Curious case of the sidewalk models: 'They're nobody turned into somebody'


By AGENCY
  • Style
  • Tuesday, 01 Mar 2022

Fans stand outside at the end of the Dolce & Gabbana runway show. The sidewalk has become the spot for fashion fans to spot their favourite social media stars. Photo: AFP

A cry goes up the from crowd, a sea of craning necks and suddenly hundreds of cellphones go up in the air clicking photos. An influencer has just arrived at a fashion show.

This is the scene that has played out day after day at Milan Fashion Week, where live shows began last week, all accompanied by crowds of fashion hopefuls, fans and photographers hoping to capture a perfect Instagram shot of their favourite influencer.

At Versace on Friday night (Feb 25), hundreds of fans crushed against a barrier to catch a glimpse of someone – anyone – photo-worthy to later post on social media.

Read more: From New York to Paris, fashion weeks make a glamorous comeback

Every few minutes, dozens of fans would dash to another area of the barricade at the sound of a vehicle.

"We just saw a black car come in, but we saw nothing," said Riccardo Capobianco, 24, in the crowd with his friend Irina. "We have no idea what's happening."

Ditto with Sarah Pilot, 22, an American student surrounded by her girlfriends.

"We're kind of laughing at ourselves watching," she admitted sheepishly.

A scream went up in the crowd, but cut off quickly, as a new group of people entering the show came into view.

"Are those just average people with tickets?" one of the girls asked.

Nobody becomes somebody

Outside Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Moschino, Max Mara and other shows, the sidewalk is the new runway for fashion wannabes, the Instagram stars they worship and photographers from all across the globe – mostly freelancers or amateurs – who capture it all.

But who are these people pouting at the camera, flipping their hair and pursing their lips?

"They're all Instagram fashionistas," London photographer Ash Mahmood, 26 said. "They're nobody turned into somebody. That's how it works."

The amateur photographers hope their subjects – with their thousands even millions of followers – will repost their photos, gaining exposure. But the exercise isn't even about fashion, or beauty for that matter, but recognisability, they acknowledged.

"A photo of just anyone isn't worth anything," said Marco Tadini, 60, one of the sidewalk's professionals. "You can be gorgeous but it doesn't count a bit".

Outside Dolce & Gabbana was influencer and model Rahi Chadda – who has over one million followers on Instagram – sporting a neon green tailored jacket, matching turtleneck and painted black jeans.

Chadda noted that he was never really sure who was taking his photo.

"But when you're at the shows throughout the season you start to recognise their faces," he said.

Read more: How fashion bets on gaming, streetwear and soccer to suit 'teenage' tastes

Two American fashion students looking bemused at Fendi said it was their first time outside a show.

New Yorker Taylor May, 20, said she was used to seeing "a lot of weird fashion" back at home so was curious to see what was on display in Milan – namely neon colours and maxi skirts.

So far they haven't recognised anyone entering the fashion show.

"We're lost but we can see who's getting their picture taken," said her friend Kia Patterson, 21, from Missouri.

That didn't mean all the fashion was good, May cautioned.

"One of the outfits, I was like 'Nooooo'...." she said.

Back outside Versace, the squeals from the fans and the mad rushes at the barricades to catch a glimpse of arriving guests were starting to get old for Sara Pelizzoli, 22, and her friend Paola Cecinati, 21.

"They're a little fanatic, they could calm down a little bit," Pelizzoli said. – AFP

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