Saturday, 25 April 2009


Premier Models was founded over 25 years ago by former model Carole White and her brother, Chris Owen. Premier now has over 200 models on its books, and has over the years helped to shape the careers of Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Kirsty Hume and Christy Turlington. Premier has proven its name within the fashion industry as a credible and authoritative presence.

This impressive pedigree has established Premier as one of the leading agencies in Europe. Its ‘Main Board’, which deals with established talent, can count successful campaigns and high-profile runway work among its models’ achievements.
However, Premier is just as well known for ‘Premier Special’, a division for boosting the profile of clients from the world of entertainment. Where Premier differs from other agencies is that it has focused on the cross-over of these non-fashion clients into the world of high-fashion, with personal appearances, advertising and PR for major brands. No better example of the success of this strategy can be seen in the career of one of Premier Special’s most notable signings: Cheryl Cole.

Cheryl’s meteoric rise from Popstars wannabe to X Factor judge has seemingly occurred with heady speed and meeting very little resistance. Of course, anyone who moves this far and fast up the ladder has done so with a lot of hard work behind the scenes. To quote Judy Garland, there is no such thing as an ‘overnight sensation’.

Cheryl has, with the team at Premier, manoeuvred her budding fame from being the tomboy-ish one in Girls Aloud to the status of household name. It is doubtful that there is anyone left in the UK who is not at least familiar with Cheryl Cole the brand – the face alone sells it.
With the fashion know-how accrued at Premier, Cheryl has graduated from girl-band fodder to style headliner. Premier has made sure that her style is at the forefront of every article written about her. Her wardrobe choices are exhaustively covered in the fashion press – just five years ago, editors would never have even considered including her on any ‘Best Dressed’ List - now she is at the very top of the fashion tree.

If you want proof what Premier can do for a celebrity’s image, watch any episode from the last series of ‘X Factor’. Premier have not focused on Cheryl’s beauty (which would have been the obvious route to take), but on her personality. It is Cheryl’s charisma is what makes her so watchable – she outshines everybody, and that includes the contestants. Now very much a fixture on the talent show, Simon Cowell has ensured that she stays for at least another series. He knows that ITV have a stellar selling-point in Cheryl: home-spun Geordie warmth combined with killer heels have proved an irresistible siren call to the British public.

Premier’s other success stories include signing a German model called Diane Heidkruger. When she wanted to go into acting, she became Diane Kruger. So far her acting credits include working alongside Nicolas Cage and Brad Pitt. Models-turned-actresses are not meant to build such an impressive resume so quickly. Along with a long-standing affiliation with Chanel, It’s proof that the Premier formula works. Fashion sense + PR savvy = a client who is never out of the spotlight for long. Applying lessons learnt in the modelling world (eg: pro-active scouting for new talent; exploring and tailoring off-shoots of opportunity), Premier have taken the worlds of entertainment and fashion and made one indistinguishable from the other. Where the two used to be on friendly terms but very much separate, they now co-exist quite happily: think of Oscar night if you still need to be convinced that fashion and celebrity have never been closer. But Premier has recognised that a strong image in itself is not enough: if you want to stay in the limelight, you better have something to say that is worth listening to.

What Premier knows best is that if you want to get your message across, a little charm goes a long way. Premier has used its knowledge and influence in the fashion world, not only to secure a strong base of modelling talent, but has actively shaped the way we view celebrities. With the momentous success of Premier girls like Cheryl Cole, Diane Kruger, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Lucy Liu comes the advent of a new kind of celebrity. He or she may not be perfect, but they have an edge to them, which makes them different and that in turn makes them interesting. They are not pre-packaged and media-trained to within an inch of their lives – the best signings at Premier prove that vulnerability and imperfection capture the public’s interest like nothing else.

Premier has ensured that the cult of celebrity, while never going out of fashion exactly, continues in a new direction. Taking lessons learnt from the modelling industry, Premier has homed in on the importance of being earnest. It’s compelling, refreshing and very, very seductive.


Saturday, 18 April 2009


Started up in 1989 and only representing a few girls, NEXT model management now possesses the largest network of agencies on the planet. With offices in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris and affiliates as far afield as Sydney, NEXT has ensured that it has its eyes firmly on any up-and-coming talent: if a new face is creating a buzz, NEXT will definitely hear about it.
NEXT has simply founded its reputation on one core idea: beauty. Representing names such as Petra Nemcova, Jessica Miller, Molly Sims and Anja Rubik (pictured) – these girls are all famous within the modelling community for giving good face.
The fact that an agency can grow and develop so rapidly within the space of twenty years on the strength of this one concept may seem puzzling when you consider the high-fashion editorial looks of models such as Lily Cole and Agyness Deyn, who are both very much in vogue. Surely this type of face makes more money? Isn’t that what editors and advertisers want? Strong editorial edge, grit and ample fashion appeal?

While an edgy, fashion-forward face may work when lent to a cosmetics brand aimed at women under 25, the fact of the matter is that when it comes to selling products generally, pretty trumps edgy every time.

NEXT have long understood the power of conventional beauty. It may not move fashion forward in daring and dazzling new directions, but it is a palpable force the world over. The power of a face with good symmetry, bone structure and clear, strong features cannot be underestimated.

Tests have been run by showing very young babies (before the advance of speech or peer influence), photos of human faces. Without exception, the babies responded to the conventionally attractive faces more than the everyday ones. The conclusion? Humans are genetically pre-programmed to respond favourably to beauty.

NEXT exploits this fact to their advantage. Using classically-beautiful models (often harder to find than an editorial girl), they have actively chosen to build a book of talent around the principle of timeless, rather than chase that instant, of-the-moment look.
Their reputation for scouting the best talent is clear when you consider just a small batch of names from their Women’s Division. Names like Anja Rubik, Filippa Hamilton and Jessica Miller may not have the immediacy of a Moss or a Deyn, but their faces are everywhere.
Beauty has always equalled desire, and companies are clamouring to get these girls behind their products. In the advertising industry, it is one of the rarest and most desirable commodities, second only to celebrity. These girls are routinely booked for major campaigns, and as a consequence, their faces (if not their names) are among the most recognisable within the fashion industry.
These faces sell products because they are attractive, yes, but more importantly, it is a type of face that can be projected onto any image the client wants. From perfume and cosmetics to lingerie and sportswear, a NEXT model can lend their look to any of them and not look out of place. Versatility sells, and true beauty is very, very versatile.
NEXT has, from its substantial agency network dotted around the globe, proof that whatever the mood of the fashion world, there is always money in pretty. Quite simply, regardless of where fashion takes the modelling industry, beauty will never go out of style.


Sunday, 5 April 2009


In an age where small is beautiful, IMG stands above the parapet of the modelling world. Boasting branches dotted around the globe (Paris, London, Milan and New York), IMG is a fashion colossus.

It is responsible for some of the most famous faces in modelling. Its roster of past and present faces reads like an encyclopaedia entry under ‘modelling’. Naomi Campbell, Jessica Stam, Kate Moss, Gisele Bundchen, Tyra Banks, Erin Wasson and Maggie Rizer have all been affiliated with the agency at some point in their careers.

With an international agency of this size, you could be forgiven for assuming that new talent could get lost in the crowd. Not so with IMG. It could very easily stick with a dozen or so trusted faces – some of the names listed above would comfortably ensure the agency’s survival for the next five years – but instead of resting on its laurels, IMG strives to move on. It takes chances and readily gambles on models that fall outside the mainstream fashion trajectory.

Daria Werbowy, Gemma Ward and Alek Wek are models, who under a different agency at a different time would not have gained any further appeal than with the most avant-garde designers. Now they are well-known in the wider arena of the fashion world, winning international campaigns with big designer brands and cosmetic companies. IMG has exploded the misconception that fashion is a local business: what is popular with London-based clients will not translate to Paris and so on. IMG has made modelling a truly international industry.

A multi-strand corporation diving into many areas of traditional and virtual media, IMG has applied what it has learnt about promotion, management and development from the worlds of sport and entertainment. Where this principle has succeeded most is where models have themselves become their own brand.

Gisele Bundchen is arguably the most recognisable face in modelling today. She has walked runways for every major designer, appeared on countless magazine covers and editorial spreads, but it is the application of her name and image to advertisers outside the immediate fashion industry that has made her globally recognised. (Having a look that can be applied to virtually any product on the planet doesn’t hurt either). Gisele has sold everything from perfume to watches, all with equal aplomb. Even landing small acting roles in films such as ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, continues to boost her profile – just in case there’s anyone left who doesn’t know who she is.

IMG has transformed the modelling industry’s goals and aspirations. It is no longer enough to be ‘just a model’. The smart kids entering the modelling world today know that modelling in itself is only a finite career. With an ever-shifting aesthetic, even if you’re the hardest-working model in town, you can be literally in fashion one week, and out the next.
To last, and maintain any level of success, one must think bigger: what is it about me that makes me different? To turn yourself into a brand to be marketed and developed is a relatively new concept, and one that IMG is compellingly good at.

It has taken advantage of the fact that the world’s media now feed off each other, with an ever-circulating exchange of information. Rather than making it a cynical exercise in profiteering, IMG has placed the PR game in a very intelligent way.

Playing to models’ (and clients’) strengths, models can now be equally well-known through a variety of avenues. Heidi Klum, another noteable IMG name, is just as well known for her long-standing affiliation with lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret, as she is for producing her own fine jewellery line and presenting perennial fashion TV favourite, ‘Project Runway’. Having Heidi onboard has secured the programme a level of kudos highly unusual for a television series dealing directly with the world of fashion. The two worlds have not traditionally had a happy time of it together. But ‘Project Runway’ is an example of how careful management can get the balance right. Part of the programme’s appeal can be directly attributed to the impressively high-profile guests who regularly appear on the programme. A television show that has Michael Kors as a regular panel judge, and designers like Diane Von Furstenberg and Francisco Costa appearing as guests, must be doing something right.

IMG offers up a valuable lesson in how to make the most of every opportunity, and more crucially, playing to your strengths. The days of models routinely retiring at 22 are long gone. IMG has grasped the mettle of the world’s media and has defined for an entire generation, how a photogenic face can become a fortune.