In the nineties of the last century, around the time I was 15 years old and credulously set foot in the both alluring and unnerving world of fashion, social media were starting to pop up. Although nowhere near the way it’s present nowadays. Ways for us models to make sure we were at the front of the line for bookings was through our management and agents. You could influence the process of course, by for example being related to so and so, by ensuring your peers occasionally name-dropped you (creating a ‘buzz’) or by leaving a positive impression during a meet and greet – leaving clients no choice other than direct booking you. Influencing has been there since ancient times, but aside from these informal avenues, the discernment of our agents was our best bet.
Nowadays things are quite different. Social media, despite all its shenanigans and possible drawbacks, have taken the world by storm. The approach to marketing – which is essential for a model as you are your own brand – has shifted significantly and emphasis is upon online impact. Gigi Hadid and Kylie Jenner use powerful social channels such as Instagram and Twitter to heighten their online impact and as a building block for career success. Brands quickly picked up on that and assuming modeling agencies chose to incorporate talent management.
In line with this development, digital strategies of organizations like amFAR and De Grisogono that both throw yearly star-studded events I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few times, have shifted their marketing approach to online influencers as well. No effort was held back to offer valuable opportunities to target individuals. Henri d’Anterroches (Digital Strategy Consultant at PlurisMedias) said: “What we proved in Cannes is that talking to the right people, focusing on a few and being relevant to them brings maximum visibility.” The star studded guestlist of De Grisogono was focused upon leading influencer models such as Karlie Kloss and our very own Lara Stone and Doutzen Kroes – being part and parcel to the De Grisogono digital strategy success. What these women understand is that career success as a model in the 21st Century largely depends on your online impact, and that this is what will attract brands and get you that golden ticket.
As I’m writing for Modellist-ID, and for you models, it might be fun to mention how during my PR days, Constant de Boer – friend, former model and PR professional – and I teamed up with Modellist-ID and Bloggernet by Vivian Buck for an event at the Butcher Bar on the last night of ADE. The night was coined MAD Decent and was an invite only, private event meant to provide an antidote to the ADE madness. The partnership between Modellist-ID, Bloggernet, Quintessentially and the Entourage Group focused upon bringing relevance to our respective communities, establish new relationships and above all create a note-worthy experience. The night was a blast and looking back I can say we succeeded.
Successful models know that fashion is much bigger than the modeling industry alone; being enveloped in and supported by a much larger and relevant ecosystem is crucial. A successful and happy model however, is a person that stays in the driver’s seat.
Working in client relationship management at CLEANSE, an organization founded by Anne-Marie van Dijk and set up for models to achieve career success in a healthy and sustainable way, the sociological concept of agency kept springing to mind. Agency, from a sociological perspective, is a means whereby an individual exerts power, makes its own choices, has the ability to act independently and can influence others. As a model in this digital age, the concept has never been more relevant. Pressures of online media presence, on how successful and blissful your life ought to look, shouldn’t be so overwhelming that it becomes a pain and leads to feelings of depression or anxiety.
In my opinion it’s very important for models, especially those starting out, that even though you will be confronted with an industry that wants to direct (and sometimes dictate) your social media presence, you should remain in charge. So if your management or peers warn you for certain dangers of the online web – be thankful as there are many, but if you feel pressured in posting merely to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ take a step back. Is it you? Does it feel close to your heart? Is it how you would like to portray yourself? Don’t get me wrong, I do not agree with the mantra ‘Let’s all show our awful moments in order for us to feel like we are authentic.’ I always say: when you are at a bar and meet someone for the first time will you show this person your worst side? But I do think that the pressures of remaining ‘in the loop’ and ‘an insider’ in the world of fashion can be overwhelming, especially for young girls, and we all need to take a breather and take a step back. Leaving room for humor, creating that online space that is special and unique because it is YOU, is crucial. In this light, Model Winnie Harlow is a great example of someone that manages to stay true to herself and use her influence to spark debates on definitions of beauty, race and hypocrisy.
Even after quitting as a model I kept connected to what I love by working in fashion, expanding my international network and knowledge of the industry through education (at the moment I’m following courses by Parsons School of Design). Because of this, and somewhere in between the many fashion faux pas, road-trips, and creative brainstorm sessions, working in the fashion industry has cemented an invaluable foundation to further challenge myself. It’s about investing in what is of value to your life, so that just like @stevenkolb of the CFDA, the hilarious @chrissyteigen of Sodelushious.com and @garancedore who just wrote a wonderful book Love x Style x Life, your career will be a combination of hard work, an unapologetic form of being oneself, and having fun while you’re at it. As far as new years resolutions go, that is exactly what I wish for you.