It was the haircut that sent shock waves through the fashion world.
In 1988, Linda Evangelista’s long brunette locks were cut into a boyish crop by hairdresser Julien d’Y’s. Though Linda’s initial reaction was one of shock and tears, the haircut would be transformative to her career and catapult her into the modeling stratosphere.
I was fortunate to have worked with Linda Evangelista during the supermodel heyday in the 80s and 90s. We had met informally and quickly developed a close friendship as we were often booked together for shows and fashion shoots. She was among a group of models, or “supers”, that included Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Stephanie Seymour. Though these women were immensely successful in their own right, Linda to me is the ultimate fashion model. A “model’s model”, Linda didn’t just wear fashion, she was fashion.
When word had spread about Linda’s haircut, she was subsequently canceled from 16 of the 20 fashion shows she was scheduled to do that season. At the time, fashion shows and magazines typically booked models with long (and stylized) hair. But Linda’s cut immediately ushered in a new look that quickly gained a following and planted her on the covers of British, French, Italian and American Vogue (often in the same month). She became the model every designer wanted for collections and campaigns and who every major photographer wanted to photograph, including Steven Meisel. I worked with Steven Meisel a few times, but his relationship with Linda was unique. She was his muse and their creative partnership led to some of fashion photography’s most iconic images that are still revered today.
I loved when Steven made her look like Sophia Loren and she loved looking that way too. We both collect black & white fashion photography prints and books and for one of her birthdays I gifted her a collector’s edition black & white book of beautiful images of Sophia Loren which she loved. Cindy Crawford, who was one of the most commercially successful models of all time, and had also worked with Steven Meisel, has said she envied (in a good way) the beautiful images that he was able to create only with Linda. To her fellow modeling peers, Linda was just on another level.
Some models can walk well and photograph beautifully, but Linda would take on a character and inhabit a photographer or designer’s creative vision. She wouldn’t just take a photo that referenced Sophia Loren or Katherine Hepburn, she would become that person much like how an actor takes on a character role. She would do anything to capture the right photo. She was an amazing model, a chameleon who could create a myriad of images from a modern Versace glamazon to a 1950s film siren. She was passionate and hard-working and loved being a model. She would shoot in the freezing rain, hold poses for hours, and work until the early hours of the morning. Nothing was too difficult or too tiring for her. And as a result, every cover and campaign that Linda appeared in stood out. Her passion and work ethic were unrivaled. It’s no wonder why photographers the likes of Arthur Elgort, Peter Lindbergh and Steven still rave about her today.
When I think back about my time with Linda, some of my fondest memories are sitting backstage where we would do our makeup for the show. My nickname for her became Lindy-Loo. As Linda, myself, and a group of other models were frequently booked for the same editorials and shows, we soon formed a “model squad” that included Cindy, Christy, Naomi, Yasmin Le Bon, Helena Christiensen, Karen Mulder and a few other girls. But Linda was always the sensitive, generous nurturer who took care of the other girls. She would give us tutorials or do our makeup if needed. In fact, she taught me how to apply false eye lashes. She was a champion of young new designers and would waive her fee to walk in their shows. When a young new Italian design duo by the name of Dolce and Gabbana were launching their first collection, Linda advocated for them and encouraged the other girls to do their show. She did the same for Anna Sui, Herve Leger, among other designers, and is also credited for giving photographer Mario Testino his big break. She loved fashion and fashion loved her back.
You’re now probably asking the $10,000 question? In 1990, Linda was famously quoted by Vogue for declaring, “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day”. Many in the fashion industry come to think that quote defined an era and is emblematic of the excesses of the 90s and supermodel era. That may be true, but I believe it was taken out of context. Linda now jokes that quote will “be engraved on my tombstone” and her comment is now one of the most quotable comments in history. Leave it to Linda to have that type of impact. And yes Lindy-Loo, you’re worth every cent and more. XX GE