Monday, 25 May 2009


Kate Moss is the most influential model working in fashion today. The girl from Croydon holds a special place in modelling history: she is someone, who on paper, should never have succeeded as a model.

Kate’s career began when she was discovered at a New York airport by Storm agency founder Sarah Doukas in 1988. Kate’s meteoric rise through the fashion ranks began with a photo shoot for ‘The Face’ magazine with photographer Corinne Day. The edgy, cool shots spread through the fashion world like wildfire. It was here that Kate was first cast as the ‘anti-supermodel’. Her teenage, waif-like body could not have been more different to the Nineties’ clutch of supermodels: Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista. They were conventionally beautiful and uber sexy. The remit for models was a womanly but slender figure – something that could comfortably fill out a Versace gown.
Kate Moss did the rounds at teen magazines, but it wasn’t until 1993 that she got her first big break. Kate’s inauguration into the public sphere occurred thanks to the vision of American designer Calvin Klein. The now-iconic black and white minimalist ads made Kate the embodiment of progressive, modern fashion – a perfect segue from the Eighties hangover of glamour and sequins. She was small, quirky and unconventional. Perfect for the Nineties.

Kate’s career blossomed virtually overnight. She began to work with the biggest designers, photographers and publications in the fashion industry. Her slight figure courted controversy as the press labelled her look ‘heroin-chic’ (based on the extreme emaciation of drug addicts), but Kate kept her cool and carried on working. Her unwillingness to get drawn into a debate on whether she was a good example to teenagers or not proved to be a canny move. The world of fashion does not stay still for long, and soon the ‘heroin chic’ look fell out of favour. But Kate remained. What she famously lacked in height (Kate, at just over 5’7”, is significantly below the standard industry requirement of 5’10”), she made up for in versatility. The fashion industry saw that in Moss, they had a face-in-a-million. A face that could sell any look: glamorous, editiorial, commercial.
By 2003, as well as her ‘mother agency’ Storm, she needed three additional agencies to manage the deluge of requests for her time. The fiscal years of 2004-06 saw Kate become the second highest-earning model in the world, second only to Gisele Bundchen. In addition to this, Kate has (to date) appeared on 24 British ‘Vogue’ covers, and 17 covers of the US style bible ‘W’. By anyone’s standards, this is an impressive track record.
If Kate had stuck to modelling, this alone would have ensured her longevity, but Kate’s popularity outside the perimeters of the fashion world was something entirely new. Everywhere she went, whatever she did, her style was obsessively chronicled across the world’s media. She wasn’t just a model: she was a pop-culture icon.
For years, the fashion press speculated on whether Kate would ever branch out into fashion design. April 30th 2007 saw the launch of the first Kate Moss / Topshop design collaboration. Kate red-ribboned the collection at Topshop in Oxford Street, appearing in the window as a live mannequin. It caused a sensation and the public, were they in further need of convincing, were hooked.
Financially, the first collection was a huge success, but there was some controversy over the term ‘designer’. Some doubted Kate’s credentials – had she any say in the development of the collection at all? Kate set the record straight by confirming that she did not design the clothes herself, but rather acted as a muse to the TS design team; bringing in samples of her own clothes to act as jumping-off points, and to discuss fabrics and finishings, as well as modelling the finished articles for the TS promotional campaign.
The collection, despite its success, initially received some mixed reviews. Some dubbed it ‘Duplikate’ – clothes for a generation of girls who have grown up watching, admiring and copying their fashion idol, although to criticise such a collection on these grounds is somewhat missing the point. The brilliance of the collaboration between Moss and TS simultaneously paid homage to, and took advantage of, her status as a style icon.
The first and subsequent Topshop collections have been designed for and marketed towards a generation who have dressed under the umbrella concept of ‘celebrity style’. They see, they like, they wear.
Where Kate has engaged with the public most successfully, is how she has ignited popular fashion trends. In recent years, she has spear-headed trends as diverse as denim shorts, Ugg boots, ballet flats, skinny jeans, the waistcoat and the leopard-print scarf, all of which have scored big with consumers across all age and income brackets. In an age where film stars recruit stylists to dress them before popping out for a latte, Kate understands that true style is innate, which is why the public respond to her in the way they do. A scarf thrown on at the last minute before heading out the door becomes a worldwide fashion blockbuster because it is spontaneous, unstudied and fun. Kate Moss has made an indelible mark on how we dress, and present ourselves to the world.
Kate has also steadfastly refused to play the fame game. Notorious for her lack of interviews, Kate Moss has remained at the top of the game by remaining an enigma: a tactic that has garnered more press attention than the ‘confessional’ attitude of D-list celebrities. It is this Garbo-esque silence that has proven to be Kate’s most irresistible play.
What makes Kate Moss so unique in comparison to other models, is her comparative ordinariness. Before her, models were statuesque, utterly beautiful and frankly, more than a little intimidating.
Kate has blown apart the conceptions of what a model should, and can, be. She is the ultimate outsider (‘wrong’ in so many respects), who ended up persuading the fashion industry to see style and beauty from her own unique point of view.
Kate’s legacy is one of embracing frailty and imperfection. This is why the public, and in turn, the world’s media, have embraced her so wholeheartedly. She is, on the face of it, just an ordinary girl. Kate never claimed to be a role model, just a model. She has no interest in being put on a pedestal – for Kate, modelling begins and ends with fashion, not celebrity.
When Moss is remembered, it will not be for the scandals, or the feted rock’n’roll lifestyle – it will be for her unabiding love for fashion. It shines through every photograph. Kate has a profound respect and appreciation for the creative process that makes fashion work. It is Kate’s understanding that the worlds of fashion and modelling progress hand-in-hand, that has made her the most sought-after name in modelling today.
It is a mistake to think that because someone chooses to remain silent, it is because they have nothing to say. Kate Moss has made a fortune on the belief that beauty is not perfection. The best of her work shows that her message is about the importance of accepting one’s flaws. Kate knows instinctively that there is no point in pretending to be perfect. There is much more mileage in being imperfect: in the long run, it makes life (and fashion) much more interesting.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


Profile Model Management was established in 1986 by former booking agent EJ Steele. Steele’s career began as a booker with several of the top modelling agencies. This helped Steele gain valuable insight into what clients want, and more importantly, what an agency needs to deliver on the client’s request.

Starting Profile with just £5000, the agency grew steadily through the Eighties. Teaming up with model booker Christopher Chalvet de Recy in 1993, Profile built on its existing success. The addition of de Recy was a crucial one, as his years of experience proved to be invaluable in cultivating Profile’s growing reputation.

Profile is what is termed a ‘boutique agency’: an agency that is smaller than the blockbuster names of Elite, IMG, Storm et al. It does not have a banner ‘big name’, but rather than this being a shortcoming, this is actually the agency’s key strength.

By being a boutique agency, Profile has been free to actively pursue and nurture modelling talent on its own terms, free of the constraints a large name would place on their time and resources. Profile’s reputation is secured on providing the industry with the ‘hard grafters’: the models who are not necessarily instantly recognisable or household names, but are in fact the backbone of the fashion industry. Their models populate the world’s catwalks, work comfortably between the shifting demands of editorial, beauty and campaign shoots for clients such as Vogue and Loewe.

The agency specialises in providing editors and photographers with smart, editorial girls whose looks translate across continents. In the world of modelling, there is no shame in anonymity. Indeed, in a profession where a model simply works more if they are able to adapt themselves to whatever mood the client wants to create, not being a ‘name’ possesses a distinct advantage. You can, quite literally, become anybody.

We are living in a ‘celebutante’ age where image and recognition are the chief form of currency. But Profile, along with other boutique agencies dotted around the globe, has spotted the necessity of signing girls who can work under the radar. You may not be as instantly recognisable as a Moss or a Bundchen, but this is no bad thing. Without the added pressure of building and maintaining a public persona (exhausting in itself), you are free to get on with the job in hand.

The big names may make big bucks, but they pay for it: in loss of privacy, extreme pressure to perform at all times, and worse of all – the nagging suspicion that there is someone younger and more attractive just waiting to take your place. Make even one mistake, and that can be enough to undo years of hard work. The subsequent pressure on an agency to maintain that name is immense.

Where a boutique agency like Profile excels, is that they have the freedom to explore new creative directions with their models – there is the time and space to do so. Profile’s models are the face of editorial, high-fashion magazine spreads all over the world. To use a magazine metaphor, if Kate Moss and her like are the headlines, the girls at Profile are the main story.

The fashion industry’s survival rests on the ability of boutique agencies like Profile to seek out new talent. Without this ‘new model army’, the fashion world would visibly struggle and flounder. These girls are the lifeblood of the industry and that is how Profile has continued to operate so successfully over the last 20 years. They know that being small is not the same as acting small. They have thrived on providing the fashion world with what it so desperately needs: not a ‘name’, not a celebrity with good legs, but a reliable, adaptable, professional model.

The increasing trend to use stars to sell magazines may means less cover work all round, but there is always the need for someone who can sell a fashion story with wit, candour and professionalism. The age of the celebrity may not be showing any signs of slowing down, but the ongoing work of agencies such as Profile shows that there is always a market for models. They may not fill column inches in the weekly gossip magazines, but in the fashion arena, these girls are absolutely and fundamentally indispensable.


Sunday, 10 May 2009


Their name means prestige and privilege; the best. It is a tough remit to live up to, but Elite model management has secured itself an unshakeable foothold in the modelling industry.

First, the statistics:

Elite is a 35-agency-strong network, managing over 800 models across 5 continents.

It has bases dotted all over the globe, including New York, Milan, Paris, Barcelona and Copenhagen.

It is responsible for the most influential model-scouting process in the business. The ‘Elite Model Look Contest’, launched in 1983, has found some of the most significant names in the industry, and in turn, has helped shape the look of successive generations of models. What Elite finds, the fashion world wants.

Elite’s list of clients includes Chanel, Dior, Versace, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton. With a client roster like this, there is no chance of an Elite model working under the radar.

A year’s contract with Elite is offered as the grand prize to contestants of ‘America’s Next Top Model’. It is a prize beyond monetary value in terms of what it can do for a new talent’s career, which is goes some way to explaining why the competition between the contestants has a tendency to get a little ugly.

Elite has also recently celebrated its 5 millionth booking – perhaps the most impressive statistic of all.

Elite has a stellar pedigree within the modelling community – a history based on its unflinching pursuit of excellence. But it still tempts the best of new modelling talent onto its books. Recent signings have included two of the hottest names in contemporary fashion: Ali Stephens and Coco Rocha.

The process of an agency can be best understood by the career trajectory of one of its brightest stars – and Coco Rocha is in danger of eclipsing them all.

Born in Canada in 1988, growing up, Rocha had no real handle on the world of fashion. It wasn’t until she was discovered by a modelling scout at an Irish dancing contest, that Rocha began to learn her own value in terms of high-fashion currency.

Signed with Elite, Rocha met with photographer Steven Meisel, which lead to a Vogue Italia cover in March 2008; the highest accolade the industry has to offer any new model. Elite’s expertise in nurturing young stars, coupled with the agency’s heady international presence within the fashion world, ensured that Coco’s rise within the ranks was unimpeded.

She racked up appearances on numerous catwalks for designers such as Prada, Marc Jacobs, Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga and Chanel. With such an impressive hit-list, anyone this much in demand must be doing something right.

Where Elite succeeded with Rocha was taking her from fashion girl to the fashion girl, and in doing so, they played to her rather unusual strengths. Securing her a spot in the Jean Paul Gaultier A/W 2007 show, Coco knocked everyone sideways with an unforgettable appearance. Gaultier found out about her dancing background and insisted she start and finish the show – an honour in itself. But she wasn’t to walk down the runway – she had to dance it. Her exuberant Irish dancing caused a sensation, with American Vogue dubbing it the ‘Coco Moment’.

Signing Rocha was a particularly smart move for Elite. Her popularity with fashion editors and photographers boiled down to her unflappable instinct when it came to interpreting stories for editorial shoots. Her intelligent approach to movement and an awareness of how the body creates lines and shapes on camera can be directly attributed to her dance education.

Normally, a model with dance training doesn’t do that well. His or her formal training with emphasis on good posture gets in the way of creating avant-garde shapes and just doesn’t translate on film that readily. But Coco had the best of both worlds, and together they worked in perfect harmony. Rocha had the modelling instinct, and that is what has kept her, and her agency, ahead of the pack.

Elite have surpassed their competitors by being bold enough to take risks on signing faces that do not necessarily fit the fashion mould. On paper, Coco Rocha was a potentially shaky investment. The disparity between dancing and modelling alone would have put many other agencies off that contract. But Rocha is a rare breed; a dancer whose skills add to, rather than impede, the modelling package.

Elite has risen to the top by focusing not on the good, but on the great. In aiming for the best, they have achieved a level of success unrivalled in the industry, and it was all done on instinct. Yes, industry know-how played its part too, but listening to an instinct, however wrong it may seem, is what has put this agency at the top of the game. Elite acted on that instinct when signing Rocha, and it is that very same instinct that is responsible for each and every of one of those 5 million bookings.