Opinion, Shows

Dear Casting Directors…

I really think I could be a casting director. I mean, is the job so hard? You pick out a bunch of beautiful girls from a line-up, ensure that they can fit your show in their schedules, fit them into the right looks, then watch them stomp down the runway. It all sounds so trivial, and maybe it’s my fault for reducing it to just that. There’s obviously a lot more in it than that, or anybody could do it. So why is it that some shows are so awfully cast? Is it because no models want to walk for that designer? Unlikely. Is it because the brand can’t afford the big name girls? Maybe sometimes. Is it racism? A little bit. Or is it something more? A clash of visions perhaps? I don’t know, but I’d like to get to the bottom of it.

As it has been fashion month recently, I’ve been keeping an eye on the castings. I love models. I have my favourites who I enjoy looking out for in editorials and spotting on the catwalks. I also have girls I don’t like, not for personal reasons, but because I’m not into their look. It sounds so harsh not liking somebody because of how they look, but that is one of the consequences of being a model; you are literally valued based on your appearance.

Some of the girls that walk the runways, I question how they ever got there. Who scouted them? Who thought it was a good idea to cast them? And obviously somebody knows better than I do, because that’s their job whereas I’m just sitting behind a screen, typing my thoughts away. Somebody saw potential in this girl, even if I’m blind to it. But I think that’s a problem, if maybe a few people in fashion think somebody has ‘it’, you know the elusive, nearly impossible to define factor that separates this tall, skinny girl from all the other tall, skinny girls in the world, but the general public don’t see it.

Often when there are photos of models online, say on the Daily Mail, for a horrific example, people comment saying how they don’t understand how this person is beautiful, how they’re too tall, too skinny, too masculine, too whatever-the-fuck-they-want-to-criticise-the-girl-for. And that matters, because if the public think all the models are ugly and anorexic looking, fashion gets a bad rep. Fashion as an industry becomes characterised as a pro-eating disorder place, which I’d say is untrue but that’s a whole other debate. The girls get slaughtered in the comments sections online and that must hurt. It is interesting to see that some of the models who have been the most successful are classically beautiful. Take Christy Turlington as an example, or Cindy Crawford. Both classic, all-American girls, both very clearly beautiful, both still talked about 20 years after their heyday. Of course there are exceptions to this (Kate Moss, who was short and super skinny, didn’t fit the beauty ideal when she first hit the scene).

Another point that I think needs to be made is the lack of diversity in models. This is a big issue and has been talked about infinitely. When Jourdan Dunn walked for Prada, she was the first black girl to do so in over a decade. Before her, it was Naomi Campbell back in 1993. When Malaika Firth was cast in the Prada campaign, she was the first black girl to be in one for 19 years. And let us not talk about both British and American Vogue’s lack of racial diversity on their magazine covers in 2014 (because I’ve already posted about it). It seems wild that in 2015 racial diversity is still an issue – or the lack of it should I say? It is predicted that by 2050, non-whites will make up around 30% of the population of the UK. Furthermore, it is predicted that by the same year in the USA, non-whites will make up 51%. So why, when looking at runways, does it appear that non-whites do not exist?

Certain brands show a fully white runway. Others add in a token black girl. A few more justify their diversity by having a couple of Asians in the mix. It’s just wrong. There is no acceptable reason for it. One shitty excuse that is often used is that it is just the look of the collection, or they are going for a certain feeling. I call bullshit. It is always interesting to see the diversity reports of the runways after fashion week. New York got a lot of praise this season for their diversity, not just racially, but in terms of genders and disabilities too. It may just be a one-off, although it does sound quite cynical to think that. However, once you see the breakdown figures, you realise that 77.4% of models were white. Some shows literally just cast one model of colour. Zac Posen had the most racially diverse show with over half of his models being non-white. You can read the full diversity report here, it has a brilliant graph that I tried to embed here but couldn’t figure out how to do so.

Off of the topic of diversity, I want to hone in on model casting. Although diversity is a crucial factor, I think that actually casting the right girls for the right brands is important. Say you were doing an internship at Zac Posen, you would dress differently that you would for Alexander Wang. Similarly with models, you expect different girls to walk Versace than you do Saint Laurent. Why? Because they are completely different brands. I think Versace, or other brands (say Fausto Puglisi) demands an obvious type of sexy. The girls who walk are generally beautiful in a way that regular people can see. However, the girls that walk Saint Laurent can be edgier, and perhaps a little bit uglier. I always find it odd to see someone like Jamie Bochert walking Versace, no offence intended, because she isn’t in-your-face sexy. Idk. Maybe it is dumb of me to think this way, especially because in fashion anybody can be sexy. I just don’t see it.

I’d just really like to try my hand at casting a show. When you look at catwalk images from the mid-2000s, the models stand out. You get excited when you see them. Imagine nowadays if you had a show with Vlada, Sasha, Snejana, and co. alongside Aya Jones, Anna Ewers, Malaika Firth etc. It would be dreamlike. Maybe it is models who are more bland. Runways are full of nondescript faces, girls who will disappear after a few seasons without being remembered. I want that to change. I want to look at a show and see strong, powerful women. I want to see visually stunning models who can sell whatever they are wearing. I want to look at a show and want what the models are wearing, because that’s their job, right?

There was a meme going around on the internet a few weeks ago, after the Grammys I think, with a side-by-side comparison of Ciara wearing an Alexander Vauthier couture gown that had been worn on the catwalk a few days earlier by Anna Cleveland. There were so many jokes about how much better Ciara looked, and I found that kind of sad. Surely the model should look best in the dress, they are meant to be the ideal. Perhaps it is both the models and the casting directors that need to change? Maybe fashion needs a good shake-up?

I just want fashion to return to a golden age, and to do that we need better models, or better casting, or a bit of both. Get rid of the celebrity models who can’t actually model very well but generate a lot of publicity, and focus on making the real girls supermodels. Heck, Kate and Naomi were nobodies when they started out and now they are two of the world’s biggest supermodels. If talent was developed in that way today, we could have a new generation of supers. Instead, we have celebrity models who have been at it for a season being hailed as supermodels in the tabloids, and the real hard-working models being ignored largely. That sucks. So next season, perhaps we can see more diversity, more apt casting, and less celebrity models (but that’s a long shot). Think of this as an open letter to the casting directors and model scouts and anyone else who reads it and wants to put in their 2 cents, and hey, if you ever need a hand I have impeccable taste in models, even if I say so myself.

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