Back in the day, models were discovered on the streets going about their everyday business; think Kate Moss at JFK and Jourdan Dunn at Hammersmith Primark. Has this all changed with the ever-growing presence of social media in our lives?
Social media, as we are well aware, is an extremely powerful tool for branding, publicising and promoting, but can it even be the key to discovering the next generation Kate and Naomi? It seems that platforms such as Instagram are growing in importance with regards to the model game; just look at Marc by Marc Jacobs who, when Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley took the reigns, took to the network with #castmemarc to scout for their AW’14 and SS’15 campaigns. In some respects, this stood in great irony to the words of Marc Jacobs himself, who once said “I am so appalled by the whole social media thing. I don’t get it, it doesn’t appeal to me…” Although, in recent weeks, even Jacobs has succumbed to creating an Instagram account, suggesting times really are changing.
The power of social media is insatiable to brands, who often book models based on the size of their following, as this is a huge boost to their own company. It is a truth well known by Jakub Koziel, a freelance model scout, and others inside the fashion industry. As Koziel explains, “Time has changed, and more clients book models because of their following on Instagram or Twitter.” “These days it becomes less and less crucial [of] who shot what… If a client can choose between a new fresh-faced girl who shot Italian Vogue or a girl who has 70,000 followers on Instagram…obviously the [latter] is much more lucrative in their eyes.”
Followers mean exposure, which means money. Such is clearly evidenced by the likes of Kendall Jender; as Koziel tells me, when she first walked for Marc Jacobs in his AW’14 show, the look she sported allegedly became the best selling of all time for the brand. Not surprising for someone with - at the time of writing - 26.4 million Instagram followers, and who uses Instagram like an absolute pro at self-promotion.
This social power is precisely what model scouts desire. It was Jenner that announced Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain x H&M collaboration on Instagram, alongside fellow model Jourdan Dunn. As Koziel continues, “[This] helps us understand how crucial it is nowadays to invest in your social media image… sometimes you scout girls or boys that you would never consider as models, but because they have such incredible power on their social platforms, they get signed with the biggest agencies in the world.”
Instagram is arguably the best platform to be utilised by the model industry, as being a model is all about creating an image. Though Koziel considers it to now be a key tool in scouting for new faces, it is not as easy as it looks and old methods must still play a part in finding the next big thing. “Teenagers of the digital generation are so aware and conscious of their looks, they know how to 'brand' themselves and perfectly know their best angles,” Koziel explains. Seeking to look behind ‘the angles’, scouts like Koziel still use the traditional method of requesting polaroids - “simple shots with natural light and no makeup, no posing” - as a crucial way to see if someone has what it takes to be the next big thing.
Despite Koziel’s reluctance to let technology entirely dictate talent, there is no doubt a huge change sweeping the industry thanks to the potential of social media. FEELS has recently launched the world’s first app, designed to elevate new modelling talent into the professional sphere. The app – designed by technology entrepreneur Dawson King in collaboration with Storm Model Management – goes further than Instagram in allowing users to upload full resolution images that scouts can view, as well as enabling brands to monitor current trends.
While technology is clearly reshaping certain elements of the model game, Koziel and many other scouts still believe in the traditional roots of the profession: “scouting on the streets and shopping malls is still the best technique,” Koziel quips. Due to the diverse demographics you find there, he considers festivals an arena of opportunity as “you can stand in one spot for two hours and just people watch; you will see thousands of kids from all over the country,” many of whom may not know the potential they have to be catapulted onto the catwalks and billboards of the world.
Essentially, what you get is raw and un-edited aesthetics. As Koziel continues, “Obviously, finding a kid with potential is one thing, but then you need to make sure what you see is what you get. What is the point [in] dragging somebody down to London from Cardiff or Dublin, just to realise that the ‘potential’ that we thought we [had] found, was in person just a good Instagram filter.”
In essence, technology - though rapidly growing - has not yet taken over the modelling game completely. Instead it is adding additional platforms and credentials that potential faces can utilise to boost their profile. A big following can lead to big bookings, but it is also a way for budding new faces to find and contact agencies. Instagram in particular has brought many advantages to both models and their scouts, but for many of the latter, it seems the old ways are still the best. The power of the polaroid and seeing someone in their natural unfiltered habitat have not yet been diminished by the leviathan of technology.
Words: Charlotte Sutherland-Hawes
Image Source: Tung Walsh for CoSTUME NATIONAL AW'12 ad campaign