The new rules of casting

By Tiffany Tivasuradej

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What does it take to be a model? The first things to come to my mind are height, physique, and the ability to walk in sky-high heels. Forgive me for stereotyping, but it’s undeniable that there appears to be a specific criteria, or “ideal look”, that must be adhered to in order to break into the modelling industry. Well not anymore, apparently. For all wannabe models, Marc Jacobs has answered your call. It began with hunting for potential models through popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, back in early 2014. Since then, selfies bearing the hashtag, #CastMeMarc, have been sent from all four corners of the world, and the brand is still using this technique to recruit fresh faces from the public for their upcoming ad campaigns.

Searching for potential models through social media platforms is becoming more and more common in the fashion world. Aside from the success of Marc Jacobs, another notable instance  is ASOS and Models 1’s joint Instagram search for the next curvy, plus-size supermodel. The contest proved to be highly popular – so much so that in it’s second year running, 2000 selfies were posted within just 10 days of the opening date. Similar approaches have been taken by brands like Guess, and Italian-based retailer Brandy Melville. More recently, IMG models, known for representing top models like Karlie Kloss and Miranda Kerr, has jumped on the bandwagon, launching its own global social media model casting campaign via Instagram.

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Why the sudden change in model scouting tactic? As justified by Marc Jacobs, online social media is “cool, current and strong”. Statistically, this is correct. A report by Adweek showed that in 2014, there were around1.28 billion active monthly users on Facebook, 255 million on Twitter, and 200 million on Instagram. And it is because of this popularity that social media platforms can offer the modelling industry a plethora of benefits. For a start, recruiters can cherry-pick their way through a highly diversified sample in order to produce models that represent “real” people. In an interview with Vogue about the inspiration behind their plus-size supermodel Instagram competition, ASOS said that “It is important to represent healthy girls,” and to recognise a healthy body image in all shapes and sizes. Additionally, Models 1 noted that the prospect of walking into a model agency can be daunting, and maintained that they wanted to open their doors to a wider audience by ‘utilising the power of social media’ and ‘assuaging those initial nerves’. There is also a budget-friendly side to casting models online as well. “Aspiring applicants no longer have to spend lots of money on photoshoots or portfolios,” Jeni Rose, vice president of scouting at IMG models, commented. “Instead, they can come directly to us with simple smartphone snapshots and a lot of enthusiasm.” Lastly, by searching for models online, agencies can look through thousands of applications more quickly, without having to travel overseas to find new talent.

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With the rising popularity of casting models through social media, what sort of knock-on effects will this have on more traditional methods of model casting and the use of reality TV? It’s hard to say. Being only a recent development, it has yet to influence how all agencies search for models. Most still prefer receiving online applications via their  website, or sending agents out to search for potential talent. It’s possible that those not wishing for their application to be publically viewed online will choose to stick to these traditional methods. With regards to model casting on reality TV, it’s unlikely that shows like America’s Next Top Model will end anytime soon. Despite receiving many criticisms, the show has been airing since 2003.

One thing that is perhaps worth speculating about is whether or not social media will help recruit more credible models than reality TV. The modelling world is incredibly competitive, and whether or not models selected through social media can eventually become top-ranking supermodels is difficult to predict. At the same time, designers will still select models that are suitable for the mood or idea they are trying to create through their garments. Although social media gives everyone an equal chance to apply, this does not necessarily mean everyone can become models. It simply depends on what’s on trend.

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It is undeniable that social media is becoming an essential part of our everyday lives. Whether or not it will eventually become an integral part of the model casting industry remains to be seen. More brands and agencies will need to adopt this method before such a conclusion can be made. However, the benefits it provides makes its future look promising – perhaps the old meme, ‘oh, you’re a model? Who’s your agent, Instagram?’ was foreshadowing something after all.

Photographs: lockerdome.com, luxurydaily.com, fashionista.com, elitemodellook.com.

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