Models without borders
And now for a new faces post with a difference. One which Frockwriter believes could well be an Australian first.
Several months ago, Erika Pek, the founder of Melbourne’s Maverick Model Management, spotted a striking waitress at a Chapel Street restaurant.
Nothing unusual there: scout spots model with potential, approaches and then ultimately signs same.
Ali Cromarty, however, does not fit the regular, or should we say, “straight-sized”, model mould: at 5’8″, she is a size 12, with quite a prominent, E-cup bust. In the regular world of high fashion modelling, which does not usually accommodate anyone over an Australian size 10, Cromarty fits into the “plus size” niche.
So smitten with the 23 year-old Swinburne University Media & Communications student is Pek, however, that she signed Cromarty anyway and plans to promote her for mainstream fashion work alongside all her other models.
Pek believes she is the first mainstream Australian model agency to do so.
Certainly we can’t think of any others. Chic Management has a number of plus size models in its Scoop division, who are, the agency reports, doing very well – with plus size work, that is. Australia’s best-known plus size model, Robyn Lawley, is repped by a plus size-specialist agency called Bella Model Management.
“I don’t think Ali is going to work every day, but when she does work, it’s going to be quality work” said Pek. “I just want everyone to look at her with an open mind. It’s taking a gamble. I see her editorially, I don’t see her any other way. And that’s it really. That’s the client base that we’re going to go for”.
In terms of garnering a media profile, Cromarty already has valuable connections. Her dad, Tim Cleary, is incidentally, Channel Nine Melbourne’s head of programming and production.
Maverick’s move follows a week after Ivan Bart, the managing director and senior vice president of IMG Models, announced that he is planning to up the agency’s diversity factor by scouting models of all shapes, sizes, ages, races and heights and integrating the talent.
Bart told Cosmopolitan magazine, “We want to be an ageless, raceless, weightless agency.”
Before posting this story late Monday afternoon, we checked with some agency sources, who noted they could not think of any other mainstream Australian agents who had signed any plus size models and attempted to promote same for mainstream fashion work.
The post has since attracted the attention of several veterans of the Australian plus size modelling industry, such as Pippa Jeffreys from the Runway Revolution blog and Bella Model Management director Chelsea Bonner, both former plus size models themselves.
Both began their careers twenty years ago, at a time when there were no plus size-specialist agencies in Australia and a few mainstream agents kept plus size girls on their books for commercial work – not high end fashion work.
The difference between then and now is not only do niche agencies such as Bella Model Management exist, the profile of plus size models such as Lawley and Crystal Renn has increased exponentially, with social media playing an active role in connecting them to consumers.
That said, in 2009, Tahnee Atkinson, who is a size 12, won a contract with top Sydney agency Priscillas Model Management as part of her prize package after winning Cycle 5 of Australia’s Next Top Model.
In spite of great representation, Atkinson’s career has yet to take flight. By contrast, a number of other ”straight” sized AusNTM alumni such as Cassi van den Dungen and Montana Cox have achieved quite some success.
According to Bella Model Management’s Chelsea Bonner, Erika Pek has her work cut out for her in getting Cromarty into mainstream fashion work.
“It doesn’t matter whether she [Cromarty] is pushed alongside the others on a mainstream board, she’ll still need to fit the clothing samples” Bonner told Frockwriter. “If she’s not sample size, any client is still going to have to work around her proportions. So either they’ll need to make clothes to fit her or else cut up the samples to fit her. I’ve been fighting this fight for 12 years now [since she launched Bella Model Management], trying to get models who are size 10/12/14 into mainstream fashion. The fact remains that sample sizes are still 6-8. And until that changes, that’s where we’re at and it’s more the high street labels that are recognising and becoming more accommodating to models who are fuller, because they more closely represent their customer demographic. High-end designers are still pretty immovable on their sample sizes”.
Added Bonner, “It’s what I’ve been chasing for 20 years – that clients will book the model who is the most appropriate for their brand and their customer demographic, regardless of size. That’s the dream. That’s what we’re all trying to achieve. If they [Maverick] manage to do that, that’s fantastic… We’ve already broken down some pretty big barriers with particularly Robyn, with her Italian Vogue and French ELLE covers, Vogue Australia editorial and Ralph Lauren campaign, so it’s a continuation of the platform that we’ve provided by pushing so hard all these years. And that’s awesome”.
IMAGES: THOM KERR at INDEPENDENT ARTIST MANAGEMENT. DIGIS BY ERIKA PEK SUPPLIED EXCLUSIVELY TO FROCKWRITER BY MAVERICK MODEL MANAGEMENT