Tuesday, September 18, 2018

From One Direction Gigs To Instagram: How Model Scouting Has Changed

Sometimes I feel like people are shamed into doing the right thing – I wish it wasn’t that,” IMG Models senior vice president Jeni Rose tells Vogue of the journey the fashion industry has gone on to become increasingly diverse and respectful of the models working within it. “It’s also a bravery issue. It’s hard to be the first and people don’t feel like they have the power within the industry to initiate change.”

Since joining IMG in 1994, Rose has overseen the scouting and development division and international expansion, and been integral to every initiative implemented to ensure model wellbeing, including Model Prep, an educational speaker series discussing topics such as mental health, nutrition, self-defence and social security. “It’s a human business,” Rose explains of the weight IMG puts on taking care of its clients. “We know these kids, we’ve been in their houses, we know their parents – so we look at every model as somebody’s child.”

When the LVMH-Kering charter was implemented in 2017, IMG advised extensively on its contents, based on the robust process and infrastructure it put in place within its own company years ago. “We wrote stipulations, notguidelines, about what was expected of brands booking IMG models, and many design houses were surprised,” Rose recalls of the initial response it received back in 2011. “All the rules were taken from actual [codes of conduct] for working with minors – we just reminded people of those.”

With senior team members – “In stature not age, although it’s getting to be that too!” – that have all worked together for over two decades – “we can cross each other’s Ts and finish each other’s sentences” – IMG really does operate like a family business. As the company’s portfolio has expanded, the ways in which Rose finds models has changed, but what she looks for has stayed the same.

“Everyone used to go to boy-band concerts and stand outside,” she laughs. “Scouts were tripping over each other near One Direction gigs! Now we have to be creative.” She spent this summer going to “really off-beat stuff”, such as gaming conventions, sneaker launches and surfing festivals, and scrolling through her Instagram feed using IMG’s 2014-implemented scout account @WeLoveYourGenes and hashtag #WLYG. “It’s only four years old, but it’s really been the gift that keeps on giving for us,” she explains of the platform that allows any aspiring model to put themselves forward for consideration.

Rose knows when she has found a success story by a distinct feeling she gets. “You can’t choose what you think someone else would like, you have to go with your gut and select a person you believe is compelling,” she explains. “Scouting to a trend doesn’t make a lot of sense either, because those are the models working currently. The development of a model takes so long – up to six or seven years – so I usually have my eye on teenagers.” Trends, Rose also believes, come from the media trying to create a story, the same way a journalist might report on fashion commonalities, like an abundance of leopard print on the catwalk. “The whole thing that catapults a model is individuality, so to try to make a trend is counterproductive almost,” she believes.

Gender can also play a part in dictating how Rose might meet a new client. “Most male models stumble into the industry – not a lot of them set out for it,” she comments. “Young females recognise that it’s a business and understand that it’s really important to get it right from the start. They look back on the era of the supermodel and see that it’s a job, not a hobby.”

Indeed, Rose saw the likes of Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Tatjana Patitz build up from being total beginners. “I always had a knack for spotting girls with longevity,” she shares of flicking through 17 magazine and seeing the girls she liked in Vogue years down the line. “At that point it wasn’t easy because people didn’t know the names of most of the models. I had to figure out who they were on my own.”

Her fascination around models becoming “household names” has now become a deep respect for those who stand the test of time. “Most of the relevant models don’t go anywhere, it’s the facets of their career that are different,” she notes. “The model that Carolyn Murphy is today, for example, is not the model that she was when she was 16. And that is the genius of the girl and the genius of the management. It really has to be a partnership for models to succeed.”

She hopes that this not-so-rare breed of models with longevity will help introduce a market for classic sizing. “It’s our next frontier, because there’s a lot of models who have less opportunities after having children, and that needs to change.” She can’t predict why fashion takes so long to wake up to the elitist restrictions it has put on itself. “Once change happens it’s really quite swift and people get on board, but it takes someone banging the drum loudly.” Luckily, IMG started sounding the alarm a long time ago.

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