How nepo babies took over fashion week catwalks around the world

by

Elizabeth Paton

At London Fashion Week, the honor of the last look in the Burberry show didn’t go to a catwalk legend like Naomi Campbell, Agyness Deyn or Lily Donaldson, all of whom walked for the brand. Instead, Maya Wigram, wearing a belted leather jacket and flowing maxi skirt, did the turn most models would kill for in their modeling debut.

Sorry. Maya who? Maya Wigram, daughter of fetishized fashion designer Phoebe Philo, who recently launched her own fashion brand.

Fashion’s fixation with celebrity children is not new. Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Kaia Gerber —many of the world’s current successful models were born to rich and famous parents. In the case of Gerber, whose mother is Cindy Crawford, it helps to have an actual supermodel to thank for her genes.

Nepo babies can, theoretically, pursue any profession. Nepotism does not restrict them to their parents’ profession. It just means they had famous and successful family ties (or well-known surnames) that helped them excel in their chosen field.

New York magazine may have declared 2022 “the year of the nepo baby,” but the trend of luxury brands hiring young people who haven’t yet achieved much professionally but who happen to be the sons and daughters of celebrities isn’t slowing down. If anything, it has been gaining momentum.

Scarlet Stallone, daughter of Sylvester Stallone, walked for the first time for Tommy Hilfiger during New York Fashion Week. Deva Cassel, daughter of Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel, walked the runway for Alberta Ferretti in Milan. Iris Law, whose parents are Jude Law and Sadie Frost, is the current face of Burberry. She is also a new hire at Victoria’s Secret alongside Lila Moss, daughter of Kate Moss.

Lennon Gallagher, whose father is Oasis rocker Liam Gallagher, and Romeo Beckham, son of David and Victoria Beckham, have recently landed high-profile modeling jobs. Eve Jobs, daughter of Steve Jobs, modeled for Louis Vuitton last season and Michael Kors this season.

And one of the most sought after models at the moment is Amelia Gray Hamlin, daughter of Lisa Rinna from “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”. She has been walking the catwalks in Paris after being signed last year by brands such as Miu Miu, Balenciaga and Versace.

The appeal for brands seems clear. “Clicks are the new advertising,” said former casting director James Scully. “Nepo babies drive huge amounts of online traffic and engagement, regardless of how tall they are or how well they can walk.”

He noted that many of these models have large social media followings and bring millions of new eyes to a brand thanks to fan bases established around their family ties to television, music or entertainment. Conventional industry standards are often lowered to accommodate them.

“Kaia Gerber and Gigi Hadid would have walked into agencies and been hired no matter who their parents were,” Scully continued. “That said, the net is cast very wide now, and almost anyone will do. If you’re the average-looking daughter of a celebrity these days, frankly, you have as much chance of being cast in a Prada show as you would if you were a real model.”

According to Lucie Greene, a trend forecaster at Light Years, much of our curiosity is driven by a primal urge to search nepo babies’ faces for recognizable genetic similarities and contrasts with their famous parents, and to praise or criticize them accordingly. I agree with that. There’s also a sense of being in the know, she said. Perhaps you knew Wigram’s lineage before anyone else.

Plus, at a time when beautiful young models are a dime a dozen (and often not especially brilliant in interviews), a carefully selected tidbit or beauty tip gleaned from someone raised in a celebrity household generates far more headlines than those with a conventional background.

“There’s a rush now to secure the latest offspring coming of age, and a sense of prestige for the brand that manages to book the last nepo on the block as a model or friend of the house,” Greene said.

There is also the appeal to one’s own offspring, fetishized and fawned over in a world where being a model — and having the ability and influence to sell a product because of one’s appearance — seems to be the ultimate form of public validation. Twenty years ago, nepo babies who were trying to model, like Stella Tennant, often distanced themselves from their surnames so as not to be accused of nepotism. In 2024, most actively seek this attention, knowing the power it brings.

“Gen Z kids with inherited fame were raised in this mess,” Scully said. “Their beauty standards, taste, and achievements are different because they live in the age of influencers, so that’s all they know. Digital personas are just as important to them as real ones, no matter who their mom or dad is.”

Many of these heirs eventually use the boost from the modeling profile as a springboard into something more — often acting — as seen in the leaps from the catwalk to Hollywood by Lily-Rose Depp, Rafferty Law and Dree Hemingway. Many complain that the outrage and opprobrium they attract are unfair.

Almost everyone says they can get an opportunity, only to have to work twice as hard and be twice as good to prove they are equal to the task, which inevitably generates negative reactions from fellow models with less stellar origin stories.

After Depp complained about the resentment during a 2022 interview, model Vittoria Ceretti wrote on Instagram: “I know it’s not your fault but please appreciate it and know where it came from. Can you tell me your sad story about this (Even though at the end of the day you can still cry on your dad’s couch in your villa in Malibu), but what about not being able to pay your way home to your family?”

Anok Yai also posted her thoughts on “nepo-baby” models on the social media platform. “Seeing people benefiting from nepotism doesn’t bother me at all — I know my talent and work ethic will take me anywhere I want to go,” she wrote. “But damn, if you only knew the hell we went through just to be able to be in the same room you were born in.”

Source: Folha

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