Over the past few weeks, things have been ramping up all over the country in preparation for New Zealand Fashion Week, 2015. This year I have the pleasure of covering the event for Radio New Zealand National. I’ll be providing daily coverage and reviews, and amongst it all I’ll endeavour to update my blog (I promise), with some related side-stories, giving you an eye into the reality—the upsides and downsides, of the event.
Yesterday morning I was up at the crack of dawn for the first flight out to Auckland to cover some stories in what is now a two-week lead-up to show time (24-30 August). I’ll drip-feed you the stories on the blog over the next wee while, but first stop: model castings.
Imagine if you will, an army of hundreds of beautiful 6ft tall guys and gals, the latter dressed in fitted tanks, hi-rise skinny jeans and heels converging alongside the coolest looking guys in the country—long haired, short-haired, bearded, chisel-jawed, lanky, muscle bound…you get my drift.
Pep talk heard outside: “No crazy walks or out there poses, just be confident…go into that room and kill it…” or something along those lines.
Represented by their agencies, models lined up in groups before being called into the casting room, one at a time, to walk before the who’s who of the New Zealand fashion industry. Waiting in the wings, girls and guys were visibly shaking out their nerves, taking deep breaths—and doing a few neck stretches—as they prepared themselves to make an entrance.
Designers were seated in a horseshoe-shape around the edge of a conference room, as each agency blasted music of their choice—some so loud that not even the models could hear their cue to enter the room, whilst some agents struggled with microphones, and were barely audible.
I had the opportunity to move between interviewing models and checking in at the casting room where a panoply of faces made an appearance, including; Kelvin and Ella Verberne who you’ve seen gracing the covers of fashion magazines, editorials and look books of designer campaigns, along with fresh-faced angelic girls that one couldn’t help but marvel over, and models who unfortunately couldn’t conceal their nerves with either shaky walks and flushed cheeks, or blank eyes and stiff-as-a-board gaits. Suffice to say, beauty is nothing without presence and personality.
Jessica Grubiša and Madeleine Harman are showing their label, Harman Grubiša for the first time this year and informed me that casting is very important. “As designers you have to make quick decisions about who you want, because a lot of the other designers will want to book the same models.” In terms of making a selection, more than a pretty face is part of their prerequisite: continuity of look makes for a big consideration as to the consistency and feel of the overall collection.
A cross or a tick on the model head shot determines a model’s fate, and every girl and guy wants to capture the attention and imagination of the designers seated before them. In a bid to do just that, one model walked out in a black skirt and bespangled crop top, sending quiet murmurs and questioning looks around the room, “Why is she wearing a skirt, we can’t see her body…”
There were hundreds of faces called to casting and only a handful of these will actually be selected.
“They have one chance to make an impression and their careers depend on it,” says Murray Bevan, the director of Fashion PR company, Showroom 22. Murray maintains that while some models will get booked—even those who were awkward or shy on the day—they have a couple of weeks to warm up to the big event and their agents will prep them with further training.
Unsurprisingly, the models are very young. “Between fifteen to eighteen years-old is what you’d expect to see on average, “ says Marijke Van Dillen, an agent from 62 Models. “In this industry twenty three is considered fairly old, and you’d be doing pretty well if you were still working as a model…New Zealand models are also a bit edgier.” A former model herself, Van Dillen says the industry has changed a lot over recent years and social media has a big role to play in whether models will be booked for jobs.
“Overseas they’re more interested in how many followers a model has on Instagram.” The reason, she says, is that it brings in potential new revenue and a different market that those brands might not ordinarily have access to, with models posting the ad campaigns that they’ve been featured in, on their Instagram profiles.
Of considerable note, there was an extremely diverse range of looks and ethnicities at the casting, so it will be of great interest to see how many of the more unusual and international faces will secure their spots for NZ Fashion Week, 2015.
Photography © Sonia Sly