L.A. Fashion Modeling Market Is Expanding – WWD

Women Management has found a home in Los Angeles, settled at 101 South Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood.

The modeling agency — founded in New York in 1988 and with a presence in Paris and Milan — tapped director Autumn Rebasti to launch the L.A. branch.

“It so happened that it was the deep of COVID-19 during the time,” she said. It was August 2020.

“It was an interesting time to start an agency,” continued Rebasti, who was earlier at The Lions Model Management and Ford Models New York. She moved to L.A. from New York in 2017. “It was definitely a little scary, because, as you know, there was not a lot of shoots happening. So, I sort of took the first nine months to speak to my contacts, mother agents, clients, models, photographers, creatives and let them know what I was doing and how I was planning to open up here. I did that all from my home with the support of the Women network…and Anthony Bourgois, [president of Women Management New York].”

Part of the Elite World Group network of fashion talent management agencies, Women L.A. kicked off with about 80 models on its roster, made up of signed talent that didn’t have L.A. representation. They now represent a total of 172, with 41 signings in 2023 so far.

The agency has expanded as the L.A. fashion landscape continues to evolve.

“A lot of the networks have been opening up agencies here,” said Rebasti.

The growth has been catalyzed by the influx of major fashion houses coming to the city, she said: “The action is from all of the big fashion shows, events and things that have been happening here. The photographers are spending a lot of time here now, too.”

Celine, Saint Laurent, Tom Ford, Dior and Chanel have all produced runway shows in L.A. Balenciaga is next, planning to unveil its fall 2024 men’s and women’s collections on Dec. 2.

Autumn Rebasti

“I’m flying girls in every day from all over,” she said of pulling talent — both local and international models — for opportunities. “There’s always been beautiful, lovely talent and creatives, but I think that it’s opened the door for a lot of casting out here and street casting. There’s certain clients that maybe never shot out here before and maybe they came out to see the Celine show and now they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we need to shoot our next campaign in Joshua Tree.’”

What are clients looking for?

“In the past it used to be a huge focus on sexier talents,” Rebasti went on. “And there’s still a place for that here, but a lot of the clients are looking for more of a cool girl — someone being authentic to themselves and maybe has a unique or individual style.…So that’s where I think the casting can be a little more creative and a little more open. Because maybe it’s a model [who’s 5-foot-6], but has all of these supercool L.A. friends that are in the art scene. I have clients that will do profiles on models based on their businesses and follow them around for a day. The client seems more interested in the model as a person here.”

Companies are paying up to $10,000 to $30,000 a day for the right girl.

“Colin Jones, Valerie Scherzinger, Maryel Uchida, Ella Rattigan, Adele Ruboneka, all of those types of girls, I get requests for them every day,” she added. “Even if it might be a client that can’t afford them, that’s the type of model that they’re looking to book.”

Of body measurements, she said: “We really don’t measure our girls as much in L.A. We do to get their measurements for the clients, but that’s not how we make our decisions on who to sign. We have talent that is anywhere from a 33-inch hip up to a 42-inch hip, size 16. But it’s really about the look of the talent, the personality, and where we see them fitting in our market and for our set of clients. So, we don’t separate our curve talent from our straight-size talent. We have girls that are a size 4, 6, 8, 10. I didn’t get that experience when I was in New York.”

What also differentiates L.A. from other markets is “that our clients and designers pay attention to fashion and what’s happening in Paris and in New York, but the other 50 percent of their attention is on the overall culture,” she said, noting the significance of having both Hollywood and social media stars in L.A. “They draw from fashion, but they also draw from what’s happening with celebrity. It’s a mixture of the two worlds.”

Social media following is a factor in casting, of course, but it’s not the number that counts.

“Clients are more interested in the quality of your followers, the quality and beauty and imaging that you use on your socials,” she said. “Right now, I have clients that really don’t care if you have 30,000 followers or 30 million followers. They want to see who follows you.…For some clients, it’s about gender. They want to target women that are 25 to 37. Some clients, it’s about wanting to make sure that the cool set knows who you are and sees you wearing their clothes.”

Fashion is still largely driven by Instagram culture, she said. “Instead of advertising in a print magazine, clients are advertising on Instagram, and it has to move so quickly. That’s why I tell the talent, it’s nice to be here for three months and pick up all these new clients. And you can shoot for a client three times in three months and be in three different campaigns. That’s also what makes this market really exciting.”

Those clients looking to target younger customers head to TikTok to check out potential models.

“They want to see that funny, quirky personality,” she said.

A team of four — with senior agents Paul DavyRomano and Demi Cambridge as well as assistant and scout Emma Macdonald — Women L.A. usually has 30 international talents in town at a time, in addition to its local roster. “We have a model apartment that fits about five girls. Some of the newer faces will come and stay in the model apartment when they’re first starting to get to know the market.”

Moving forward, the focus continues to be on “providing talent exceptional service to get them to have a modeling career for hopefully as long as they want. Part of our mission is to celebrate inclusivity, diversity and empowerment.”

She added, “I think L.A. is getting the respect that it deserves.”

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