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If fashion is the domain of the select and the brutally well edited - the heart, so to speak, of the haute - then there is no modeling agency that has pursued that ideal with more devotion than Women Management. For this company, the aesthetic is everything.
That consistency of vision has built a brand flagshipped by some of the strongest and most successful icons in the business, ranging from Naomi Campbell to Kate Moss to newcomer Louise Pedersen. Like a designer maintaining the quality control of his line, Paul Rowland, the creator of Women/Supreme has stayed true to his vision through thick and thin. Now that brand is undergoing a new phase of expansion with the decision to go worldwide via offices in Milan and Paris, even as the agency upgrades its scouting program to a formidable new level of aggressiveness, Women being the latest agency signed to scout on Tune in as Rowland gives MDC a comprehensive overview of the past, present and future of Women.

There are so many tall stories and myths around you Mr.Rowland. Care to give the MDC community your official history?
Actually everything I've learned to be as an agent, I owe to Nadia Shahrik. When Click was really big in the 80's and everybody wanted to be with Click, Nadia was there in charge of the men's division. Nadia left and went on her own and that's when I met her and she took me on as a model. We were working out of her apartment, then it finally grew to an agency. I wasn't making much money being a male model. So she went to Europe one season and didn't have a booker to fill in so I said "You know what. I'll do it. I'll answer the phones until you get back." So I did that and I liked it and honestly, I was thinking, " I can do this. I'll save enough money, buy a house then stop when I'm forty and paint!" That was my whole idea. And that's how it started. One thing led to another. I just decided, "Look, if I'm going to put this much time and energy into something this, I've got to put it where there's the money". And girls are the ones that make the money. So I told Nadia I wanted to open a women's agency. She said "OK, there's a room there. Why don't you set up a desk and you can start." Sarah Doukas from Storm was the very first person to help me and she gave me a few girls. The girl who really helped me was Michelle Kwon who owns Me and Ro, the jewelry company. She was my very first model. We were friends, we lived in the East Village. She was a waitress at Indochine and I said "Michelle, you're so pretty. C'mon I need a model." And she started doing it. She was on the cover of Elle. She was on the cover of Italian Vogue. And that's how it all started in '88.

In those early days did you have it in the back of your mind to evolve Women into this global empire?
The way my life works is things just come. I can never tell you what tomorrow is. I keep everything open. I keep everything moving and fluid. The thing that works for me is I'm not afraid to attempt it. And I don't care what people have to say.

Paul Rowland, the visionary force behind Women

Speaking of which, a lot of skeptics had their eyebrows arched when the idea of Women Worldwide was proposed.
From the beginning when I opened my doors there were a lot of critics who said, this will never work. Period. And the amazing thing about that is if you have a vision and you're willing to work for it, you can make that thing happen. Now that we have Women Milan and Women Paris, the concept is still very much based on Women New York. This is in terms of the taste point, the quality of girls, the aesthetic. Let's take, for instance, Women Paris. They are not going to represent over thirty girls. The most important thing is to keep the credibility of the agency as a high-end proposal. Milan...Milan is much different. We have a lot of girls who go there for the shows. But really, I never thought it would happen to this extreme in a million years. I was ok with the idea of Women NY, as this selective little agency... For me it reminded me of that Halston story where he had this amazing career, then he sold his licenses to all these people and he lost control of his own name. So for me, that was the most important thing, the quality control. That's the one thing that has remained intact. The people we work with are the people who we can trust to take the name and maintain the quality. In terms of the graphics, in terms of the cards, in terms of all the concepts of Women, it all stems from what we do in New York.

Is Milan and Paris being staffed by personnel out of New York, or did you recruit new staffing?
In Paris, Eric DuBois who used to be the head booker at City came with Patricia. They had been a team before and they basically run Women in Paris together. My whole idea for Milan is to focus on the two show seasons a year.

Interesting. You're not targeting Milan as an advertising market?
Depending on the campaign ...Fendi will always book out of Milan. But Dolce, Versace and Valentino book out of New York through Steven. Gucci is out of New York. So for Milan my whole concept is to create an amazing show agency. In the 80's Ricardo Guy had an agency called Stage and there were even girls from other agencies, but it was THE really hot show agency. It was basically all the big girls. The girl got the best rate, it was strictly about booking them for the best shows. None of these girls were going there to do editorial, they were going to make money.