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Fashionable Age

 

Following every show season we begin to see the ratings of the Top 10 model favorites. Many lists are usually based on volume of shows or significant model/designer exclusives.

It is interesting that in the list from Style.com, 8 out of the 10 were 18 and older, and with the oldest being 24. This is a significant shift worth noting despite recent attacks that the industry only works with teenagers.

Michelle Pryor, the Director of Supreme Management, explained her insight, “The great and true benefit from where we sit is that this shift is allowing the young women we represent to enjoy all the good that comes from an education. True literacy, growth, knowledge, character development etc. is now easily achievable as it is not necessarily a race to find the youngest fit for a brand but rather the right fit for the brand’s aesthetic and marketing goals”.

605511d43326809eIn the Calvin Klein show, Maggie Maurer, walked for her first time and it was her first job. She is 25 years old, starting with Elmer Olsen Models, she then signed with IMG. Her manager, Lisa DiRuocco commented about Maggie, “I have to say all of the feedback I get on Maggie is she’s so interesting and so lovely.  I think starting out now as opposed to 16 the life experience she has gives her the confidence that most people just don’t have at a younger age.   She also has a whole different perspective on the business for example, when she is booked on looks she doesn’t say oh this is so long…and tiring…  She looks at the experience as an amazing process and how lucky she is to be part of it.”

Amanda Murphy from Illinois (IMG) is 24 years, and after an exclusive with Proenza Schouler and Prada, spent Paris walking for Chanel, Dior and Lanvin, and more. Drake Burnette from Texas is with DNA models and told WWD the details of starting her career at the age of 27.

When a young model is discovered during teenage years, the decisions and steps to take are decided with the parents. You would be surprised how many parents want to push their high school age daughters faster than is appropriate. Some agencies with strong development boards start them part time at this age. It is a long-term investment and a commitment from both sides to ride the ups and downs of the demands of a double life of a teenager, but it can be done.

In the U.S., in local markets, there is an old pattern to push an aspiring model before the age of 16 so you don’t “miss” your chance. I could not disagree more. You can take it one step at a time.

There are many examples of how this has worked, and as you can see from her biography on Models.com, Jacquelyn Jablonski, with Supreme Management, was first highlighted in 2007. She finished high school, played soccer throughout and modeled very part time, and this last season of F/W2013 she walked in Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana to name a few. jj

Working with a young woman who is available full time and is 100% focused on the demands of the industry almost always makes for greater long-term success. Let’s hope it is a trend that continues with campaigns. Prominent model veterans such as Amber Valletta and Stella Tennant have proven that you only get better with the more you know.

 

Press_Photo_031The documentary “Girl Model has created a lot of attention about some of the seedy people involved in our industry and the tactics they use to influence young girls. Exploiting their dream in countries where they, and their parents, feel trapped by their impoverished circumstances.

I have never made a documentary and am fascinated by talented directors who tell the story of a subject they are not intimately involved in, and on a limited budget. To me, many elements in the film were disturbing and intense, and yet, it is limited to a small slice of a much bigger story. I liked the way it was directed and filmed; connecting two stories simultaneously, the young model from Siberia and the scout who sends her to Tokyo. The scout who guided the journey for the documentary, Ashley Arbaugh, made some disturbing points in the film about the business of modeling. However, her ambivalence towards the young models, what happens to them and how they are cared for, was a bit shocking to me as it does not illustrate my experience.

In my years in this business, I have never crossed paths with Ashley and don’t know her beyond what was in the film. As the viewer, we witness some intimate moments with Ashley, which left me a bit numb. Her unhappiness and distain for the industry throughout the film seemed an odd portrayal of someone working in it, and it takes us into a bizarre psychological twist that is the prevailing story. It was uncomfortable watching her position her dolls, discussing dissecting one, and playing with pictures she took (some secretly) of model’s body parts as if they were not human to her.

Scouts are paid on commission, and therefore do have an investment in the outcome and end game of each model. I found it uncomfortable that she was unable to personally connect with the models, even in their terrible housing in Japan. Scouting in Russia for Japan seemed to generate money by an impersonal approach to the models and gaining profit by volume. Each country has it’s own wall of shame reflecting model scouting and the business actions adults use to “sell” young children and their parents. We all have work to do to improve. Modeling is not for everyone, and deciphering the proper character early on can eliminate a lot of disappointment for a young girl.

Ms. Arbaugh discusses prostitution in a disconnected vague style as if it has never touched her or any of the agents she works with in Russia. However, in the comments at the end of the film, the directors point out that this is one of the premises she approached them about in the beginning. And it is the reason they paused to consider their involvement.

My perspective may be slanted as I have been fortunate and worked with some of the best and most respected people in this industry. And as my career expanded and I gained experience, I evolved in many ways as did my opinion and code of ethics. “Girl Model, produced and directed by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin, highlights some of the most disheartening elements that don’t protect models. Iffy contracts not presented in the model’s native language, guarantees that aren’t really guarantees, advances and expenses that are not identified, and accounting systems that are hard for adults to dissect. Models in foreign countries on budgets that don’t encourage healthy eating but weight and measurement restrictions monitored. No one picking them up at the airport, no phone to call home, and familiar to see their main source of information to come from their roommates, not their agency. And that is because they are too afraid to ask questions, and possibly a language barrier to communicate. The young Siberian model in the film, Nadya, was quite brave I thought and without knowing how her story would unfold, she allowed strangers to film her. Most of the points above are the responsibility of the Mother Agent, or home town agency to request and confirm for the model.

Models are independent contractors and yet, especially when they are starting, they feel like the agency is the boss. This often is a cultural difference based on how women are raised and viewed in other countries. Think about it from their perspective. They have a dream. It seems easy, glamorous, and they could be rich and famous. They are encouraged to go to a “model casting” in their hometown, usually by their family. They have little access to information and go to see what happens. They meet the person in charge, in power in their mind, and trustingly accept the information they are told by someone who speaks their language. When the young teenage girl receives an invitation to travel, it appears so selective and so special to be chosen, she and her family are caught up in the illusion like it is a prize. This is what happens to young girls in countries that they feel the need to escape to survive or provide for their family. In the film, the Russian agency stated that parents should decide on modeling for their daughters between the ages 5 and 10. The agency is the beneficiary by knowing the family early but success of a fashion model has nothing to do with the looks of a child. This type of exploitation is riddled with so many challenges, that it is easy for predators to take advantage of young girls and their parents. In the New York Times review of the film, Jeannette Catsoulis, described the players in the film clearly,

“Occupying the profiteer role is her creepy agent (“I’m trying to save all these young girls”) and his shadowy Japanese counterpart. Linking all three is Ashley Arbaugh, a troubled scout and former model who despises the business yet willingly sends Nadya and her kind to Tokyo with neither chaperon nor fluency in Japanese.”

There are some excellent, respectable and legitimate scouts and agencies all over the world, however they are not all of the same caliber. It is imperative to educate yourself on what differentiates them and why. In the U.S. we have our own dishonest modeling ventures and I hope one day we can change the system. Every parent who has a daughter interested in modeling should see this film, regardless of country. Not because it is shocking and might scare them from the modeling world, but because valuable information lends to important questions and knowledge is power. If it sounds too good to be true, too easy, someone promises to make your daughter a star, or a cosmetic contract is right around the corner, etc. run as fast as you can. There are no guarantees and no promises in this business. There are scouts, such as myself, who have experience, management and success to share with you that differentiates us from other. This business is a maze of information in the beginning that is significantly different for every individual.

Recently, The Model Alliance, created by model Sara Ziff, has come to the forefront to speak out and change the industry. As advocates, they have created a petition to create and enforce fair labor laws for fashion models who are under 18. Young girls who have a dream don’t know that they need protection; they are not mature enough to know yet. At times they are told, “this is just how it works”, even when there is a legitimate reason that should be explained to them.

When an underage model with no chaperone works until 3 in the morning, I think it is time to look at what is not working anymore.

Breaking: Carine Roitfeld Named Global Fashion Director of Harpers Bazaar – Harpers BAZAAR

 

Breaking: Carine Roitfeld Named Global Fashion Director of Harpers Bazaar – Harpers BAZAAR.

My Big Break: Fashions Biggest Names Tell Us How They Got Their Start | TeenVogue.com

Including Karen Elson’s story…

 

My Big Break: Fashions Biggest Names Tell Us How They Got Their Start | TeenVogue.com.

Becoming A Supermodel (Part 1) | SupermodelBlogger

Read about Emily’s story and her plans for a system of exchange and support of models that places no fault to make changes, with communication and anonymity. I find her to be an amazing friend, an intelligent adversary and am constantly surprised by her fresh outlook towards new ideas. A good read for any model, aspiring model and parent. Can’t wait for Part 2…..

Becoming A Supermodel (Part 1) | SupermodelBlogger.

Models and Magazine Covers – W Magazine – Steven Meisel and Edward Enninful

It is a big deal in America when we see beautiful images of models on the covers of fashion magazines. And it is even more interesting when a magazine interviews them in a meaningful way. I applaud W Magazine today.

http://www.wmagazine.com/fashion/2012/07/karlie-kloss-joan-smalls-supermodels-cover-story

For many years, this was the goal of a model and her agent. It was the pinnacle of star power and offered cosmetic opportunities along with name and face recognition. We watched as it slowly slipped away to celebrities and Hollywood who arrived with a movie to sell and therefore, something to talk about. And this sold magazines.

That being said, this is fashion. At the starting point of creation and introduction on the runway, we imagine designs on our “uber” human fashion models. They glamourize the clothes. Despite our celebrity driven society and our over accessibility to fashion and “labels”, we must recognize, the fashion we dream about is usually on a model.

The covers of W magazine for the month of July will be talked about. Steven Meisel and Edward Enninful created amazing images of two models that may be our modern version of “super” and that Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls have interesting things to say.

If you agree, BUY it. Don’t just read it on line and think that is good enough. It is not. Like all else, this is about what sells. And I miss the days when models sold fashion and cosmetics, all the time and to everyone. I miss the magic.

 

Before we knew them…..they were cute little girls

Some of the Management Models are sharing pictures from their early days……

Savannah Moody

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gina Wiberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tessa Peay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brittney Miles

Scam Straight – The Truth About Model Scout Scams

Every legitimate agency in the world will tell you that you don’t need to pay money to be a model, don’t need to pay for classes, and don’t need to pay a fee to meet them in person. If they are interested, they will work with you and guide you to get started.

It is honest because it is the truth. However, in an effort to scout and find great potential models, agencies

inadvertently support those that do charge you. Scouting is expensive and a different endeavor than managing models in a big market. It is easier for agencies in major markets to go to an event that “gathers” potential models into one place.

This is part of the scam that no one speaks about. The agencies and their scouts know the kids and parents have paid for classes, portfolios and entrance fees all just to “meet” agents from New York, Paris, London and Milan. And some of these agencies lend their logo and endorsement so that these types of “scouts” can validate their process, making them look legitimate to the average person. And there are few ways to qualify the good ones since the agencies come to these events.

It is confusing because the facts are manipulated. There are hard costs that a model must be responsible to pay. Modeling is a skill, and therefore sometimes in the beginning, you need to pay for tests with good photographers to get you started and learn how to take a great picture, consistently.  By working with a few photographers you get a variety of pictures and lots of experience, while also learning to be comfortable in front of the camera, how to work with different people and understand photography. A portfolio is not shot by one photographer, a common sales pitch, and as you improve, your pictures improve and the old are replaced with the new. There are expenses for composite cards, website promotion, messenger fees, and prints for books, travel and housing, etc. Model’s are starting a business and are not an employee of the modeling agency.

That being said, if you are in a small town, you are not going to identify your potential by paying for these things to meet an agency from a major market. Most of the time, potential models and their parents have invested too much too soon before knowing if modeling is a valuable consideration and if they have the potential. Someone has told them they have it and the only way to get an agency’s interest, or to work, is to make the investment. Usually, with the wrong guidance and at an age that is not appropriate.

And here lies the biggest corruption and confusion. You need guidance, you need experience and you need information. So, you go to the closest and most local place because you are brand new. And most modeling “businesses” in local and small markets have found a way to make money from that need, not your potential. An entire business was created years ago selling you classes, or pictures or a convention.

The skill and potential of a model is elusive. Which is why an evaluation from an agent or scout who has a bigger picture of the business is more beneficial. If you have what it takes to be a model or play on the tennis team or be an actor, there are professional scouts that can give you a few try outs, observe you and then give you an evaluation, advise you on your success rate and decide if they want to represent you or what your next step should be; sometimes it is just wait a year. Luck only takes you to a certain point, and then talent must take over at the right time to reach success. And then the management of a model’s career begins. The industry of model management in the fashion industry is quite different than the business of scouting.

With all of this in mind, I must defend the agents, the legitimate agents, in large markets who manage the top models of the world. They are always looking for new models to be their clients. The fact is, rarely the young girl who walks in the door or emails is the one with star potential. The scouting divisions and scouts for major agencies rely on sources and referrals to discover models. It is a scavenger hunt when looking in the small towns of America, which they don’t frequently visit. And where would they look? So they depend on good local and regional agents and scouts who cultivate and look for talent in small markets all the time. Sometimes, not knowing or caring the method they were found.

I have been involved in scouting for years in one way or another. Contests, model searches, mall searches, radio searches, model conventions, judging and guest speaking at conventions. Even the Oprah Winfrey models search that discovered Leslie Bibb. Once you find someone with potential, there are so many factors beyond physical genetics that strongly influence success or failure. It becomes a numbers game of great volume to find one worthy of investment. It is hard to find that special one and the process of educating them and their parents is time consuming. And it is during this process that their level of success is determined.

When scouting, we go out and look for potential in public places, events, and gathering places. Some days it is like watching paint dry waiting for someone to walk by who is a possibility. And because we are seeking them, we never know if they are interested or would be serious because it is not their drive or it hadn’t occurred to them. It just happened. A stranger approached them with a question and a compliment, and now wants to know everything about them to determine if they’ve “got it”.

So why is it so easy to convince someone that they can buy their way into this business? A Cinderella story, everything is done for you, and you don’t have to pay for anything, be responsible for much and it is easy. None of that is true. But the compliment turns into a dream and a goal without knowing much about what all it entails.

You could be a beautiful Cinderella and not a good model. Your character could not be a good match for this business. You may struggle with many, many things in an industry that is fiercely competitive and although in love with beauty, and maybe yours, has a tendency to be quite fickle and curious about what is new and what is next. Like any competitive activity or job, you have to do something special to get something special from the industry and KEEP that interest.

This mystery has created the need for “volume” in scouting in order to create a top model. It has slowly eroded the truth and the business of identifying real potential. There are more scouts and more people trying to make money on the dream, and not actually taking the proper time and dedication to develop it.

There is a great need for guidance for the young potential model from her hometown, during school, and preparing her for the business of learning how to model. There is a lot to learn for her AND her parents. This is not like any other business that I know of, and although similar to some like sports or acting when starting, the actual business is quite specific. Parents try to understand, but usually find it very frustrating. No one is “whisked” away to stardom regardless of how beautiful or how “obvious” it may seem. And it is built on subtle relationships, not like a sales job. You work your way up and you work to get there. It is competitive and clients and photographers have specific criteria that you won’t understand and difficult to explain. The character, behavior and disposition of the model AND her parents, creates the platform for the success to be built on once the physical abilities have been discovered.

This is a great business, and a fun business. It is a shame to see the “scammers” create the illusion of success. A good coach has won a few games and knows how to navigate from the minor leagues to the majors. Find a good one, and the experience will be rich.

 

Some words from James Scully, Casting Director for Stella McCartney, Oscar de La Renta – just to name a few

James Scully has been a casting director ever since I can remember. He has an exciting, crazy fashion job and I wanted to ask him some questions to really show the process of casting. He has been involved in different efforts to move the modern agenda in the right direction, including the CFDA/Vogue Health Initiative plus he has spoken on many panels highlighting the size and the age issue for models. His experience has been an asset to including the career of a model to be an important part of the fashion brand discussion. I love his knowledge of our cyclical world, and I have always appreciated his examples that exemplify the truth.

Who do you cast for during show season?

Jason Wu, Derek Lam, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Nina Ricci, Stella McCartney and special projects for Lanvin and Tom Ford.  And hopefully, 1 new client I’m very excited about and should know any day now.

What is the importance of a model being available for New York, London, Milan and Paris during show season?

Well, it’s definitely important as one of the big changes in the industry was the importance of print work and certain fashion photographers used to dictate which models were hot at the moment, and as casting directors we used to follow that lead. Now, with Style.com and other magazine websites, a model can have a very high profile just by doing a handful of the right shows instantly. The shows definitely now launch a models career faster.

What is the first step of your process in casting for shows? Do you see models just before the shows start or in between?

I see most models just before and I don’t do a lot of in between castings.  I get the agency packages and edit out who I need to see. Some people see every girl at every agency. I don’t because there are just some girls that are not right for me or my shows so I’ll see them if I have another project they may be right for. You get a lot of information sent to you throughout the year so I know who these models are and if they strike an interest in me I’ll make a point to find them.  But my work has a definite schedule to it and when I’m not working I disappear so I can wait till the shows when everyone is in town at once. For my needs I’m only interested in who’s in town to work with me at that moment.

Pictured below James is being “appreciated” by Daria Stroukus and Ginta

What is the process once you like a model new to the business?

Well since I work for many varied people when I meet a new girl I’m already slotting her into how many of my shows she could work for whether it’s 1 or all of them. So, once I like them initially, they will meet all my clients. Once they start getting my shows they are on those boards until the client no longer wants to use them.

At what point does the “mood” of the collection come into the casting process for you?

It depends on the client but I would say the type of girl is more important for my clients and me. At Nina Ricci the girls tend to be more refined, frail “jeune fille”, because the clothes have lightness about them. Stella McCartney is about maturity, a great body and lots of confidence and that’s a hard show to cast because that kind of model is dwindling. But a good example this season would be Jason Wu. His clothes tend to be for a more adult customer so to put conventionally beautiful girls in them would make them look less modern. He tends to like kooky character girls. They take the clothes out of context and give more edge and youth. This season the show was imperial china and some of the girls he normally uses just looked to frail in these very powerful military clothes so we did not use them. That is not to say they won’t be right for the next show.

Could you explain why a model in high demand might not be right for a certain collection?

Lots of reasons, some girls are very specific and just cannot cross over to every show. Or a girl is great to look at but does not have the confidence or walk that will appeal to everyone. A model may seem strange to some initially, but once people get used to her looks she can eventually appeal to everyone.  Great examples of this in the past would be Nadja Auermann, Kirsty Hume and Stella Tennant.  In the era of Christy, Naomi and Cindy these “new” girls seemed like Martians and one-season ponies. They were very shocking to meet for the first time. They were all too tall, couldn’t walk, not buxom like the other models of that time but each went on to have very successful commercial careers, and broke the mold for what people thought was beautiful. Today’s examples would be Meghan Collison Saskia de Braw and Julia Nobis. Although if this were the 80’s I think Saskia would have been racking up Vogue covers with Isabella Rossellini and Alexa Singer (yes I just dated myself).

Pictured below James is on the CFDA Panel with (from left) Aerin Lauder, himself, Doutzen Kroes, David Bonnouvrier (President of DNA Models), Zac Posen and Tonne Goodman (Vogue Editor)

How do you know what the designer is looking for in a model? Does it change every season?

Ahh, here’s the can of worms I could talk about for days. Where to start? Many casting directors have different styles. Mine is defining a girl for a designer and keeping it consistent.  So that does not mean constant change for me.  Most people don’t know what they are looking for these days because the biggest blow to the industry is the American fashion magazine and their celebrity covers. Vogue was the gold standard for any model in the business, the pinnacle, the Zenith.  That set the standard of any girl that walked into an agency. You had to be beautiful enough to eventually get that cover and you had years to work yourself up to that honor. When you did you called the shots. Every show had to have you.  With no covers for girls and the rise of stylists who need an inspiration fix as quickly as the internet moves, and many who don’t understand the difference between a show girl and a print girl, this ushered in what I call the era of the disposable model.

Prada became the benchmark combing Eastern Europe for EXCLUSIVE girls much too young and inexperienced to be in any shows but their shows.  I will credit them with creating a look that worked in a very provocative, interesting way for their image. This coupled with the rise of style.com just had people on the edge of their seats waiting to see who the next hot girl at Prada would be and everyone just handing you a list of what they wanted from the internet instead of doing their own thing.  Problem is Prada would just replace them every season and though what they did for themselves I found brilliant, most of these girls were very disappointing in real life. Too young, no confidence or life experience and gone by next season.  So models were no longer developed. Show packages went from 20-30 dependable aspirational girls to 400 girls a season and after seeing them, maybe finding two okay acceptable girls to work with. And then everyone from Calvin on down just followed suit trying to do what Prada did getting all exclusive crazy but doing it very badly and unoriginally.  Personality and ethnicity disappeared and these pre-pubescent girls are why model size went from 8-0. And the business has not recovered from it and the situation is getting worse.

I don’t know who decided 16 was acceptable but when a girl who has not yet developed breasts or even a sense of who she is and is thrust into a woman’s job is hard enough. But then to be made to feel guilty by stylists and designers for turning into a woman must really be a mind f**k no matter what age you are.  And it’s forcing these girls to make very damaging uninformed decisions regarding their health to stay competitive.  What’s worse is that it axed out all the seasoned girls like Daria, Natalia, Raquel and Caroline Trentini who would all still be doing shows but they don’t want to compete with children for the same jobs, so they stopped. And we have not had worthy replacements since.

Is there a “style” of walking that you like? If a model has a bad walk, can it be adjusted?

That’s where I’m old school, if you can’t walk you will not be in my shows. I don’t care who you are shooting with or what hot shows you have under your belt. I can’t put an unpolished girl in front of my clients or it looks like I’m not doing my job.

James and Derek Lam below

What do you like the most about casting for shows?

I really do love to match a girl with a client and of course, my clients. That’s the challenge of what I do to present models that they will appreciate and develop relationships with and to see her career develop as a whole. People always ask is there a show I don’t have that I would like to cast and I always say Balmain. I love how definitive their point of view is beautiful, sexy, grown up and they never stray and they use the same girls who fly in just to be in it. When they add someone new you notice because it’s not about the girl of the moment. A Balmain model has to earn her place!

That’s my philosophy and why Stella McCartney and Tom Ford are favorites.  You become a character in their world and its about you as an individual not just being a lifeless characterless body which is what 90% of all shows are today. I think people have lost sight of what a runway image does. The woman who buys these clothes is sophisticated, rich and they need to see themselves in that picture to give them desire to want to purchase into this world.  It’s as simple as that. Models bring clothes to life. I know so many women outside of this business that look at teenage girls in these clothes and can’t relate. So sadly fashion loses out because at least a woman can look at a celebrity because they look real. And that’s bad also because celebs have now taken the aspiration and exclusivity out of the business because they make every thing average and accessible.  And that’s sad. The character of this business is what I miss the most. So the highlights for me are very few and far between.

What is the best advice you can give a model going on a show casting? What they should do, or not do, and what bugs you?

Nothing bugs me about girls in particular more than agencies are sending out girls that are not ready and when I have to see 400 of them it is very depressing and overwhelming So it’s a girl with personality and confidence that will always stand out in that crowd as clichéd as that sounds. And be on time! Always remember, if you, the model, is having trouble keeping up with your day, don’t try to fix it yourself. Call your agent and they will take care of alerting everyone else for you and giving you the priorities.

What is “looks” with a designer? Why do you ask models to do “looks”?

Ah looks models and hair and makeup girls are THE BAIN of every casting directors existence.  When a designer is creating all the outfits they will eventually use in their shows they hire a model and try all the looks on her to eventually edit and decide what will finally be in the show.  Some people hire models that strictly do only looks and not shows, employ a house model or many like to find a girl that may represent the kind of model that would be on their runway. Many times the looks girl will make the show so for a new girl this could be a big break in their career.  Though it is a good confidence builder and practice for a new girl it is very long hours and hard work and low pay depending on what designer you work for. A lot of girls do not like it or if they do it once and never want to do it again.  So it’s really hard to find girls to do looks especially since stylists want editorial girls and from experience those girls know better. Funny and yet, true. However there are some instances that it is a very pleasurable profitable thing to do.

What does the term, “fit to confirm” mean and why is it important? Could you give an example?

Fit to confirm is a new concept. Another thing that began happening with the stylists (who can’t make up their minds) and disposable girls. Before the supermodels and up until the Natalia, Liya, Daria generation of models, you committed to your cast you booked your models and you paid them. You would NEVER think of cancelling a girl of Linda Evangelista’s caliber. The girls had the power and if they felt a client wronged them they banned together and would boycott your show and you would develop a reputation of a problem client. If a dress did not fit a girl or her body changed you fixed the dress you did not cancel the model for it!

Now you put tons of girls on hold and you do not officially confirm them until they have been fit.  Since a lot of people see only runway photos before meeting models, and you had to pay them, when you finally saw the “girl of the moment” and realized she’s not really “all that” your expenses would be outrageous.

What is the funniest thing that happened during a casting or a fitting?

Funny things usually happen at shows not really during castings. However, I recently had a Chinese model come in to meet me and she pointed at me and said “ I google you and can’t find nothing except you president of J Crew? How you do both jobs?” I share my name with the VP of J Crew. So I laughed out loud and booked her for all my shows. I love a girl who attempted to do her (botched) homework.  Her English has not improved and she sent me a Christmas card this year written in the 3rd person. I LOVE her!

Who are some of the models that you used their first season and then went on to become top stars? What did you see in them on the first meeting that sparked your eye?

Again this goes down to clients. So many people (and their egos) think if you have the girl first that’s what counts. It does not! It is the knowing and the instinct of  the right girl at the right time in the right show.

Certainly during the Tom Ford Gucci/YSL days there were a lot of first timers Liya Kebede, Julia Stegner, Erin Wasson, Karen Elson to name a few.  They all represented something Tom was looking for at the time. But Natalia was around for about a year before her exclusive made her a star. Georgina Grenville was a fit model before Gucci. Arizona Muse was a commercial showroom model for years but Prada took her to the mainstream. Givenchy does a good job re-starting the careers of models whose star may have fallen.

So for me first means nothing. When I look at a girl for the first time I’m looking for star quality and longevity which in those days everyone had in spades! Even if a girl is not right but I know that quality is there I’ll let her cut her teeth in the business and jump on her when the time is right for me and my clients.  When I work with young designers I try to identify girls that I think will have great careers and grow with them as part of their cabine. For example, when Derek Lam had his first show it just happened that the new girls in town were Jessica Stam, Anja Rubick and Caroline Trentini and they remained very loyal to him. Recently with Jason Wu his first big show the new kids were Abbey Lee, Karlie Kloss and the new and improved Joan Smalls. Because of these girls and many others he became a hot show. Things like this are what make my job still exciting to do.

James and Hanne Gaby below

How should a model dress when coming to see you for a show?

I would say personal style wins. If you have good style you stand out. I’m sure girls feel a lot more comfortable and at ease dressed as themselves and certainly more confidant. I hate the agency outfit of bodysuit, black mini tights and high heels. It takes a lot of confidence in yourself to pull that off and so many girls just outwardly look so unhappy to be traipsing around in something that makes them feel awkward, and that shows in your casting. I think half the reason that girls like Tati Collar, Hanne Gaby, and Maria Carla were noticed was that they all have great personal style and prove that it is not just conventional beauty that makes a great model. When I first met Erin Wasson she was wearing a peasant skirt a tiny denim jacket and a paisley turban. She had so much style (still does) and confidence. Two days later she was on a plane to Milan and exclusive at Gucci and the rest was history. I say stand out if it works for you.  That said, I’ve also had models show up in my office looking like extras from a Mary Jane Girls video so don’t over dress either or maybe that’s where I’d leave that up to the agency and have them don the classic go see outfit when all else fails.

Thank you so much James for your insight and fearless honesty. You have shared  some great details of the job of a casting director. In my opinion, your knowledge and background of the model in the fashion industry is what adds so much rich depth to your talent and personal touch to what you do. There are few left in this industry that respect the history of how we got to the present.

 

 

SCOUT GIRL | Madison Mumm shot by Erin Olson @erinscouted…

SCOUT GIRL | Madison Mumm shot by Erin Olson @erinscouted….