"The lifeblood of any model, male or female is the customer coming back. We can be the best possible agent and make that opportunity of the booking... that one time. We can get you in to see that customer who ordinarily would not have requested you...that one time. But the only one who can make that into a repeat booking is you when you get on set"
Sean Patterson , President of Wilhelmina Management.
I distinctly remember the first time I met the now damn near iconic Brad Kroenig. It was at Ford, for a new girl's casting but Brad had asked to asked his agent, Sam Doerfler if he could have an introduction.So with superb timing, Mr Kroenig walked in wearing a flawlessly cut navy pin-striped blazer . He apologized for being late. "I was at at Tiffany's having my diamond studs steamed and it took a little longer than I expected," he ventured by way of explanation. He didn't say it to brag, but simply as if steamed diamonds were a standard collary of his lifestyle. The apology was bolstered by the discrete twinkle of the ice in his ears. I stumbled back to the MDC office bedazzled and joked to Betty Sze, "I think I just met our new No 1. on the Men's Top 50." Brad Kroenig was the last time, it seems that any male model was able to take an initial season of multiple-campaigns and convert it into any kind of sustained visibility .
Recently I've been asking myself, why it is that I find the men's market of the modeling industry to be so ..numbingly tedious. If the New York modeling industry is going through a year of intense turmoil, all the dynamic shifting and cracking and realignment seems to be on the women's side of the game. With the girls (and the managers behind the girls) you get a sense that they are at serious war to hold their ground. Look at for instance, Marilyn's Adriana Lima glowering like a woman possessed in the Givenchy FW 09 ads. Look into La Lima's eyes...she wants that haute editoral cred and you will not stop her!
The boys, just like the girls are witnessing plunging rates from a dwindling body of clients . But that decline on the men's market seems to be against a backdrop of general ennui and stagnancy. If clients are methodically trying to render female models as non-descript as possible, they've long gained success with the male models. Faceless, interchangeable and numbingly anonymous , male models have been so very successfully neutered that you have to bite yourself to recall that once there was such a species called "male supermodels". So as a challenge to what might very well be my own complacency, we've started a series of conversations at MDC with those highly articulate, supremely passionate men's agents about the state of their industry and the possibility of finding that light at the end of 2009's tunnel.
The first sit down last Friday was with Wilhelmina's Sean Patterson. Sean is an agency President who has actually logged serious time on the booking table, making him not only the kind of relentlessly clever businessman who keeps pushing his company forward but also that rare, rare case of a manager who have forged longevity for talent like Mark van der Loos, Gabriel Aubrey and Alex Lundquist. That is the quality that fascinates me. Management that has taken a good looking man to the pinnacle of celebrity... to the point of millions of dollars in assets...to a decade's worth of six figure contracts. There is a lot of talk and heat and hype in the men's business but often-times it is talk and hype and heat over models who simply blip on the runway radar before disappearing into anonymity again. The part of me that understands the art of the fast talk, understands the charm of of making much of every little moment booked by a new model. It is a part of the self-hypnosis that is the motivation to wake up every day and book against all those dwindling odds.
But what I'm hoping to decipher in the recent mayhem of short-lived careers is the management rhythm that leads to longevity. The best careers in male modeling, it seems, are orchestrated and plays itself out as a dance between the talent, their managers and what Mr. Patterson terms as "the customers".
In addition to Sean Patterson, my short-list of " masters" of that orchestrated moves across the career floor to talk to are: Jason Kanner at Major, Sam Doerfler at Ford Chris Forberg at DNA and Gaspard at Request. Just in time for the men's shows we'll look at their most promising new faces against the backdrop of a conversation of how they plan to coin a new generation of star male models.
Is there any hope for a new generation of Tyson Ballou's ? Will any new male model enter the fray with the cosmopolitan swagger of Mr Kroenig ? And will Baptiste Giabiconi ride that privileged Karl Lagerfeld platform all the way to icon-hood? Because to put it bluntly, nobody else but Karl Lagerfeld seems to be invested anymore in making of a handsome young man, a fashion star.