As crucial as models are to the staging of fashion shows, their role is often overshadowed by the wider sartorial spectacle. That changed this week in New York during the double presentations of 'Models Never Talk', a conceptual performance piece produced by the French writer, fashion curator and historian, Olivier Saillard.
The performance saw Saillard assemble a troupe of seven former supermodels, each an icon in her own right, to break from their occupational silence. As each took to the 'stage' - a blank white cove in a studio at Milk Studios - dressed simply in black and white, they recounted the clothes they wore for legendary designers such as Thierry Mugler, Rei Kawakubo, Madame Grès and Yves Saint Laurent, and how cuts and fabrics affected their gait and stance. Using just poses, short descriptions and gestures, the models transported their audience to another time.
Violeta Sanchez, a muse to Saint Laurent, shared how her sexing up of look 180 of A/W 1984 - a long dress in silk and scarlet velvet - affected YSL. 'He looks at me approaching, astonishment in his eyes. "My little Catherine! What is that? I have asked you for Lady Macbeth, not Mae West!"'
Meanwhile, Axelle Doué recalled modelling in a gown for Madame Grès in 1980. 'I was lucky to model for Madame Grès when I arrived in Paris, at the beginning of my career. The dress she made for me incorporated the drapery which made her famous and influenced my way of walking.'
Saillard, who is the director of Paris' Palais Galliera museum and has also curated exhibitions on Azzedine Alaïa and Christian Lacroix, was intent on showing that, despite being required to be blank canvases, models also wield powerful relationships with designers that have shaped the course of fashion history. The loose flow of words may have been the only cues for the audience to visualise from, but they perfectly captured and conveyed each woman's memories.