Monday, January 7, 2013

Exclusive Interview - Premier's Anthony Gordon

Premier Model Management has been one of modelling's key players since its inception in 1981 by founders Carole White and Chris Owen. Premier's influence in shaping the landscape of modelling is evident from the illustrious roll call of models whose careers the agency has played a pivotal role in developing and nurturing. Iconic models Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Kirsty Hume were all represented by Premier at varying stages throughout their careers. Not one to rest on its laurels, Premier continually scours the globe in search of the next generation of modelling stars, led remarkably by Director of Scouting Anthony Gordon and his team of eagle-eyed scouts. Gordon's discoveries include former Gucci Girl Liisa Winkler, and promising newcomers Lara Mullen, Crista Cober, Leomie Anderson, India Farrell, and Whitney Coble. While modern day muses Meghan Collison, Grace Mahary, Kelly Mittendorf, Hannah Holman, Chantal Stafford-Abbott and Naty Chabanenko were all secured to Premier's board by Gordon early on in their careers, before the industry cottoned on to their full blue chip potential.

Gordon's background in formal ballet dance and the intense physical scrutiny and training that he underwent whilst attending the National Ballet School of Canada, have imbued him with an innate understanding of the physical specifications common to both dancers and models. Perhaps though, it is Gordon's unique appreciation of beauty beyond the obvious and the duty of care that he extends to his proteges which makes him somewhat of a renegade in an industry that has been privy to turning a blind eye to the human and emotional needs of its band of beauties. Emerging star Lara Mullen recollects the integral role Gordon has played in her modelling trajectory, "I was very surprised when Anthony scouted me at a gig last year. I had no idea I had model potential, but he believed in me from the beginning. Since discovering me, Anthony has always been helpful and supportive of me both personally and professionally." Industry veteran Liisa Winkler perfectly encapsulates the essence of Gordon's modelling mantra, "I have known Anthony since we were both teenagers, and he has always been so encouraging and excited about my career. Without him my career might not have even started! It has always been very obvious to me that he cares about models as people, and not just commodities. He is not only a model agent, but a true friend who has become a very important person in my life." Gordon took time out recently with Inoubliable Model Army to peel back modelling's layers; sharing his views on the CFDA's recent ban on models under the age of 16 on fashion's runways, the ongoing lack of diversity in modelling, the power of the "exclusive", and what it takes to command his attention.

Director of Scouting - Anthony Gordon
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Inoubliable Model Army: How did you get into model scouting and what initially drew you to this profession?
AG: When I was 15, I had a girlfriend who was a model. She suggested I join her agency, and the first day I went in, there was a model named Sasha Ishihara signing her recent magazine covers. She was so beautiful, I was amazed that she was even human. From that initial meeting, I began to see others in a different light, and the next day when I went back to school and scouted a girl named Naomi King. Elmer Olsen (super agent from Toronto who is mother agent to Daria Werbowry, Alana Zimmer, Amanda Laine and Grace Mahary), signed her immediately and her career took off.

Inoubliable Model Army: Model scouting and management isn't necessarily a profession for which you can study or gain academic qualifications for. What advice would you offer for anyone interested in a vocation as a model scout/manager?
AG: It is one of those bizarre careers no one ever tells you about in school, and you can't really take a course or study how to do it. You just have to get involved, usually by knowing someone in the business or by interning. There is definitely a certain type of person who suits this kind of work. You have to have a passion for fashion, and be a bit model obsessed. The kind of person that flips through magazines naming all the models and waits impatiently every month to see who is on the cover of Vogue Italia.

Inoubliable Model Army: What are your top model scouting locations and why?
AG: Shopping malls are always great because the amount of traffic makes it easy to see thousands of faces in a day. Any Top Shop is a model magnet. Every single teenager in the UK between the ages of 12 to 18 walks in and out of Top Shop. The Holy Grail of scouting has to be the Clothes Show Live though. Tens of thousands of teenagers attend every year, and if you get there early enough, you can see every last one of them in a day. And then just living my life with my eyes wide open. I have discovered most of my best models just doing what I do.

Liisa Winkler
Vogue Italia - February 2001
Photographer - Steven Meisel
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Lara Mullen
Dazed & Confused - March 2012
Photographer - Ben Toms
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Meghan Collison
Vogue Italia - October 2012
Photographer - Steven Meisel
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Inoubliable Model Army: What key attributes do you look for in a potential model candidates and how important are aesthetics versus personal qualities like ambition and personality?
AG: I always say, your looks open the door, and personality gets you in, and work ethics keep you there. Of course you need to have some of the basic physical requirements, but I've seen many a gorgeous girl fall flat because they have dry or difficult personalities, and then I have seen girls that no one believed in at first go all the way to the top because they are so charming and inspiring to be around.

Inoubliable Model Army: With so many new faces infiltrating the market each season, what do you believe are the distinguishing factors which lead to a new girl breaking through and getting noticed by casting directors and clients?
AG: I think the high level casting directors are looking for one-of-a-kind girls. Something they have never seen before and those girls MUST have great personalities. Once they have a major casting director's approval... everyone else just follows.

Inoubliable Model Army: Do you feel that runway "exclusives" are positive or detrimental to a new model's career and the industry itself, given the oft meteoric rise of new models who haven't had the time to develop their craft and find themselves discarded within the space of two or three seasons?
AG: OK, get ready for a rant... This is a sensitive topic for me because I resent the power casting directors wield over models in this respect. A girl can be held on an exclusive option for the whole of the season, only to be dropped from the final line-up on the day of the show. This happens a lot, with no regard for that model's career, and she is not only emotionally harmed by this, but many people in the industry will consider her old news for the following season. Of course, when a girl gets it, it can be magical, but she also needs to be in place to be able to run with it. If she is only 16 and has to head straight back to school and isn't available for follow-up work, the excitement around her dies, as do her options and status.

Grace Mahary
Givenchy Exclusive - Fall/Winter 2012
Photographer - Monica Feudi
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Lara Mullen
Prada Exclusive - Fall/Winter 2012
Photographer - Monica Feudi
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Inoubliable Model Army: How has the industry changed in the past 10 years and what factors have contributed to this evolution?
AG: As I got involved in the industry very young (during the Trinity heyday) which was incredibly exciting. This was a time where great models were few and far between. Once the world began opening up, and internet access became common place, you could discover models any and everywhere. At the same time, celebrities began taking the campaigns and covers that were key to building the supermodel status. I think that was the biggest blow.

Inoubliable Model Army: Have you noticed any discernible modelling trends over the past few seasons, and do you feel that the supermodel phenomenon can be rekindled?
AG: I do think that the supermodel era could be rekindled, but it would take 5 very special models, and the support of a handful of key designers to get it off the ground. One trend that is very real at the moment is models breaking out at an older age... that is, over twenty. Only a few years back it seemed that if you hadn't had a break out moment before 18, you were old news.

Inoubliable Model Army: How do you feel about the lack of diversity in modelling and do you feel that things are improving for models of colour in particular black models?
AG: I think this has gotten a lot better in the past 3 years actually. It is such a complex issue. I personally don't see colour when I'm scouting. If someone catches my eye, I'll go for them whatever their shade is. There is room for all types in my opinion.

Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz,
Christy Turlington & Cindy Crawford
British Vogue - January 1990
Photographer - Peter Lindbergh
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The Trinity
Photographer - Roxanne Lowit
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Inoubliable Model Army: How do you feel about the CFDA's decision to ban the use of models under the age of 16 on the runway circuit?
AG: I am very happy about this decision. Sixteen is still a very young age to get involved in this crazy business, and if you are thinking of managing models long-term, there is no harm in waiting until they are finished schooling at least. There are always exceptions, but this is one rule I fully support.

Inoubliable Model Army: What do you find most rewarding about your profession and the process of scouting?
AG: The most satisfying part about my job is discovering someone young, and helping them achieve incredible things with their lives and seeing them become financially independent at an early age and take on opportunities only this industry can offer.

Inoubliable Model Army: What are the biggest misconceptions about the modelling industry and models?
AG: The thing I get most frustrated about is that whenever one sensational story about the modelling industry features in the press (which are often exaggerated), it seems to become the standard view of the entire industry. Between the Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell headlines, the general public believe this is what the industry is like and don't see the thousands of drug and battery-free models in the world. Of course, no one wants to read about the happy stable model who has been in a 10 year relationship, bakes cupcakes, and has 2 children + a dog.

Crista Cober
Australian Vogue - September 2011
Photographer - Kai Z Feng
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Crista Cober
Paris Vogue - November 2012
Photographer - David Sims
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Inoubliable Model Army: Who do you feel amongst the new generation of models has true supermodel potential?
AG: Crista Cober! She has a mesmerising face and a truly inspiring personality. She is not only a model, but a muse. Anyone who spends more than 5 minutes with her will fall in love. I can't tell you how special she is.

Inoubliable Model Army: Casting directors, designers, scouts and agents often refer to an "it" factor that  they are looking for in potential model candidates. How do you differentiate between a mere pretty face and a model with that indefinable, elusive "it" factor?
AG: It is very difficult to define because on top of having a unique face, perfect body and incredible personality, a model then has to have great timing. To be cast in the right project that comes along at the right moment that the industry/public respond to. There is no formula, so every model who has ever "made it" has their own unique story.

Inoubliable Model Army: Nowadays, it seems as though every young girl harbours secret modelling ambitions! What advice would you offer anyone wishing to pursue a career on modelling?
AG: Actually, I disagree. So many girls that we discover don't want to do it! We spend a lot of our time trying to show these young people the bigger picture and find ways to inspire them to grab the opportunity while they can!

Crista Cober & Anthony Gordon
Image courtesy of Anthony Gordon

Naty Chabanenko & Anthony Gordon
Image courtesy of Anthony Gordon

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