by Molly McWilliams Wilkins | April 19, 2014 10:55 pm
In the fashion world, we of course have the designers and their clothes- but what about the people who make those clothes come to life for us?
Those people would be the runway and print models who show us what these items can look like on a real form. Stephanie Duke-Andrews owns Halo Models and Talent Group in Savannah and is the group providing the models for Savannah Fashion Week.
I feel so totally honored to get to speak with her about modeling in general as well as what the market is like for this industry in Savannah- so let’s get started!
MIWM: How did you get your start in modeling?
SDA: At 14 years old, I was 5’11 and I stunk at basket ball. I wondered why God made me so tall. Sports were out. Gymnastics was out. Horse jockey was definitely out. My parents wanted to help me find my own niche since my brother was on a college basketball scholarship.
Twenty-five years ago I walked into my very first modeling agency and met my soon to be “mother agent” who quickly began developing me in the local market. I needed a lot of work with self-confidence so I took an acting class to help me come out of my shell. As I grew more confident, my mother agent began to grow more confident in me and she booked me on a few small jobs.
Once I proved I could handle the bigger paying jobs, I began working more and more. Finally with some experience under my belt, my mother agent took me to meet NY agents. I signed with then Zoli Model Management (now Click) and moved to NYC at the ripe old age of 16. I worked for clients like Jones New York, Jockey Underwear and Seventeen Magazine and it was through modeling that I learned what rejection feels like and I learned what success feels like.
Mixing my new knowledge with my long time passion to be a Youth Pastor, I realized I was on the wrong side of the camera. During college, I worked part time as a booker at an agency in South Carolina learning how to negotiate modeling rates based on labor hours and usage. (The internet has now blown all of that out of the water). From there, in 1998 I was hired by Madison Agency in Atlanta to launch a TV department. I left the South Carolina agency and moved into a strategic position at the Atlanta agency to birth a new department. At the time, I was also working as an American liaison scouting for an Italian modeling agency Called Eye for Eye, Milan. Things were going fabulous until that tragic Tuesday. Shortly after the 9/11 nightmare, I was laid off from the agency because the economy took a hard punch. I had no idea at the time that I would start my own agency. An opportunity came my way in September 2002 to launch my own company. Believing that God orchestrates my steps in life, I named the agency Halo. Since day 1, my goal has been to help people young and old with their self-esteem whether they ever book a modeling job or not.
MIWM: Why did you decide to move back to Savannah?
SDA: We opened Halo in Atlanta in September 2002. As I regularly came back to Savannah to visit family, I saw that the market was growing and becoming an arts Mecca of the South. I saw the potential. While living and working in Atlanta, I was hearing the buzz about the revised Entertainment Investment Act. The then Governor Perdue signed into law a 20% tax credit for motion picture and television production companies choosing to film in Georgia and added another 10% if they would use the Georgia state logo in the rolling credits. There are a ton of model and talent agencies in Atlanta but none in Savannah.
We came to Savannah in 2007 remodeled our studio and opened February 2008 just before the new law was passed. Between the tax incentives and the beauty of our city, we’ve had many movie productions set up camp in our town but we’ve also had a ton of national print campaigns come to Savannah, too. In the past year and a half, we have booked Hewlett Packard (in from San Francisco), Kohl’s Department Store (in from Milwaukee), and Macy’s (shot on Sea Isand and in from NYC). For the Hewlett Packard shoot we employed more than 30 models of all ages at a $600 day rate. We booked roughly 15 models for Kohl’s and had the privilege to see a 12 year old’s face light up when we gave her a paycheck for more than $1000. And last Summer, you could go into any Macy’s store around the country and see our ten year old boy Kline in a Macy’s American Icons campaign. From children to teens to adults, we book a lot of print work and it makes us happy to contribute to the economy here in Savannah.
MIWM: What is the market like in the Southeast for an aspiring model?
SDA: The Savannah market is two fold. There is a local fashion scene that engulfs our agency during Savannah Fashion Week, The Telfair’s Art of Great Fashion show and Savannah’s Fashion Night of which our agency plays a major role in all of these productions. Combined, these three shows book more than 100 Halo models each year, giving our models the opportunity to walk for local boutiques and designers.
However, a local model is not going to make a living on local shows alone. Savannah is actually a very commercial/lifestyle market when it comes to the big budget productions. For example, in the past six months alone we have booked our models for The South Carolina State Tourism Campaign, Synovous Finacial, a national Belk Department Store commercial and a national campaign for Sheex(a bedding and sleepwear company). Most everyone hears about the movies being filmed in town but there is a huge market for commercial print, too. Our agency still works with clients from Atlanta so we also submit our models and actors for roles casting out of Atlanta. As I type I am waiting to hear from an Atlanta casting director about a shoot for Coca-Cola.
The Southeast market offers a healthy amount of work but it is part-time. In order to be a full time model, you need to be where the full time work is. And that is in New York. Many of our models, Liana Nunn for one, out grow the market here. Liana booked just about everything we submitted her for. We had a heart to heart discussion with Liana and her family about her next move in her career. The Halo Agency helped Liana build a huge resume for a secondary market. Liana booked Hewlett Packard, Rugged Wearhouse, Enmark and Savannah Magazine to name a few. What she learned and the experiences she had in Savannah catapulted her to signing with a NY agent. She is currently working with CESD which has offices in NY and LA and she is listed with their print/beauty, commercial and theatrical divisions. Simply put, Savannah is a strong secondary market; but it is a great first step for any model that may have aspirations to move to a bigger market.
MIWM: To switch gears a bit, why do designers seem to want rail thin models?
SDA: There are specific measurements that agents look for in male and female models. Their measurements need to meet industry standards. Why? Because the model has to fit the clothes. When a model walks into a casting or a fitting, the dress has to zip up and fit perfectly. Same with men. My husband was a male model in Milan for 8 years with Flash Model Management. He remembers a casting he had where the shirt was a little too short for his arms so he didn’t book the job. Other times he would fit right into a solid 40R suit. It’s all about the clothes.
MIWM: Do you have any advice for parents whose children express an interest in modeling?
SDA: Parents play the largest role in the success of their child. For our market, I tell the parents that they have to realistic expectations of the amount of auditions and opportunities in Savannah. As I mentioned before, the market in Savannah does not support full time work for models. So, parents who are pushy, negative or have unrealistic expectations can make it difficult for the agent and the parent to be a team.
I would also encourage parents to not play the comparison game. Many times parents will compare their child’s abilities and potential to other children who may be booking a lot of jobs. This is the most destructive and toxic attitude for a parent (or any model for that matter). Each model will have a different journey. Why? Because God didn’t make anyone just alike. Clients know what they want when they send out the breakdowns. If a client is looking for an African-American 12 year old boy, then that means the Caucasian 10 year old girl does not get to go on that casting. There is a huge business behind the selection of models for jobs. Model jobs exist because companies have to advertise. Companies will select models (kids or adults) based on what face they feel will resonate most with their target demographic. It’s all about sales. It’s not about the model. Once the parent and the model can set their emotions aside, they can see the business for what it is… business. I think the most successful parents and models are the ones who don’t take it personally when they are not selected for the job.
Wow- I don’t know about y’all but I feel like I have a TON more information about what goes on behind the scenes of the fashion world. The business end of making it work, so to speak.
We have the clothes and the designers of course- but without models to showcase them, well it’s just fabric on a hanger. And I think we all know it’s a heck of a lot easier to sell clothing when we can see it on a PERSON than laying flat.
Thank you to Stephanie and her models for quite literally fleshing it out.
I’m so SO looking forward to Fashion Week! Are you? Don’t forget- you can win tickets to the runway show!!
So, what are YOU going to wear to Savannah Fashion Week? Or what would you wear if you could wear anything? Just tell me what you are either going to wear or want to wear. You can post it on my Facebook page, Tweet it to me , or tag me on a post in Instagram (@MakeItWorkMolly). The best TWO ideas will win a VIP ticket for the Savannah Fashion Week runway show! MAKE SURE you use the hashtag #SFW2014outfit and tag me in your posts (Make It Work Molly) otherwise I won’t see it and your entry won’t be counted! (And make it a public post, too.) We’ll run this contest until next Wednesday April 23rd- good luck y’all!
Love to all y’all
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