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Born in 1970 in south London, Naomi Campbell followed in her mother’s footsteps and trained in dance at Italia Conti. She appeared in music videos for Bob Marley and Culture Club before being scouted on the street at age 15 and signing with Synchro modelling agency. Before long, Campbell wasn’t just shooting for publications such as UK Elle but their Parisian counterparts as well, and she later became the first black model to be on the cover of French Vogue as well as Russian Vogue and TIME magazine.
In 1987, she made history by fronting British Vogue, a playful solo shot taken in Mexico City by the publication’s then-favourite photographer Partrick Demarchelier. She wore none other than Chanel. The first black model to appear on the cover, this statement marked a shift in mindset and a cultural change in the British fashion industry at the time. In 1990, she featured again, this time on Peter Lindburgh’s January cover as part of a group shot with her fellow ‘supers’. As a group, this diverse and inspirational selection of women brought something new to modelling – the introduction not only of recognisable faces, but faces with strong personalities to go with them – and so marked the start of their decade at the top of the social and cultural chain.
Editorial aside, Campbell has also opened (and closed) shows at each of the four major Fashion Weeks across the globe, walking for some of the industry’s most luxurious fashion houses, from Vivienne Westwood (whose runway she famously toppled over on in 1993 thanks to an outrageously high pair of heels) to couture favourites like Chanel. Other names include Dolce & Gabanna, Louis Vuitton, Valentino and Burberry, for whom she paired up with Jourdan Dunn to front the Christmas campaign in 2015.
Much like many of her colleagues, Campbell has since branched out from modelling to explore television presenting and charity work. In 2005, she established Fashion For Relief, a series of catwalk shows which was initially launched to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The organisation has since gone on to address other similar issues, most recently spotlighting humanitarian causes in the Arab world. Campbell has also been attributed to, and photographed for, the recent Lady Garden charity project, raising awareness for female cancer. In 2013 a more commercial project, The Face, was first aired on television. The program sees young aspiring models compete to become the next face of British fashion and continues to have a global following today.
A brand in itself, the name Naomi Campbell can be attributed to a multitude of things, and whilst this icon’s time in the spotlight might not be as focused on modelling as it was in the 1990s, she’s still very much a part of the British fashion industry today. In the past few months alone she has been featured in the infamous first edition of British Vogue with Edward Enniful at the helm and presented the tribute to Azzedine Alaïa at the British Fashion Awards in December 2017. What’s next for this face of fashion? We’re yet to find out, but we’re sure it won’t go unnoticed.
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