naomi campbell
Image: Dave Bennet/Getty Images/V&A

Naomi Campbell style file: Fashioning a British icon

21 Jun 2024 | |By Hitanshi Kamdar

Having walked for some of the world’s most famous designers and now boasting a dedicated exhibition at the V&A, the supermodel’s sartorial legacy is unparalleled

Think supermodel and chances are you’ll probably imagine one of the original ‘90s supers; namely, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista. While most of these It girls have taken a step back from mainstream stardom over the past few years, Naomi Campbell has remained a constant fixture in the fashion world.

Scouted at age 15, the South Londoner has walked the runways for practically every major brand and designer in the world, as well as graced countless covers and campaigns. With her famously fiery personality setting her apart, Campbell has always been a fashion cheerleader, supporting established and emerging designers alike. Off the runway, her personal wardrobe reflects an organic love for clothing, underscored by classic and contemporary pieces and a style honed by her close relationships with designers including Azzedine Alaïa, Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano and Marc Jacobs.

Beyond her glamorous CV, Campbell has also broken barriers and spearheaded philanthropic endeavours over the course of her career. She paved the way for diversity, becoming the first black model to be photographed on the cover of Vogue France in 1988 and Time magazine in 1991. In 2005, Campbell set up Fashion For Relief to raise funds and awareness for humanitarian causes. 

An undeniable force of fashion, Campbell is now being honoured with perhaps the greatest accolade of all: a dedicated retrospective at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Opening on 22 June 2024, the first-of-its-kind exhibition documents her 40-year career in fashion, showcasing her extensive personal wardrobe alongside loans from designer archives and photographs. Before you head off to check out Naomi: In Fashion, look back over some of Naomi Campbell’s best looks.

California Industry Friends of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) Fashion Show, 1991

Naomi Campbell at the California Industry Friends of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) Fashion Show, 1991

Image: Barry King/Alamy Stock Photo

Dressed in a heavily embellished bright pink mini dress, Campbell embodied the quintessential Versace muse at the annual fundraiser in California.

London Fashion Week, 1997

London Fashion Week, 1997

Image: Gianni Muratore/Alamy Stock Photo

Campbell walked the runway for designer Clements Riberio wearing a decidedly Y2K outfit: blue knee-length skirt, denim choker and a Union Jack-printed jumper inspired by Geri Halliwell’s iconic dress at the Brit Awards earlier that year.

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, 2005

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, 2005

Image: FashionStock.com/Shutterstock

After a debut appearance on the Victoria’s Secret runway in 1996, Campbell would walk in the show almost every year following, until returning for her final year as a VS model in 2005. Appearing first in a sexy black set with a fur-edged cape, she later donned golden wings despite never becoming an official VS Angel. According to Campbell, they simply couldn’t afford her.

Fashion for Relief Haiti, 2010

Fashion for Relief Haiti, 2010

Image: Lev Radin/Shutterstock

Campbell strutted down the runway in this floor length sequinned gown alongside fellow supermodels for a charity show in aid of Haiti’s earthquake victims. The gown was later auctioned with all proceeds going to charity while Campbell also used the event to pay tribute to Alexander McQueen, who passed away in February 2010.

Met Gala, 2016

Met Gala, 2016

Image: Sky Cinema/Shutterstock

Campbell embraced futuristic finery at 2016’s Manus x Machina-themed Met Gala in a starry Roberto Cavalli creation featuring cut-outs. Designed by then-Cavalli creative director Peter Dundas, the slinky gown featured the brand’s signature cut-outs and was paired with a sleek blunt fringe.

Versace show, 2017

Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen on the runway at the Versace show Spring/Summer 2018

Image: FashionStock.com/Shutterstock

Campbell reunited with original supermodels Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen and Carla Bruni for a show marking the twentieth anniversary of Gianni Versace’s murder. The quintet were dressed in matching shimmering metallic gowns by Gianni’s sister and current Versace creative director Donatella Versace. 

Cannes Film Festival, 2018

Cannes Film Festival, 2018

Image: Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

For the BlacKkKlansman premiere at the Cannes Film Festival 2018, Campbell turned up the glamour in an emerald green custom Poiret gown featuring a heavily embellished see-through bodice – a unique take on the naked dress trend that swept the red carpet in the late 2010s. 

Met Gala, 2019

Naomi Campbell at the Met Gala, 2019

Image: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Dressing for one of the most divisive Met Gala themes – Camp: Notes on Fashion – proved to be tricky for many attendees. For fashion pro Campbell, however, it was natural to embrace camp in a pink chiffon Valentino Haute Couture dress, designed by close friend Pierpaolo Piccioli, paired with a feathered cape.

LACMA Art and Film Gala, 2019

Naomi Campbell at LACMA Art and Film Gala, 2019

Image: Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

Sequins are a style staple for Campbell. Case in point, this sizzling red fitted Versace gown accessorised with sparkling diamond jewellery. No one does high-octane glamour quite like the super.

British Fashion Awards, 2022

Naomi Campbell at the British Fashion Awards, 2022

Image: Fred Duval/Shutterstock

Another glittering showstopper, Naomi Campbell attended the 2022 Fashion Awards in a pleated metallic cape-style Valentino gown. Given that the event is attended annually by the UK’s hottest designers, models, and celebrities, it says a lot that Campbell is always one of the most highly anticipated red carpet arrivals.

Vanity Fair Oscars after party, 2023

Naomi Campbell at the Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty, 2023

Image: Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

Campbell stunned at the Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty in a surrealist column gown from Schiaparelli’s SS23 Haute Couture collection. Topped with stacks of Briony Raymond jewellery, it was a lesson in why, even at the age of 52, no one does it quite like Naomi Campbell.

Read more: Women in Luxury: Stéphanie Sivrière, Design Director at Piaget