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How does actually a model agency work?

10 questions to Polly & Virginia @ Independent Milano

How does actually a model agency work? 10 questions to Polly & Virginia @ Independent Milano

Looking at the models walking on the catwalk is always a breathtaking moment. During the past month we have been literally overwhelmed by a wave of shows that made us meet some of the most fresh and interesting faces nowadays.

But how so these young girls actually get to walk on the international catwalks? Behind there’s the tacit work of model agencies, that discover, promote and organize the dense daily schedules of these young girls and boys in an impeccable way.

We have submitted 10 hot questions to Polly and Virginia from Independent MGMT Milano, one of most relevant agencies in Europe. They revealed us the funniest behind the scenes but also the most beautiful satisfactions behind this work. Read and fall in love.

1. Girls, could you tell us a bit about your background? How did you arrive at Independent MGMT?

Polly: I started working at Independent almost four years ago. I desperately needed a job and I showed up for the interview without having the slightest idea about what was a modelling agency. The only things I knew at the time were Abbey Lee (my undisputed idol), a few models that I met at parties during Fashion Week and that black is always a good idea. This was my concept of "fashion". During the interview I sold myself as a great expert in social media (I was still studying PR & Advertising by that time) and I improvised in front of what later became my boss a plan to reposition and re-style the image of the agency . My ideas were appreciated and they took me immediately right after the first meeting. I started as an intern, then a temporary contract and now I’m in an open-ended contract. My role in the agency had never existed before, so let's say I made my own way and quickly, always supported by my chief of course.

Virginia: I started working at Independent in January this year. I studied Communication at University and while I was studying I started to do some work experience in the fashion world collaborating as a fashion assistant at PUNKT magazine for about a year. Shortly after I graduated I started looking for a job and I sent my cv to Independent. After less than a week I started working here! Like Polly, when I arrived I had no idea about how a model agency worked, but thanks to the dynamic and super friendly team I learned pretty quickly.

2. What is the most exciting part of your job ? Tell us about your daily routine.

P: It is a very dynamic work, despite it concerns a minimum of 12 hours spent in front of the PC and the phone a day! Obviously the part that I prefer the most is the scouting abroad, when you go to the agencies of London, Paris or New York and make a models "exchange". But it's the little things we do every day to make this work exciting: receiving a request from a customer, proposing our boys and girls and then have them confirmed is always a great satisfaction.

V: Surely the fashion weeks are exciting. Even if the stress level is very high, it’s always satisfying to see the girls and boys succeed! In everyday life however I would say the coolest part is scouting, which for me takes place primarily online. I do not travel yet but I hope I’ll start soon.

Una foto pubblicata da Virginia Romagnoli (@virgi_romagnoli) in data:

3. What do you feel when a boy/girl you discovered becomes famous? Did it ever happen to you?

P: Our very first International supermodel was Simone Nobili, Italian, beautiful, with a big head. We are his mother agency and he’s really like a son for us (or brother in my case). We are all very proud of his working career, and the same for our girls. They are all new faces, but in September they faced their first Fashion Week and they did great! I found one of them, Amy Willock, on the Facebook profile of another model of ours. Amy is beautiful, very elegant, very professional and on her first time in Milan she walked for Giorgio and Emporio Armani. I was over the moon!

V: I didn’t happen to me yet, but I am confident! Of course it is very satisfying when your girls are successful, although you haven’t discovered them personally but someone of your same team. Going back to Amy Willock, when Polly found her we were all confident that she would have become our little star!

4. How important are social media to do scouting in 2015?

P and V: Indispensable. That’s the way we found Amy, on FB! On Instagram you can find a lot of interesting stuff, the problem is that very often what you see in the picture does not entirely correspond to reality. In Italy we are actually still far behind North America and Europe, we still have much to learn about it... we have a great potential but little or badly exploited. Beyond scouting, Instagram is becoming important for our customers, who increasingly ask us for a link of the models accounts with the highest number of followers. Isn’t it absurd?!

5. What are the aesthetic standards necessary to make it in fashion in 2015?

P: I think that now more than ever it is no longer a matter of aesthetic only. Of course a pretty face is always important, but if you don’t have personality, if you don’t have a brain, you don’t get very far, and not only in fashion. This summer we have (finally) witnessed to the a generational change, a passing of the torch. In June we have finally seen on the runway beautiful black boys, ginger heads, a model with pink hair opened the latest Louis Vuitton show in Paris! I think Alexandra Sandberg reached the perfection with her casting for the spring summer shows of Corneliani and Haider Ackermann. I loved the so much!

V: I think it's difficult to pinpoint the precise rules, but having an uncoventional face and body is certainly a good starting point. But not always enough.

Una foto pubblicata da pollyporko (@polly_rollovermilano) in data:

6. Have you ever refused someone who afterwards happened to succeed with another agency? What are the discriminating factors that make you say "yes" or "no"?

P and V: We are always very careful when someone shows up in the agency. We are 7 bookers to follow the man, and 4 for the women. We pay attention to every detail, even when the majority of us opt for a no, we always discuss it again and again to check if we missed something. Sometimes when boys and girls are new faces they are not immediate and deserve a second chance. Unfortunately Milan is still a pretty closed market, we depend on the choices of London and Paris, we often have to keep a model in standby to see if he/she works in other countries... because Milan doesn’t totally dare yet, but is on the right track.

7. There is a difference between the work you do with the girls and the one with the boys?

P: I don’t really take care of women, I deal mainly with men, but I think that the differences of the past are getting smaller. Before there was the myth of Naomi and Kate, now also the boys happen to have hundreds of girls waiting for them outside the shows. They’re starting to become a little “divas” as well.

V: I have never worked with the guys but I agree with Polly when she says that things are changing, now that men supermodels exist. Speaking of everyday life I don’t think there are many differences in managing the boys rather than girls. Like us, each one has his own personality, so it is no longer about the man/woman but about the individual.

8. Which advice do you give to your models to survive to the stress of fashion week?

P: I tell them to sleep a lot, to eat healthy and drink a lot of water, especially for the fashion shows in summer, not to do to much partying (we say this mainly to the boys) and to give the best of themselves at the castings... but to not stress out too much because the shows are actually a very small part of the work of a model, you don’t live only of that! Obviously the guys don’t listen much to the part of “going to bed early and do not drink a lot”.

V: I tell them not to stress out, to trust us and to keep their mobile phones always close!

Una foto pubblicata da pollyporko (@polly_rollovermilano) in data:


9. What are the secrets for being a good booker?

P: First of all, I try to establish a human and friendly relationship with my models. I believe that the basis for a healthy and lasting relationship with them is to make avery model feel like at home, and not sent around the world like a box, with a booker looking for you only when you have to run to a casting or telling you about a job. You need to be professional of course, but in the 90% of cases we deal with boys and girls that are out of home for the first time without their family next door. I like the idea of being someone they can count on when they come to Milan, I like to cuddle them and make them live their Milan experience in the best way possible. As if they were actually at home, surrounded by friends and family.

V: I think I have too little experience to reveal secrets. Of course you need to have a good eye, a lot of patience and being available 24/7. 

10. Is there something that left you breathless during the last fashion week?

P: As I said before, the fact that the new faces are finally taking over… all those different colours on the runway! You could feel the desire for a change. Many girls with short hair or even shaved, or electric blue, pink hair, many Asian and black models. Concerning the new collections seen during the last Fashion Week, Valentino has left me speechless, one of the most exciting in recent years, Vuitton and its space-futuristic-woman, Dior’s elegance, Gucci... Gucci! Alessandro Michele is leading Milan to a brand new splendour. Until last season Milan was definitely the last one in terms of novelty and innovation, now we are getting better, and we are great. We are starting to be a point of reference again, that’s important. And then I’m so excited for Demna Gvasalia, the new entry at Balenciaga. He will for sure make something unusual.

V: If we only refer to Milan I would say Gucci’s show under several points of view. If we talk about all the fashion weeks, the only word that comes to mind is VALENTINO.