The Most Surprising Runway Models at Fashion Week Fall 2020

Rita Ora wearing a navy coat with a red collar on the Fashion Week Fall 2020

As far as New York Fashion Weeks go, fall 2020 was relatively sleepy. But a closer look at the runways proves that there was much more going on than you’d have thought at first glance. With Kendall Jenner out of the way, and Gigi Hadid modestly cutting back to just two runway appearances, there was plenty of space for other models to step in, whether newcomers or seasoned vets. Even Miley Cyrus joined the fray, though in her own low-key way; unlike most celebrity models, she didn’t open or close the show, but ended up somewhere in the middle, doing her best to blend in with the rest. One day into London Fashion Week, Lena Dunham followed suit, making her runway debut. And by the time the shows reached Paris, supers of yore were everywhere—Kirsty Hume, Helena Christensen, and even Yolanda Hadid among them. Catch up on all of the cameos you may have missed, here.

Courtesy of Miu Miu

Miu Miu’s fall 2020 show offered a surprise right off the bat when the 16-year-old Euphoria actress Storm Reid opened in a crinkly orange gown. Reid also recently wore Miu Miu on the Invisible Man press tour, and declared herself a “#miumiugirl” in an Instagram post after the show.

Courtesy of Miu Miu

The Miu Miu catwalk also played host to Rita Ora, who is signed to Kate Moss’s modeling agency. Ora shared the news on Instagram, writing, “So your girl gave you a walk today Hunay on this fine Tuesday! Such an honour to walk for [Miuccia Prada].”

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Every few years or so, the ’90s super Kirsty Hume returns to the runway. This time around, she did so at Alexander McQueen with fellow Fashion Week vets Amber Valletta and Malgosia Bela.

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Somehow, it wasn’t until this season that Lara Stone walked her first Valentino show. It was her only runway appearance for fall 2020, and her first in two years.

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Sasha Luss stuck to the front row at Balmain and Chanel, but she made the leap back to the runway for Givenchy. Aside from a couple of Balmain shows, Luss has stuck almost entirely to campaigns since switching her focus to acting. (She starred in her first feature film, Anna, with Helen Mirren and Luke Evans last year.)

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Helena Christensen has been largely absent from the runway since helping Donatella Versace to close out Versace’s spring 2018 show with a supermodel reunion in 2017. But just before Fashion Month came to a close, the 51-year-old jumped back in to the fray with an appearance at Balmain in Paris. Christensen’s 20-year-old model son, Mingus Reedus, also popped up on the runway, at Tommy Hilfiger’s show in London.

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Erin Wasson has pivoted to styling, designing, and making TV appearances since dominating the runways in the early aughts. The 38-year-old still regularly stars in campaigns, but it had been years since she’d walked a major show before she joined Christensen at Balmain.

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Olivier Rousteing kept the supers coming at Balmain. On the heels of Liya Kebede, Esther Cañadas closed out the show in one of Rousteing’s signature admiral jackets. The 42-year-old, who was a muse to Donna Karan, was everywhere on the runways in the ‘90s, but took a step back from the catwalk in the early aughts.

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Yolanda Hadid is more of a front row fixture these days, but for decades the 56-year-old was a regular on the runway. Forty years after Eileen Ford discovered her at age 16—before she’d even seen a fashion magazine—Hadid returned to her roots by joining her daughters Gigi and Bella in walking Off-White’s show in Paris.

Courtesy of Philipp Plein

It wouldn’t be a Philipp Plein show without controversy. Failing to remove the two giant gilded helicopters from the backdrop of what was supposedly an homage to Kobe Bryant might be one of Plein’s biggest blunders yet, but at least this time it also gave us an opportunity to see a show opened by Jada Pinkett Smith.

Courtesy of Philipp Plein

The photographer (and onetime model) Ellen Von Unwerth also made a surprise appearance on Plein’s catwalk in Milan. Naturally, she brought her camera along.

Courtesy of Tommy Hilfiger

It’s not entirely unheard of for Lottie Moss to turn up on a catwalk—in 2016, she even walked for Chanel—but in no way does Moss hold a candle to her half-sister Kate. So far this season, though, she has the super beat: Kate has yet to walk a single fall 2020 show, whereas Lottie put in an appearance at Tommy Hilfiger’s TommyNow.

Courtesy of Tommy Hilfiger

Less than three weeks after signing to IMG—not to mention engineering J.Lo’s portion of the Super Bowl halftime show—the choreographer Parris Goebel made her London Fashion Week debut at TommyNow. Previously, she was endorsed by none other than Rihanna, who tapped Goebel to both walk and choreograph last fall’s Savage x Fenty show.

Courtesy of Fendi

This Milan Fashion Week marked a milestone for Fendi: For the first time ever, the house featured a “plus-size” model in one of its runway shows. In fact, the label cast two—the first of whom was Jill Kortleve, who made her runway debut as an Alexander McQueen exclusive in 2018.

Courtesy of Fendi

Joining Kortleve at Fendi was Paloma Elsesser, who’s also a vocal advocate for body positivity. Elsesser, a regular at smaller-scale shows like Eckhaus Latta, later reflected on the experience on Instagram: “Thank you to everyone involved. For making me feel protected, safe, and seen. This means the world to me, but most importantly to those who have never seen themselves on a runway in Milan.” Like Kortleve, Elsesser also walked Alexander McQueen.

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Lena Dunham set a high bar for London Fashion Week on day one when she stepped onto the runway for the first time ever at 16Arlington, wearing a one-sleeve leather-topped cocktail dress.

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Two days earlier, Miley Cyrus closed out New York Fashion Week by (almost) blending in with the rest of the models at Marc Jacobs.

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It’s been decades since Anh Duong, who’s since become known for her self-portraits, frequented the runways. Not that you’d be able to tell from the 59-year-old’s surprise appearance at Prabal Gurung. “In my 20s, they told me I would never model because I was mixed race and looked too exotic…Many moons later I am still modeling 😅,” Duong, who also recently appeared in Uncut Gems, posted on Instagram after the show. “The fashion industry is the most powerful venue to influence how we view beauty and women. Today I am honored to represent my age group. It is important to use that voice in a way that will empower women and stop shaming them for their color, shape, or age.”

Courtesy of @carolineplz

Caroline Polachek, formerly of Chairlift, closed out Puppets and Puppets’ fall 2020 show at the Prince George Ballroom in an inventive interpretation of a hoop skirt.

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Slowly but surely, Lindsey Wixson has been walking back the retirement she announced at age 23. Here’s hoping her cameo at e1972—Elite modeling agency’s perplexing new label—is the first of many to come this year.

Alex Cruz, courtesy of @jillianmercado

Jillian Mercado, who’s fresh off a delightful role in The L Word: Generation Q, has booked her fair share of fashion campaigns. But it wasn’t until The Blonds’ show during New York Fashion Week that Mercado, who was born with spastic muscular dystrophy, made her runway debut. After the show, Mercado reflected on the experience on Instagram, describing it as “the opportunity of a lifetime, a huge milestone in my career.”

Mitchell Sams

Ahead of her own show, which took place off the official New York Fashion Week calendar, Lou Dallas designer Raffaella Hanley moonlit as a model for Eckhaus Latta, as well as Puppets and Puppets.

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Ali Michael didn’t just walk the grass-covered runway at Collina Strada. The OG horse girl also got down on her hands and knees, serving as a stunning steed for another member of the cast.

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Puppets and Puppets

Mission Chinese Food chef Danny Bowien took a break from the kitchen to walk not one, but three shows this season: Eckhaus Latta, Sandy Liang, and, seen above, Puppets and Puppets. (Is it any surprise he has good taste?)

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It’s felt like far too long since Daphne Groeneveld has been a regular on the runway, and yet the Dutch model is only 25. This season, she sat front row at Palm Angels, and eventually took the leap back onto the runway at Laquan Smith.

Gus Powell

Alex Auder, whom the New York Times has christened “yoga’s Instagram provocateur,” joined Guinevere Van Seenus in contributing to the fashion portion of Rachel Comey’s fall 2020 dinner party.