You don’t have to be a fashinfag to recognize some models – there are always flash in the pan girls with Manic Panic locks, season after season. For a while it was Charlotte Free, and now there is Chloe Nørgaard. It goes without saying (though we’ll say it, because we care) that fashion loves a good chop, a good cut and color. It also likes absorbing anti-fashion, tokenizing rebellion. It likes to pretend it doesn’t love itself: effortless style is always more chic, non? The mission is really to be not only cool, but too cool to care. And thus, the model-off-duty look is endless replicated, imitated, butchered and rehashed. We want to be popular, but we don’t want anyone to know.
It’s not a surprise, then, that model agencies are cashing in on this too-cool sentimentality. The Daily Beast reported on a “new breed” of modeling jump started by an agency in London. This agency is so cool you guys! They are so cool in fact that they don’t even care about their job. On the Anti-Agency website, they describe their roster as “people who are too cool to be models and people with real lives,” which is an honest description fit for anyone who lives in Bushwick.
This idea? It’s not a new idea at all. In fact, it’s been pushed further. Introducing UGLY MODELS. Want a niche audience, a sprinkling of counter-culture in your next Calvin Klein derivative campaign? Don’t even bother flipping through Tumblr – go straight to Ugly.org for your selection of models in the “Wee Folks”, “Bikers”, “Thugs”, or “Bodies” category.It wouldn’t be so derivative after all, actually: that’s exactly what Calvin Klein did themselves. Your everyman already has an agency. Your freak has been capitalized upon.
I think what mostly fascinates me about these kinds of grinds is that these supposedly cool, punk-as-hell approaches? They’re continually framed as these progressive moments in modeling. But photoshop any regular model’s hair pink and they’d fit right in to Anti-Agency or any of the others. Shaving a girl’s head has in fact historically made careers: just ask Eve Salvail (who was not only bald, but gay and tattooed and in the Fifth Element. 100% Want-to-Bone Girl Crush). This has all been done before. Same tune, same song and dance. If an agency really wants to be progressive and rub against the shoulders of fashion with a middle fingers in the air Yeezy don’t care attitude, they’ll have to try harder than that. And hello: when you frame models as “just” models you forget the reality of the situation for many of these girls — they don’t just walk shows. Modeling for most girls doesn’t pay the rent and it’s not a career most stick with for very long. Besides that? Some girls are also scientists (Lyndsey Scott), some girls are also artists and boyish and still entirely beloved (Sakia de Brauw).
But framing models as anything but clothes horses wouldn’t fit the narrative that would set up a punk alternative, and it certainly wouldn’t be good business. After all – everyone wants to look like they don’t care. Everyone wants to be more than fashion. Unfortunately, you’ll never escape the pull.
(A funny moment of disclosure: That manic panic reference in the beginning? I have manic panic hair, too.)