WS: I’m intrigued by your growing away from the haute-fashion scene. What pulled you to the modeling business in the first place?
AB: Models and fashion were a passion of mine for as long as I could remember. I knew everything about the models. Who they were. Where they came from…So I moved to NY in pursuit of becoming a photographer. I enrolled in the Photography program at Parsons but soon not only was my camera stolen but I had no money so things as simple as developing film became nearly impossible. So I quit the program. I immediately decided I wanted to be an agent. I knew one friend who worked at Irene Marie, so I called her up and asked her to give me the A-Z guide on how to be an agent. After my 10 minute lesson, I picked up the yellow pages and started going down the list of modeling agencies. Basically cold calling! It worked. I got myself an interview with Michael Flutie at Company Management. The interview did not go so well. He was not impressed with my lack of experience. But I called 2 days later to follow-up on how my interview went and he picked up and just said, “Be here at 9am on Monday and we will try you out for three days.” He liked my eagerness. So that was boot camp. Apparently the try-out went well as I worked for Company for 6 years. Michael remains a mentor and a friend.
WS: What adjustments did you have to make in that transition from the NY market to the LA market?
AB: Never try to find NY in Los Angeles. You can embrace LA for what it is. I do not miss the “fashion” aspect of the NY market. It seems like the same jobs could be done in Los Angeles without the extreme urgency and drama that NY fashion seems to emphasize on a booking. Los Angeles has evened me out. I needed to slow down and in Los Angeles, they needed to speed it up. I’m finding a happy medium with my agents. I’m loving this market.
WS: How do Next LA and Next NY work together?
AB: Because of the close relationship I nurtured through my 10 years in the NY office, the owners of Next have come to have complete confidence in me. The relationship is great. There is plenty of trust. I am still connected to the New York charts so I remain in the loop of who is shooting what…on what the girls are doing on a daily basis, so it’s almost like I’m in the other room. Also knowing the girls personally helps tremendously and now 2 years later we are rocking the West Coast. I believe our success is based on our close knit network. Unlike other “networks”, we are not franchised so it cuts out a lot of the extra drama other agencies are faced with.
WS: How do you go about marketing a NY based girl to the LA clients and conversely how do you sell a Los Angeles find to NY and Europe?
AB: It’s quite easy. The clients want them. Meaning the NY girls and guys. Whatever is foreign is always most interesting. Whatever seems unattainable is what you want. As for the sell to NY and Europe…the West Coast has historically produced healthy, gorgeous models. Of course only a handful of the models who I place in NY and Europe make it to the final cut. There is a more commercial kind of girl who works on the West Coast better. So we make sure to keep the board well balanced. Every agency needs these bread and butter girls. And then there are the ones who will go on to rock the runways. I just make sure we develop the girls properly for what each market wants. Coming from NY and having worked in Paris, developing them isn’t rocket science.
WS: Which girls and guys should we look out for as future Next stars?
AB: Katta Hules, Tiana, Ivy Levine, Roby Wroeblewski (This girl is the perfect California Girl) Cody Horn and Ruby Aldridge (she is the youngest of the Aldridge clan) , Chrishelle Stubbs. All this from our LA office alone!
WS: I noticed an interesting amount of emerging young celebrity faces on your board. How does factor into your overall management structure?
AB: The celebrities are the next obvious step for us. The more Young Hollywood makes themselves available to be at the center of the fashion buzz, the more it will continue to monopolize the fashion industry. Designers and even commercial companies have come to realize the selling power of the celebrity. America is getting more and more obssesed with the idea of celebrity and we will be there to fulfill those needs. We worked very closely with a girl like Nicole Ritchie to get her in the limelight of the fashion industry and we will continue to so with the rest of our young celebrity faces. Great things are yet to come.