgh!”) and imitate instead the decisions taken by others before them (but Russell Marsh optioned her).

One of Mears’ earlier studies looked at how models manage the stress of being treated as a commodity by the fashion market while trying to maintain their individuality, self-composure and emotional well-being.

Link to 3QD piece ‘How Supermodels Are like Toxic Assets’.

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