Nicole Miller's Super Summit
(NEW YORK) In the fall of 1990, a fledgling designer named Nicole Miller brought the biggest girls in the world together on the same stunning runway.
BY PAIGE REDDINGER
Tell us about your first show. Who walked?
I had Christy Turlington [Burns], Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Gail Elliot, and Yasmin Parvaneh [Le Bon]. It was a great coup to get them all in the first show. Kate Moss hadn’t been discovered yet. If I remember, Christy was 21 and Naomi was 19.
How hard was it to cast them?
We had KCD, so it was easy.
What were the girls like? Were there any trouble makers?
It was always like a big party backstage. They were always networking and they were all pretty good friends. Back then all the models used to smoke! You never see anybody smoking anymore. We also used to serve champagne backstage.
Why do you think that atmosphere has disappeared?
The models weren’t as young then. There was an occasional one that was younger, but a lot of times the girls were like 19 to 21. I even had girls that were over 25. They all seem so clean cut now and their mothers show up with them. The average age is 17. The Eastern European girls are so hell bent on making a better life for themselves that they just aren’t partiers. If you offered them champagne they wouldn’t have it. I feel like models used to be a little more badass.
Who had the biggest personality? Naomi?
She was in every show of mine for years. She used to walk me down the runway back when people used to do that. We had this great relationship. I never had one iota of difficulty with her, and she was never late.
What was it like having all of them together?
When we booked them it was like, ‘Oh cool!’ Christy Turlington was the last one we got and so we ended up making extra clothes for her. I made two extra dresses for her. We were very excited when we finally got them booked. I’d like to get them all back!
What would it take to get all of them back now?
Probably $50,00 to $100,000 a person.
Some of these girls charge $50,000 now. Maybe if you’re good friends with them and it’s your anniversary they’ll do you a favor, but you’re not going to get all of those girls collectively to do you a favor.
What were you paying them back then?
The first season they got $500 an hour and they got paid for two-and-a-half hours, because we used to pay for fittings. We don’t pay for fittings anymore. Eventually, it went up a little bit every year, and then it got to, like, $750. At one point all the models basically boycotted New York because they wanted $2,500 an hour. Then the rates got super huge.
Any fun backstage tales you’d like to share?
Some of the best ones I can’t repeat, but I remember Carla Bruni [Sarkozy] was always great. I remember she was getting fitted in this macramé dress and she was totally nude underneath and all these friends of mine happened to stop by and they were trying to sneak peeks at Carla in her fitting. I still have that macramé dress that Carla wore.
Did the girls get along?
Naomi and Tyra Banks didn’t like each other and we had to make their changing stations on opposite sides. We were told to keep them apart. Everyone else was cool, though. And even Tyra and Naomi were always very polite to each other. But one time Carrie Otis was breaking up with Mickey Rourke and she said she would only do shows if Mickey wasn’t allowed in. So we promised we wouldn’t let him in. Would you believe, I get this phone call from some PR guy in Miami saying Mickey’s such a big fan of my work and is dying to come see my show. I’m thinking, Mickey doesn’t know who the hell I am! I just told him the show was over-booked. I mean, I would have loved to have Mickey at my show. He was really hot back then. Meanwhile, Carrie’s at the show going, ‘Is he out there? Please, tell me he’s not out there!’
Who was the most professional?
Linda Evangelista. It didn’t matter if the shoes hurt. She would check her shoes, make sure they fit, and if they didn’t fit right she would do something to make them fit. If you want the coat off, if you want the coat on—whatever.
When did you start working with Kate Moss?
It’s funny, because I always pride myself on noticing the superstars when they come in for castings, like Mariacarla Boscono. I just knew she was going to be a star. But Kate Moss showed up very timidly in these baggy jeans and a t-shirt kind of thing. It was 1993. We really didn’t notice her. Then she shows up in Vogue a month later. We didn’t end up getting her until 1994.
What did you think when you saw her in Vogue?
I was like, ‘Oh my god! This girl is so amazing. We have to get this girl!’ One of my assistants said, ‘Don’t you remember she came for casting?’ I’m like, ‘That girl?’ So I thought, ‘I have to get her for the next show.’ She always walked beautifully.
Was she timid when she was doing your show?
No, she was timid then, because she had literally just landed in New York. She had just done that shoot in London with Corrine Day. She had no editorial out yet in New York and was doing castings for her first season. I was really kicking myself over that one.
Were there a lot of drugs backstage in those days?
Not that I ever saw. I don’t know where they would have. There was one girl at one show that seemed a little wasted. That was about ’94.
Were you scared to let her on the catwalk?
No, but it’s funny if you look at the video she was wearing this dress that had a clingy slip under it. When you see the video she has the slip on backwards, but you can’t really tell because it’s one of those necklines that could be either way. The camera never goes past her waist and I have a feeling the whole skirt rode up and the cameraman just decided to crop it there. She totally gets lost weaving on the runway.
No one said anything about it after the show?
No, but that one went to rehab. There were several of them that went to rehab.
What gives someone that certain star quality?
The walk really is key. The girls with a great walk you always pay more attention to. Of course they have a pretty face, but also body proportion.
Is personality ever a factor?
Not particularly. Every once in awhile these girls come and they’re like, ‘Hi! I’m Caitlyn!’ and they eagerly shake your hand and you look at them and you’re like, ‘Okay, too much personality.’ Maybe personality has helped them in photo shoots or dealing with other people, but it’s never really an issue with us. You have to see how they walk, how they look in clothes, how they hold their shoulders and carry themselves.
How does full on supermodel status materialize?
I think sometimes it’s just very circumstantial. There are certain looks that work one year and don’t the next. Sometimes girls are too pretty. They look more like a TV star, like those sort of too pretty blondes. Christy Turlington really has distinctive looks; she’s not the ordinary pretty face and neither is Linda Evangelista. Kate Moss’s look is very special and she can be made to look so many different ways. She looks good from every angle.
Have you had anyone that has walked for you that became really big that you were surprised about?
We had Lindsey Wixson one season and I really liked her, but the next season my stylist hated her. So we didn’t use her and then we used her the next season. Of course, she’s impossible to get now. I thought she was pretty special with those pouty lips.
Do you think there will ever be another supermodel pack like Naomi, Christy, Carla, Linda, etc.?
No, because there are too many models. In the beginning, there just weren’t all these countries sending their models here. First it was the girls from Brazil. Now there’s Russia, China, and Korea. I don’t think you’re ever going to have that personality dynamic again. They were the real superstars.