One could say that the start of the entire process of fashion comes from the casting. Buyers, press, and fans alike get an idea of how clothes move and fit based on the model wearing the garment. In that same vein, it also takes a skilled model to charm viewers into tapping into brands’ identity and making sure their wallets follow suit. Del Moro, his team of associates Samuel Ellis Scheinman and Giulia Massullo, and their keen eyes haven’t failed yet as they’ve gone on to cast for houses like Versace, Saint Laurent, Fendi, Victoria Beckham, DSquared2, DKNY, Dries Van Noten, Moschino, and a bevy of other luxury labels. Add to the roster his newest gig casting the Alexander Wang fashion show come September and it surely seems the Italian’s authority on the right face is producing results. We sat down to speak with the team about the casting process, how Del Moro got his swift start, and what really makes a model special.
Piergiorgio Del Moro: It was really random! When I started law, I didn’t want to be a lawyer, but my father imposed on me to do it. I gave up a few exams before getting the degree. My father used to work in the music business with big singers like Raffaella Carra. I knew some people in this business already and my parents told me, “now you have to provide for yourself.” So I started working as an assistant for a production company. I went to Asia for a while and when I came to New York I had one friend who was Patti Wilson. I knew Patti from Milan, we met backstage of Just Cavalli. I sent an email to her and she got back to me right away and said, “Oh come for coffee!” Then she gave me my first job. She said, “do you want to be a casting director?” And I said, “Yeah I’ll try it.” After her I met, Sciascia Gambaccini from the time she was doing a magazine. She’s been another big supporter. Then everything went super fast, I was extremely lucky.
Did you find that making connections in New York was easier?
Piergiorgio: Yes, if I was in Europe I would have never had this opportunity. If you knock on doors here somebody will open with a chance. With that same speed you can lose the chance, but I think here you can make your own career if you really care about the business. Some people didn’t support me, some people really helped me. There are very good things and bad things in my personality, but one of the good things is that I’m really loyal to people. This makes me different than a lot of people in this business and I’m always going to be loyal to people who support me.
How did you guys you all get together?
Piergiorgio: Giulia is from Rome so I met her when I was working at a production company after giving up school. She helped me on some small projects and she’s been with me forever. She’s been with me for almost ten years. Our friends and our families know each other.
For Samuel we met when he was studying at Cornell. He hated this job at first! I brought him for men’s shows in Milan and we were doing this show until 3:00 in the morning and he said I don’t want to do this job, this is crazy…and then he wised up and said maybe I like it. Ok, now I love it. [laughs]
Samuel Ellis Scheinman: Plus, I was quite young when I started in fashion. I was interning at Calvin Klein when I was still in high school and then I was studying design. I was working for a stylist who did Band of Outsiders when I met Piergiorgio. A few months later he invited me to assist on my first show in Milan. It was to this day one of the most challenging clients we’ve ever worked with and the only time a client has ever taken something and thrown it at us. But it was a good education and very unexpected. I was like, you cannot get me to come back for one more day and he convinced me to come back for a presentation – it was an intense presentation but something about the energy I got off to.
Piergiorgio: Our personalities are very different, but we all three together are very stubborn so we usually don’t give up.
What do you think contributed to your career growing so quickly and you achieving the caliber of clients that you have now?
Piergiorgio: I think our point of view is very different. We approach each client in a different way and we don’t use the same models for everyone. But also you need to work for both the client and work for the career of the models. You can’t keep pushing and bringing new girls into this business and let them disappear after one season. You need to develop them and support them and create a relationship between them and the brands. I think in doing Versace we changed perspectives of the casting today. All of the big models coming back on the runway mixed with new sexy girls.
Samuel: I think we got very lucky. When I first started working with Pier it was with quite small clients. Obviously, some big opportunities happened for us and I think we just wanted to seize that opportunity and make us as available and as attentive to the clients as possible. I think it’s also about customizing what we offer to people on a case-by-case basis. As we grew, we just really adapted to it.
Piergiorgio: One of the good points how I started is the fact that I decided since the beginning to do editorials which is no money. But then you do an amazing story, like when we did the i-D story with Luigi & Iango. When you skip through the pages, we’re mixing new girls with amazing girls like Guinevere (Van Seenus) or Marina Abramovic. That was amazing! It gave you a different way to also see casting and fashion perspectives. Not only like, there is ten new girls and we booked those ten new girls. You go to Versace and you book Raquel Zimmermann or Carolyn Murphy coming back in the show. You can go to Fendi and you do a casting with like Botticelli-esque, super beautiful girls. It’s really like a different approach for a different project.
Piergiorgio: I think that some models are not right for this business long-term but we need to select the 10 or 15 that we want and support them and let them go in front of the camera and get experience. For example, some of these girls can walk in the runway but then when you bring them in front of the photographer there is no energy. So, you keep seeing amazing girls like Raquel or Karlie shooting and being on the cover of magazines. I think this business is not only about the girl who’s newly discovered but also developing a long career. Model agents have to do it but it’s for our business too.
What do you look for in the start of a girl’s career? What do you look for in a new face?
Piergiorgio: Self confidence. They know how to stand in front of people. I think this makes the difference. When you’re confident with yourself and you have a great energy you can look way better than an amazing girl who has no confidence and is super shy. Sometimes big girls started their career and they were not confident, they disappeared, then they came back and they’re like a different person.
Giulia Massullo: Attitude, character; we find a lot of beautiful girls — perfect body, perfect age. For me, it’s also how you move. We ask about their background and try to understand them, most girls are really young and shy, but some of them they are positive and really want to do it and trust themselves. With casting, you will always find girls with good bodies, but good attitude, good character, a good mood is more difficult.
Switching gears – who is your favorite discovery?
Samuel: We like to say that we’re the people who don’t like to say we discovered anyone because we are more about supporting the girls.
Piergiorgio: That’s a good point. I don’t want to be the one who says, “Oh I discovered someone.” Maybe I support someone. I think one of the beginning we supported was Gigi (Hadid). She did the first show with us, I remember her when I was doing Guess and she was already working for them. I am not the one who discovered Gigi but I think we’ve been supporting her a lot.
Samuel: There are a few shows that I think discovery is the right word. But I think the reality is that too many brands think that they are the only platform to start a girl’s career and that’s where you have a problem with none of them are actually growing. It’s better for the clients that we work for to support girls that maybe have already debuted elsewhere and make them into long lasting careers.
How is your approach when dealing with clients? Do you find yourself having to analyze their ethos to understand who is the right girl for this project?
Piergiorgio: Yes, in some brands it’s very clear to get the DNA of them. When you work with, Versace or Dries Van Noten you know who you’re looking for. With the young ones, you need to help them to develop their identity. From there you grow together. Sometimes before committing to a job I ask them to send me references, what are their expectations, where they want to grow in 5 years. As the brand grows, the casting grows. It’s a long term project. I also believe in working as a team. My point of view is completely different from Samuel’s or Giulia’s point of view, so matching ideas together really gives you a strong point of view.
Giulia: The first show for Versace! The energy was amazing. Also the latest Alberta Ferretti campaign with Kate Moss. And the last Dries Van Noten show.
Samuel: Probably the Mert & Marcus Vogue Italia issue. Taking the vocabulary that we already had in terms of casting but with an incredibly talented and quite demanding team. I had to really re-position everything I thought I knew to achieve what they wanted. When you work with these incredibly determined people, that’s the vision and that’s where we’re going which is amazing for us to work in that confine but it always takes a lot of work. For me that was quite an intense yet significant project.
How was it? Did you have to fight? It was a cover and editorial that stood out very much to me because it seemed like almost they were pushing themselves in a way that I don’t attribute to their aesthetic.
Samuel: It felt, without saying it directly to us, that it was a step for them. When you have Italian Vogue and the entire issue- it’s a pretty incredible platform-you can really make a statement. To me, the brief was “show us whatever you can.” That was what we were given, how many models did we propose for that story?
Samuel: Even more. Almost up to a thousand. From all over the world without any limitations. For us it’s quite nice to have full creative freedom and then let’s see how our clients respond.
Piergiorgio: The toughest one was probably my first show in New York. Nobody wanted to collaborate with me. It was a nightmare! I was afraid that nobody would show up at the show. I was leading by myself, I was assisting myself so I think that was a challenge for me.
What do you find inspiring? Whether it’s from the past or from the present.
Samuel: For me I find it really inspiring to go on a creative journey with our clients. I’ll use the example of Collier Schorr, to really embrace someone’s perspective and use that to move your medium forward is really exciting for me. We get to work with these people that are so different and so interesting and have such incredible careers, and help them/work with them on making something happen.
Do you find yourself bringing that inspiration into your planning process when it comes to bringing that vitality and spark into your casting process?
Piergiorgio: I find it inspiring working with people who both challenge and inspire me. I have a special opportunity to work with people with great visions- icons in their own right. You have to deliver a result and even if it’s quite hard, when you get there you’re proud of yourself. People like Peter Lindbergh, Carine Roitfeld, Mert & Marcus, Marie-Amélie Sauvé, Bruce Weber, Joe McKenna, Alastair McKimm- they are all in the history of fashion and I am proud to be a part of their projects.
Piergiorgio: When does it stop? When does it finish?!
Samuel: As of today, we’ve already been doing shows for a month. This is our most insane time of year- three consecutive months of shows. Men, Couture, Ready-to-Wear, then Cruise… It’s non-stop this time of year. You’re catching us at a funny day because for pre-casting, it’s like a starting gate for Ready-to-Wear and we’re just about to take off again.
The topic of Body Mass Index and its accuracy always comes up. Models’ BMI are on average 16 which is considered thin but that doesn’t mean it’s mutually exclusive to healthiness.
Samuel: Bodies are bodies. Look at Lexi Boling, she’s naturally thin but she eats and I’ve seen her eat! Some girls are just blessed to have a “model” body and metabolism. I have 4 sisters so there’s just always this sensitivity to understand that these are young girls in a really susceptible environment. I had a case last season with a girl that we were booking on every show and I loved her I wanted her to do everything with us but she came into a casting and it had now crossed the line. The fashion month is beyond exhausting for these girls, so I think it’s always about remembering that we’re working in a human field and we need to take care of them.
Do you think that seeing that girls younger than 16 might not be the proper?
Samuel: My reaction is that I think 16 makes sense. Yes, age is just a number. We’re even seeing girls today who are 29 or 30 and I think that’s great. For me to use somebody under 16 I want to see and feel confident that there is a support system in place. The best example right now is Sofia Mechetner. She’s 14 or 15, but I happen to know how strict her management is about protecting her.
Piergiorgio: For some of the brands it’s a political thing. They say, “we need 2 Asians we need this…” When I see something like this, I turn and say this is not the way I work. If the girl is right, she’s right for the project. I think what has been done so far is right, now you see big girls blowing up like Lineisy (Montero), Binx (Walton), Ysaunny (Brito) or these new girls Aamito, Dilone, Karly Loyce – there is like a new generation. Now like, Lineisy is like gorgeous and Dilone is amazing. Her personality is beyond! She loves it, she’s having fun… So, yeah there can be political problems sometimes but it’s always about finding the right one and matching her for the right project. Some brands have diversity in their DNA already and some brands you have to develop it. It’s not going to take one season, it’s going to take probably a few seasons.
You guys clearly work with brands that are luxury focused. So, do you ever have to persuade designers to understand it’s okay to have this girl or guy in your lineup and that they have the potential to fit within their brand identity?
Samuel: For some of our brands that without mentioning specific names, they’ll use one race as a statement which also is perceived as negative. I think it’s just always having an honest dialogue. We can also step away from a show but it’s just trying to be as conscious as possible.
Piergiorgio: Totally agree. You need to have the right one and to support them. Yeah there can be some prejudice but it’s the world, everybody is different. You can’t help it.
Samuel: It’s 90% the latter. That’s the truth. A photographer says “this is what we’re doing” and then that’s what we do.
Piergiorgio: Yeah, that’s mostly true. But I’ve been lucky to have consistent collaborators who value my opinion and ask for my input and casting vision for their projects. My first Vogue was Vogue Japan with Anna Dello Russo. Over time, Anna increasingly involved me in the magazine and valued my ideas for each issue’s casting. I like casting stories I am involved with- the Luigi & Iango Vogue Japan supermodel cover stands out as a personal favorite.
That was a moment!
Piergiorgio: We put together Stephanie Seymour, Naomi Campbell, Nadja Auermann, Claudia Schiffer, Linda, all of them! It was such a stressful job, but the images are legendary. When I become a grandfather I will look at these images and know I was a part of it and not only booking that. We brought back Nadja and that was her first big job in ages… that was amazing.
How did you get her? How did you convince her?
Piergiorgio: I went to one of her agencies and that agent told me no. But because I’m very stubborn I didn’t give up and I went to her second agency and they told me no, we lost contact with her. So, I found an old booker of hers and I convinced him to email her. She said, “oh nobody ever reached out to me about this project and yes I’m happy to do it” and then she did it!
That new flux of talent, it seems that it goes hand in hand. You want it but you kind of don’t want it.
Piergiorgio: Maybe I’m wrong but maybe if the business wants a change of faces every season we should change the name and call it “street casting” so that way I can just go in the subway, find an amazing girl who has some interesting features and she can carry clothes for one day and then you put her in the show and then after the season she goes back to NYU. I don’t like working with models like this… you don’t book an exclusive and then forget her the season after. It doesn’t mean anything. You have a page for “Legends” and “Icons”. If we keep going like this, who are you going to put on that page in 10 years?
Piergiorgio: You need to believe in this business. If you don’t, you are unlikely to succeed. People want to work with people who care about this industry.
Samuel: Believe it and also respect it! I think the best models are the ones who know this. Look at Anna Cleveland for example, she lives and breathes fashion and that’s why she’s become a great model.
What do you like to do outside of your job? Is there anything you’re deeply passionate about outside of fashion?
Piergiorgio: Right now everything for me is about balance- professional and personal, work and play. It’s a challenge in what I do but I’m working hard to create the balance.
Is that kind of your plan for the next 5 years? How do you see yourself progressing in your business to a level that you want to be.
Samuel: I’d say so. We want to grow and and expand but in a sustainable way. Right now, between the three of us, we are available around the clock, 24/7. We love what we do but there’s a lot of other things to enjoy.
Piergiorgio: Yeah I’m really trying to enjoy the ride-both the ups and downs. Where I am now is really unexpected from where I started and I am proud of myself. There is a lot to celebrate, but still plenty more to accomplish..