Sunday, 29 March 2009


Select has a very unique place within modelling history. Founded over 30 years ago by sisters Clare and Chrissie Castagnetti and their friend Tandy Anderson, Select has established itself as the no.1 modelling agency in the UK.

The thing that sets it apart from other long-standing agencies is a special claim to fame. Select had the novel, and pioneering, idea of not just relying on finding new faces via applications and word-of-mouth. They took their search to the streets.
Scoping the streets for a new, fresh face that could be moulded and groomed into something special had never been done before. Scouting, as it came to be known, transformed the way the modelling industry operated.

This has now become such an integral part of the business, that even those who profess to know nothing about modelling know the term ‘scout’ and more importantly, what a scout does. This approach has not only paid dividends for Select, but for the modelling world in general: some of the most exciting finds of the last twenty years have been thanks to the eagle eyes of a scout: Kate Moss, Jourdan Dunn, Sophie Dahl and Jessica Stam were all discovered far beyond the walls of an agency.

This method has blown apart the pre-conceptions people have about the modelling world being a closed book. Scouting has provided an element of excitement and opportunity into an industry, which is by its very nature, elitist. Yes, agencies still want the best, but now the best models of the next five years might be found trawling the rails at Topshop.

Every agency, subsequent to Select’s pioneering approach, now has scouts working on their behalf. Select has proven the success of this method, with faces that were discovered through scouting now working on international campaigns. Their New Faces team also has an impressive success rate: Lily Donaldson, Agyness Deyn, Daisy Lowe and Paul Sculfor have all started their careers at Select.

Maintaining an internationally-renowned client base, Select continues to explore new possibilities with its Special Bookings division. Former model Alexa Chung and music wunderkind V V Brown being just two of their signings, shows that Select has a very clear vision of what is current. To ensure an agency’s survival in these difficult times, no skill is more essential.

Select’s legacy, if it can be summed up at this point in their history, is a democratisation of modelling. In the 1950’s, models were the daughters of aristocrats, and it showed. This all changed in the free-wheeling Sixties with the discovery of an ordinary working-class girl with an extraordinary look. Twiggy’s discovery re-shaped the future for models, but it wasn’t until Select came up with the idea of scouting that modelling became a truly open market.
They have created a democracy of opportunity for models: opportunity based on merit, rather than breeding. This thoroughly modern approach has revolutionised modelling and fashion. You just have to flick through the pages of the latest Vogue to spot the names of talents, who 50 years ago, would not have been allowed anywhere near a catwalk: Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Julien McDonald, Gareth Pugh and Henry Holland to name just a few.
Select’s willingness to open the doors of the fashion industry has resulted in a truly unique collection of talent (designers, photographers as well as models), which is now at the forefront of the British fashion industry, pushing it on to newer, bigger and better. Making modelling accessible has changed the aesthetic of designers, and in turn, fashion itself. Select has ensured not only its survival, but its evolution.


Sunday, 15 March 2009


For an agency that now boasts five divisions and a database of 7000 clients, Models 1 started from far humbler numbers over forty years ago.

Founded in 1968, Models 1 had just three models on its books. Against these odds, the agency developed and flourished into the largest and most successful agency in Europe. Forty years on, it is one of the most notable players on the modelling stage.

Models 1 have a roll-call that is the envy of every other agency. Not content to rest on the shoulders of one stellar signing, Models 1 has diversified into a multi-division behemoth. Its longevity can with some certainty be pinned down to the fact that Models 1 has recognised that there is strength in numbers.

Listing just some of the names attached to Models 1 makes it clear that this agency is central to the world of modelling:

Agyness Deyn
Amber Valletta
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Noemie Lenoir
Karolina Kurkova

These are only a few of the names attached to Models 1. The agency has cemented its fashion cache in recent years with high-fashion signings Agyness Deyn and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley: Deyn’s iconic look in particular has come to define a whole new wave of street fashion. Deyn’s influence over popular fashion is not something that should be overlooked. Her unique style is now much copied, and as much a part of pop culture as Topshop and YouTube. When fashion commentators look back on this time, Deyn’s face will be indelibly marked on it. Having the guts to sign someone as tide-changing as Deyn proves that age does not mean an agency is stuck in its past. With Deyn, Models 1 has secured its future and place within the modelling industry.

Of course, Models 1 has used its years of influence to create a mightily-impressive client list. Annually working with 1200 clients, Models 1 has links with the worlds of haute couture, ready-to-wear, through to the stalwarts of the high street.
What makes Models 1 special is that it doesn’t just focus on the current face du jour. Its Classic Women division can cite campaigns with skincare brands Garnier and Clarins. They also represent Twiggy and Marie Helvin, a reminder of Models 1’s extensive legacy.

True to form, Models 1 has cultivated a huge and diverse client base. They have built substantial working relationships with major brands such as Marks and Spencer – something that can only happen with the benefit of insight and experience. It is this huge range of clients (quite literally, Prada to Peugeot), that makes Models 1 stand apart from its competitors.

Despite their size, Models 1, from day one, have adhered to a very simple philosophy: a model’s welfare is in their strongest, most absolute, interests. They have a very good industry-wide reputation when it comes to their models. No new model is thrown out into the big, bad world without knowing the basics. Just as they build and develop existing talents’ careers, Models 1 sensibly recognise that new faces need just as much attention, sometimes more. Therefore, when a fresh Models 1 signing goes out on castings, they are prepared, professional and focused.

Working with existing talent has also brought its own rewards: names like Crawford, Evangelista, Kurkova and Valletta are the reason why Models 1 has such a strong foothold in the industry. When a model can be recognised by a surname alone, it is an indicator that there has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes getting them to that point.

Where Models 1 is succeeding currently, is with the batch of faces that are making a comeback within the modelling industry: Karolina Kurkova and Linda Evangelista are proof that there is such a thing as a second act in a model’s career. You are not necessarily done and dusted by the age of 25. Evangelista’s prolific affiliation with brands such as L’Oreal shows that Models 1 is committed to providing iconic faces at every age. The shift in advertising to target skincare aimed at consumers over 40, using models over 40, is a significant about-turn that Models 1 has taken advantage of. While other agencies have been focusing in the newer faces in the pack, Models 1 has used its extensive back-catalogue to devastating effect.

The final pointer to just how highly-regarded Models 1 is within the fashion industry, is best defined by the fact that they are the agency every ‘Britain’s Next Top Model’ season winner has been signed to. It is the most substantial, glittering prize waved at the hopefuls who take part in the televised modelling competition. It’s no wonder with a year’s contract on offer that the competition gets so ruthless.

Every BNTM winner has gone on to achieve some degree of success within the industry (Cycle 2 winner Lianna Fowler has appeared in both British and Russian Vogue – a distinction yet to be equalled by another other BNTM contestant). The fact that the show’s producers have chosen Models 1 as the grand prize shows how it is perceived, not only by fashion insiders, but the world at large. Models 1 are a force to be reckoned with. With a history of forty years to draw upon, it has the skills and the know-how to exist for forty more, and beyond.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Agency profiles: STORM

Storm, one of the modelling industry's most established fixtures, can sum up its mission statement in one word: risk.

No other agency has worked so tirelessly at pushing the boundaries of modelling and fashion. If this weren't enough in itself, Storm has succeeded in changing how an agency's role is perceived. Recognising that opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, Storm has gone further (and faster) by extending the shelf-life of its models, by working with them to create new and lucrative opportunities.

Agency founder Sarah Doukas, after working for another agency for seven years, decided to risk it all and set up her own modelling agency. After impressing Richard Branson with her business acumen, she secured financial backing to make Storm a reality. In 1987, operating from a tiny house in Battersea, Storm was open for business.

Sarah Doukas was very clear on how she wanted Storm to differ from other agencies. Her aim was to launch the first UK-based modelling agency that represented new talent she'd discovered herself. It was this principle that underpinned the entire business. Luckily for Storm, Doukas soon secured a reputation on her ability to spot a face. Not just any face, but that one-in-a-million, unforgettable face. Walking through a New York airport in 1988, Sarah spotted a girl on her way home after a family vacation. The girl was Kate Moss, and that discovery single-handedly ensured Storm's survival in an ultra-competitive industry.

Doukas' lucky find should not be under-estimated. Before Kate Moss, the very idea of a supermodel under 5' 8" was laughable. Sarah's willingness to take a chance on the girl from Croydon changed the course of modern fashion.

Storm's eye for diversity has launched some of the most striking and original faces in the industry. The landscape of the modelling world would look very different without Storm discoveries such as Alek Wek, Devon Aoki, Jourdan Dunn and Lily Cole. Storm, more than any other agency, has made a point of consistently challenging the boundaries of the fashion industry. These faces, while representing very different takes on beauty, all have one thing in common: without them, the trajectory of the fashion world would have gone in a very different direction.

Storm also expanded to become the first UK agency to market and book models directly with international clients. It was a radical departure from the role of traditional agencies that paid off: this worked so well that overseas agencies began trusting Storm to look after their own discoveries. But Storm's key strength is its ambition to diversify and grow, even in challenging economic times.

Storm took their know-how of marketing their models and branched out into licensing and branding. A model could quite literally become a brand. There is no better example of this than what Storm achieved with Kate Moss. By the turn of the millennium, Kate was at the top of her game - the model every designer and editor wanted to work with.

Sarah Doukas, along with Moss, made an intelligent leap of faith. Kate Moss, is synonymous with high fashion and modelling, but her own look, how she steps out of the house each morning, has been exhaustively profiled and replicated within the fashion press. Part of Kate's popularity with designers has always been her keen sense of personal style. Doukas knew that there was something in this. The idea blossomed into the hugely profitable collaboration between Moss and Topshop. It was an immediate success, with teenage girls everywhere being able to buy into the 'Kate Moss look'. Striking a fine balance between aspirational and attainable, this collaboration has taken off in ways far beyond anyone's expectations.

This highly lucrative sub-industry of Brand Moss has developed in turn to launch perfumes and a haircare range in conjunction with Moss' close friend, hairdresser James Brown. Everybody can buy a dress, or a bottle of perfume or shampoo, and feel that they are buying a little piece of Kate's style. This daring and innovative idea has made millions, and changed the face of the modelling industry forever. It is now no longer enough to scout talent, it must be nurtured and developed.

Thanks to its bold, risk-taking approach, Storm in the space of just 20 years, has carved out a unique place for itself in modelling history. It has transformed fashion, and more importantly, the fashion world's notion of beauty. Ethnicity and diversity have become celebrated as the subject of desire and aspiration. Faces that twenty years ago, would never have stood a chance of breaking into the modelling industry, are being given a chance thanks to the vision of Sarah Doukas. This is perhaps Storm's most remarkable and enduring achievement.