Sunday, 25 July 2010

MODELLING SCAMS: AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

Models Connect is a great place to get reliable information and advice. If you want to find out more about the potential dangers of modelling scams, you can visit our site at http://www.modelsconnect.net/.

So you want to be a model: you know there are pitfalls out there, but what are the obvious things to avoid? When starting out, the internet can seem like a great resource (and it is), but be wary of the following dangers which are listed in greater detail at http://www.modelsconnect.net/modelling_agencies/scams.html:

· Online modelling invites (especially via an unknown ‘friend’ or contact on Facebook);
· Companies asking for large sums of money to put you through an assessment day to grade your suitability for the modelling world. Models Connect offers a free evaluation when you register at: http://www.modelsconnect.net/index.php5?do=talentSignup
· Finally, Models Connect recommends you avoid any agency that charges something called a ‘casting fee’ or asks you to spend thousands on a professional portfolio. Portfolios are created at the agency’s cost once you sign with them, and they gradually recoup the costs when you begin booking jobs, by skimming a small percentage off your earnings. This is standard practice for modelling agencies: the pre-signing portfolio scam is the oldest modelling scam in the book. Don’t fall for it.

Another pitfall can be via those shiny leaflets, often found stuffed in-between the pages of glossy magazines, offering you a makeover and a day’s shoot at a professional studio. If you want a fun day out having your make-up done and posing for a few photographs, all well and good. But it’s worth bearing in mind that if you are an aspiring model, that these makeover days aren’t a good way of getting a leg-up into the industry. These studios do not have any link to the modelling industry. As a fun day out, they’re great. But if any makeover studio promises you advice, or worse still, access to professional industry contacts for a fee, avoid like the plague. These people are not your friend! Still not convinced? Go to Models Connect and see this page on its website, http://www.modelsconnect.net/?page=66 as it very clearly illustrates the difference between makeover and portfolio shots. Just remember the golden rule: if there’s a straw hat or feather boa involved, it’s not portfolio-worthy!

Models Connect offers an evaluation process that is quick and easy. If you do have model potential, you will be able to find out (free of charge) and more crucially, what area of the modelling industry you might be best suited for.

The most important thing to remember about avoiding modelling scams is that there is no guarantee of work – ever. It sounds grim, but even the top agencies, like Elite, Storm and Models 1 don’t know what or how much work will be coming their way from week to week. If an agency tries to sign you, promising they can get you work – step away from that contract!

Modelling is, by its very nature, an unpredictable business. You can be run off your feet one month and left twiddling your thumbs the next. If you do manage to get a meeting with a reputable agency, don’t be surprised or offended if they seem very guarded in what they can offer you. The general rule when looking for agencies and avoiding scams is how much does this agency promise me? If they confidently predict riches beyond your wildest dreams, be very, very suspicious.

It does pay to be on your guard, but it’s also worth noting that modelling does have some expenses. Models Connect lists the following as costs you will be expected to meet yourself:

· Grooming (hair / make-up / gym / dental upkeep and maintenance)
· Travel (to and from castings, even if you do get the job!)
· Z cards (known as a model’s business card. Some – but not all – agencies ask for a small contribution for design and printing costs. Other (usually bigger) agencies can absorb this cost themselves)

The trick to avoiding modelling scams is to remain alert: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Check agency credits, client lists – everything. Don’t be too eager to sign on that dotted line and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Dive headfirst into the first opportunity that comes along at your peril: it could end up costing you a lot more than you think.

For up-to-date advice, blogs and news on the modelling world, plus a free evaluation, register with Models Connect today at http://www.modelsconnect.net/

HELEN TOPE

Sunday, 18 July 2010

MODEL PROFILES: OLGA SHERER

Born on 29th July 1987, Olga Sherer is a couture model with a unique approach to the demands of high-fashion, making her a constant presence in an ever-changing industry.

A native of Minsk, Belarus, Sherer began her modelling career in March 2005, making her runway debut for Issey Miyake. Her CV was somewhat sparse until February 2007 when she took the industry by surprise with a 72-show season, including Alberta Ferretti, Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Dior, Erdem, Hermes, Lanvin, Prada, Rodarte, Vera Wang and Versace. Reading like a list of who’s who in the fashion world, Olga’s dramatic emergence from bit-player to leading lady was all a matter of timing.

Between 2005 and 2007, the fashion world experienced a revival of Pre-Raphaelite-style beauty. Suddenly models that wouldn’t look out of place on a Victorian canvas became hot property. Names like Lily Cole, Lily Donaldson and Gemma Ward set the industry alight with a new type of beauty that wasn’t glamazon or editorial. Their classically ‘pretty’ looks worked well with the feminine trends and Olga’s striking red hair coupled with her painterly, wistful beauty made her an instant hit.

What also worked for Sherer was her aristocratic look and couture-perfect physique, allowing her to cross-over from romantic to avant-garde work with ease. This meant that Olga’s triumphant success on the runway translated into editorial work, appearing for W and an editorial for Italian Vogue, photographed by Greg Lotus.

She then became the face of Lanvin’s Autumn / Winter campaign. Shot by Steven Meisel, the campaign featuring Olga in a yellow dress became one of the most striking images of the season.
Her success also allowed her to land coveted slots, opening and closing shows. In September, she opened shows for Luca Luca, BCBG and Luella Bartley; closing shows for Paul Smith, Matthew Williamson, Fendi, Pucci, Lanvin and Moschino. It was a stunning 73 show season, with Olga being paired with designers who specialised in using colour and pattern. The punchy impact of Olga’s red hair made her an automatic stand-out in a market dominated by blonde and brunette models, and also provided a brilliant backdrop for the zesty colours used by designers like Williamson and Smith.

In October, Olga got her second editorial with Italian Vogue; this time photographed by Steven Meisel, and in January 2008 got her third editorial with the magazine, plus work for V and Numero.

Renewing her contract with Lanvin, Olga had another brilliant show season in February opening shows for Narciso Rodriguez and Bottega Veneta, and closing shows for Ralph Lauren, Kenzo and Tuleh.

In July, Olga got booked for the couture season, including Armani Prive, Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier and Valentino. Standing at 5’ 11”, Sherer proved she was born to wear couture. Olga was brilliant at embodying the concept of collections, with a presence that paid dues to the couture models of the 1950’s. Sherer’s knack for working haute couture made her consistently in demand right at the very top levels of the industry.

In the latter part of 2008, she got a series of high-profile campaigns including D&G, Bottega Veneta and a cosmetics campaign for Dior. Olga even went international with editorials for Chinese, German and Russian Vogue, with Russian Vogue featuring her as a top model.

In September, she appeared in the ready-to-wear season, closing shows for Paul Smith, Missoni and Rick Owens, also appearing for Alexander McQueen, Hermes, Lanvin and Valentino. Even the RTW component of her CV leant towards designers whose collections borrowed from the principles of couture: Rick Owens’ work is all about deconstruction (a feat that is impossible without an intimate knowledge of how clothes are made), and of course Lanvin, whose dresses are an intricate masterwork of drapery and folds.

In December, Olga took part in a multi-model editorial for V called ‘Couture after Dark’. Shot by Cedric Buchet, the spread was an electrifying series of pictures illustrating that couture is as much of the 21st century fashion experience as ready-to-wear. Working alongside models Ali Stephens, Karmen Pedaru and Siri Tollerod, the shoot was dynamic, daring and utterly modern: a perfect match for Olga’s strengths.

In January 2009, Olga continued with another couture season, this time working for Armani Prive, Dior, Christian Lacroix and Valentino. She scored her 4th editorial with Italian Vogue in February, and hit a major career high-point when she was selected to become one of the faces for a Marc Jacobs campaign. Olga finished off the year with a show season walking for Carolina Herrera, Dior, Elie Saab, Marc Jacobs, and Michael Kors and an editorial for Russian Vogue.

February 2010 saw Olga return to the runway with another packed season. Wanted for shows like Aquascutum, Bottega Veneta, Lanvin, Margaret Howell, Mary Katrantzou, Prabal Gurung and Vanessa Bruno, Olga’s booking sheet was an even spread of established labels and prestige brands, ranging from the Parisian glamour of Lanvin to the very British chic of Margaret Howell. Also working for new talents such as Katrantzou, Sherer was again working with designers whose work hinged on pattern and colour.

With mid-year work ranging from editorials for i-D and a celebration of Russian modelling talent by Russian Vogue coming in December, Olga Sherer’s star continues to shine high and bright.

What is immediately clear is that the main focus of Olga’s career has been haute couture. With a reputation for being the most difficult area of fashion to understand and appreciate, modelling couture is the toughest hurdle for a model to master. Height and good cheekbones aside, haute couture places very specific challenges on a model; it remains, despite the changes in fashion over the last fifty years, very different to the world of ready-to-wear. Still a byword for exclusive (and very expensive) fashion, couture modelling requires a set of skills that test even the most confident model.

Couture is as much about drama as it is about design. To make couture work beyond the runway, you have to tell a story. Big clothes require big narratives, and Olga’s work on editorials such as ‘Theory of Evolution’ for Elle, or ‘Couture After Dark’ for V, showcase how clearly she understands the balance between grounding couture in some sense of reality, and allowing the magic of the clothes come to life. A model isn’t just needed to physically cart a ball-gown down the runway; she’s needed to flesh it out so the dress becomes something other than a mass of material and stitches: it becomes couture.

Modern couture is often drawn as extravagant and out of touch, but what models like Olga bring is a sense of history that blends the old with the new. On the face of it, older and newer styles of modelling seem poles apart, but look closer and there are similarities. Google Jean Shrimpton and her defiant, straight-down-the-lens stare would fit right in with any current campaign for urban fashion.

It works the other way too: visit You Tube and find the Spring / Summer 2010 show for Dior Couture. The equestrian-themed collection allowed the likes of Karlie Kloss and Iris Strubegger to trot down the runway as haughty country-club fillies, with designer John Galliano even getting in on the act. The collection was the show everyone talked about because it tapped into the sense of occasion required to justify the time and effort spent on creating museum-worthy fashion.

Couture is all about creativity in its purest, most undiluted form. Models like Olga have succeeded in the world of modern couture by fusing 1950’s romance with contemporary avant-garde. A grasp of where modelling has been is just as important as knowing what’s happening now. Fashion may be about the newest and the next, but it’s constantly borrowing from the past, and that’s true of modelling too.

A virtuoso performance on a couture runway owes a great debt to the women who walked before; models like Lisa Fonssagrives, Suzy Parker and Dorian Leigh. They helped to define what we now understand as haute couture, and Olga Sherer’s ability to be both contemporary and other-worldly is translating the oldest branch of the fashion industry for the next generation, ensuring its longevity and its survival.

HELEN TOPE

Sunday, 11 July 2010

MODEL PROFILES: ELSA SYLVAN

Debuting where most models reach their peak, Swedish-born Elsa Sylvan has made avant-garde fashion her speciality.

Born on January 23rd 1987, Elsa was discovered at ‘Grona Lund’ (a fair park in Stockholm) and began her modelling career in 2006, signing with DNA Management, New York. In October that same year, she debuted at the Givenchy show in Paris and in February 2007 walked the Autumn / Winter shows for Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler and Zac Posen.

In addition to this extraordinary start, she opened the A/W show for Comme des Garcons, and made appearances for Ben de Lisi, Amanda Wakeley, Blumarine, Erdem, Giles Deacon and Max Mara. This trail-blazing start got the attention of major fashion brands, with Elsa scoring campaign slots for Benetton and Sportmax.

In September, she made the cover of Swedish Elle, and it was a first that would shape and define her career. Elsa’s strong, editorial features found her naturally leaning towards cutting-edge design, and this in turn made her popular with the European editions of such magazines as Marie Claire, Elle and Vogue who saw in Elsa the perfect mannequin to master tricky avant-garde. In the same month, she also landed her first editorial with Italian Elle, photographed by Marc De Groot, and in October she was featured in the 20th anniversary cover of Italian Elle. Sylvan had made her mark.

In October, she walked Spring / Summer shows for Akris, Lanvin, Nina Ricci and Vivienne Westwood, plus appearances for Comme des Garcons, Costume National, Kenzo, Wunderkind and Yohji Yamamoto.

Elsa followed this with a Spring / Summer season walking the couture shows in January 2008, appearing for Chanel, Christian Lacroix, Givenchy and Valentino. More editorial work followed. In March, she worked for British Harper’s Bazaar; April and May saw back-to-back editorial appearances in Numero and an editorial for W, photographed by Craig McDean, was set for June.

Elsa also began to feature on campaign directors’ wish-lists, winning a spot with Calvin Klein Jeans modelling alongside Ali Stephens and Toni Garrn, and a solo spot for UK fashion firm, French Connection. In the same way that Jourdan Dunn brought editorial prestige to Topshop, Elsa’s edgy powerhouse shots bought French Connection serious respect.

Elsa skipped runway duty at New York and Milan, but emerged in October as one of Paris Fashion Week’s most in-demand girls. Walking for Balenciaga, Chloe, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, Elsa was landing the type of work most models dream of getting, and still the best was yet to come.

Appearing in Italian Marie Claire in November and Italian Elle in December, 2009 brought high-status signings for Elsa with a campaign for D&G (shot by Mario Testino), and a guest-spot with Balenciaga. February’s show season saw Elsa walking for Gucci, Chanel, Marc Jacobs and Alberta Ferretti, closing showings for Balenciaga and Yohji Yamamoto. Sylvan may have been landing major campaigns, but her affinity with avant-garde fashion continued to flourish.

Elsa scored a career first in August, with an editorial for French Vogue. Shot by legendary photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, it was a watershed moment for Sylvan. Her performance for French Vogue subsequently got her a booking for Brazilian Vogue. Shot by Stephane Gallois, it was a glamorously surreal homage to the work of Lanvin. This was the sort of work that Elsa was born to do: fashion with a creative edge proved to be the perfect fit.

2010 has already seen Elsa’s career hit new heights. In January, she walked in the couture shows for Chanel, Valentino and Armani Prive, and in March she worked with Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott to shoot another editorial for W. The editorial, called ‘After Hours’ was a night-time shoot where Elsa got to work with a clutch of modelling’s brightest new talents; Katie Fogarty, Hannah Holman and Lindsey Wixson.

In May, Sylvan worked for German Vogue, getting the opportunity to work alongside established names such as Cato Van Ee, Irina Kulikova and Aline Weber, plus Prada favourite Joan Smalls. The beauty editorial shoot by Patrick Demarchelier, showcased Elsa’s ability to do tough, up-close-and-personal beauty shots. In a spread that features everyone putting their best face forward, Elsa shines out as the epitome of a very modern blonde.

Elsa also landed a campaign that will undoubtedly take her career onto another level. Chosen especially for the project, Elsa is set to become the campaign girl for Zac Posen’s range of clothing for American budget-store, Target. Highly covetable, Zac’s clothing range has been the subject of hype and excitement across America: think of how much press the H&M range by Stella McCartney generated and you’ll understand what the fuss is about. Photographed in the collection’s statement piece, the price point may be low, but the finish of the campaign is glossy and expensive. Replace the name ‘Target’ with any designer label and no-one would think twice. It may prove to be Elsa’s most canny career move to date.

Working every strand of the fashion business from the multi-platform advertising of America’s budget brands, to the increasingly rarefied world of Parisian haute couture, Sylvan is truly a model for all seasons. Her ability to inject an editorial, high-fashion sensibility into every shoot (no matter who’s paying the bill), is what will make her name to watch over the coming years.

Elsa, as you can see from her CV, is no ordinary blonde model. She falls into the same camp as Hannah Holman and Hanne Gaby Odiele. Edgy blondes – the ones who don’t have to fake it – are hard to come by. A face that can do the most challenging of editorial work and anchor it in some sense of glamour is a particularly rare find, even in modelling.

The popularity of blonde models during the recession has been well-documented, with articles being written on how and why light-haired models are given preference when it comes to hiring for campaigns and high-profile editorial work. It’s been said that the reason is very simple: we equate blonde with beauty and in times of crisis, no advertiser wants to take a risk with a look that’s difficult to read. But our obsession with blonde models goes back further than that, and to understand why blonde has been so popular, you need to go back to the roots.

In the Seventies, one blonde ruled supreme. The glossy glamour of model Jerry Hall served as a visual template for the next generation of models. The luxurious mane of hair and the uber-confidence that made Hall a star is an image so ingrained in popular culture that if you ask anyone uninitiated into current fashion to describe what a model typically looks like, ‘blue-eyed blonde’ will be at the top of their list.

As a marketing concept, it is still alluring. The recent pictures of Raquel Zimmermann strutting down the Chloe catwalk are in every sense an homage to Seventies glamour and sophistication. But look elsewhere at the runway shots for Autumn / Winter 2010 and you will see a slightly different take on the blonde phenomenon.

Marc Jacobs’ runway was heavily populated with blonde models, but they underplayed the bombshell card with geeky glasses and oversized camel coats. It is a significant development, as where Marc Jacobs leads, the rest of the fashion world tends to follow. The bombshells will always be there, but fashion is heading to a quieter, more reflective place. The recession has taken down many names from Luella Bartley to Veronique Branquinho, and as the dust settles, the mood is just as defiant, but everything from the shade of lipstick to the new mid-heel is about a quiet, studious sophistication.

From Marc Jacobs’ library chicks to Prada’s modest Fifties silhouettes, fashion is playing the same song but in a minor key. Once seen as the safe option, blonde is having a renaissance and it’s finally embracing its dark side. The Marc Jacobs runway slouch is best paired with avant-garde labels, not 5-inch heels and a champagne cocktail.

Being hyper-groomed is no longer seen as contemporary: just look at Twilight's Kristen Stewart and her approach to red carpet dressing. Mixing Converse with Proenza Schouler would have been unthinkable 10 years ago, but Stewart's image is the polar opposite of the classic starlet and it is something that an entire generation are responding to.

This emphasis on unfinished glamour is what will ensure Elsa's career continues to expand, and the responsibility for shaping a new definition of beauty that’s both relevant and relatable, lies with models like her.

From cultural references as diverse as Disney, to the dark art of Lempicka and the glamour age of Hollywood, blonde has been a blanket term for modern beauty. But clich├ęs don't look good on anyone, and blonde's sunny side is finally being eclipsed by a new wave of models that are gloriously, and fashionably, complex.

HELEN TOPE