A new generation of modelsTWITTER / KURTISRAI

Step aside, Kendall Jenner, the phenomenon of the ‘Insta-girls’ (as declared by American Vogue) has fallen out of fashion. Messages of self-acceptance, espoused by figures like Paloma Elesser and Adwoa Aboah, have prevailed over airbrushed shots of models promoting unattainable standards of beauty and lifestyle. Rules have been rewritten and authenticity sells more than superficiality.

While social media has brought the worst of times to fashion (think: Balenciaga speed sneakers and e-boy aesthetics), the democratisation of the industry arguably makes it the best of times as well. Voices amplified, unknown artists catapulted to fame, and models becoming much more than models. The singular, narrow conception of being a model is being replaced by the era of the multi-hyphenate. These models are also dancers, pianists, activists (and I assure you their activism is much more meaningful than drinking Pepsi before rioting crowds).

“self-expression, self-acceptance and beautiful, beautiful clothes”

No longer is it necessary to kowtow to fashion veterans or have a famous last name, this upcoming generation have reframed the narrative of fashion to what it should really be about: self-expression, self-acceptance and beautiful, beautiful clothes.

Ugbad Abdi

Ugbad's editorial for American Vogue, photographed by Tyler MitchellINSTAGRAM / IAMUGBAD

When we consume content as mindlessly and relentlessly as we do on social media, most pictures warrant a quick scroll. Very rarely do they require a second glance, and only in exceptional cases will a picture become etched in our minds. Ugbad’s editorial for American Vogue fell in the latter category for me. Photographed by Tyler Mitchell, she looked ethereal wearing haute couture in soft, pastel colours.

Born in Somalia, Ugbad spent her early childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya fleeing the civil war, before relocating to the U.S. Two months after her high school graduation, she was scouted on Instagram and has since gone on to walk for the likes of Fendi, Burberry and Marc Jacobs. To see a model in Vogue wearing the hijab, decked out in the finest clothes of the seasons, is something that is not lost upon her.

In an interview with i-D, she revealed her intentions to redraw the narrative of a modern Muslim woman – one that is antithetical to the overused trope that wearing the hijab is oppressive, rather than liberating. If the future of fashion involves Ugbad at the forefront, I am excited for what is to come.

Atikah Karim

Atikah is slowly building her reputation on a global scaleINSTAGRAM / TIKSG

Born and bred in Malaysia, Atikah is no stranger to the catwalk. She’s been at home on the runway for Rick Owens, Lemaire and Marine Serre, with the hope of becoming a regular fixture on the fashion circuit. This, however, has been no easy feat. While the industry clumsily grapples with diversifying the catwalk (often on a superficial level), their weak attempts are often done at the detriment of models of colour.

Atikah found that agencies struggled to categorise her; South-East Asia was too niche of a region for the upper echelons of the industry to cast. Despite this, she has managed to defy all odds, gracing the cover of local magazines and slowly building her reputation on a global scale as well.

Pratik Shetty

Pratik's breakthrough has paved the way for more diverse facesINSTAGRAM / PRATIKSHETTYYY

Pratik counts himself as part of the new vanguard of South Asian models planting their foot in the industry. His first entry into the fashion circuit found him walking in 18 shows, winning the hearts of casting directors and designers. He has previously landed jobs at Fendi, Hermes and Raf Simmons. Along with Jeenu Mahadevan and Keonne Pillay, Pratik’s breakthrough has paved the way for more diverse faces, especially for male models in Asia where fashion is seen typically as a female-dominated industry.

Nora Attal

Nora was the only silver lining in that mediocre coverINSTAGRAM / NORAATTAL

Nora was the only model of colour featured on Alexandra Shulman’s last cover of British Vogue, titled ‘Celebrate! Fashion’s past, present and future’. The four other women were Stella Tennant and Kate Moss (the blueprint supermodels), as well as Eddie and Jean Campbell. These models were meant to represent Britain, or at least a white, privileged woman’s version of Britain. Nora was the only silver lining in that mediocre cover, a symbol of the diversity within the UK that for so long was not reflected in the pages of respected magazines.

“a symbol of the diversity within the UK that for so long was not reflected in the pages of respected magazines”

An awful lot has changed since then. She has become an ambassador of Fashion Trust Arabia in support of Middle Eastern Designers and has been on the cover of Vogue Arabia twice. Speaking to the Financial Times, she expressed that “incorporating my heritage into my work is so special and important to me”.

Alton Mason

Alton is trained as a dancer and actorINSTAGRAM / ALTONMASON

Alton is the name of a star. Or at the very least, an upcoming star. There is a ring to his name that is reminiscent of one-name phenomena Beyoncé, Adele and Prince. Trained as a dancer and actor, he brings elements of his classical background on to the runway, oozing a level of swagger that we all want to reach. Seeing him walk for the Tommy Hilfiger x Zendaya collection was a reminder that fashion is, after all, an amalgamation of the arts.


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After debuting at the Yeezy Season 3 show, Alton has quickly formed a fashion family with some of the industry’s biggest names; he counts Virgil Abloh, Naomi Campbell and Iman among his friends. To be a black male model in a Eurocentric industry is also something that he holds in great esteem as he routinely breaks barriers, even becoming the first black male model to ever walk for Chanel.

The recent announcement that he will be starring as Little Richard in Baz Luhrmann’s latest movie further cements his position as a model to watch. It would not be an understatement to claim that Alton is on his way to becoming one of the greats.