Posted by Irene Ojo-Felix | April 27th, 2017

The Industry’s Triumvirate

When Faith Kates decided in 1989 to start her own modeling agency, Next Model Management, she was adamant that bigger wasn’t always better. Her merger with Joel Wilkenfeld in the early nineties continued that legacy of targeted representation and for nearly 3 decades, Next has stacked its ranks with some of the most prestigious names in the fashion industry. Monikers like Abbey Lee, Arizona, Binx, Grace, Karmen, Lineisy, and Lucky have looked to the agency to transform them from relative newcomers to the in-demand faces of today. Since those beginning stages, it has extended itself past small boutique aspirations to become an agency that fêtes rather than flees from social media stars. Dropping the “model” moniker in 2009, the global powerhouse was on the forefront of the digital wave, expanding its roster to represent creative artists and influencers alike with the acquirement of TwoTwelve Management, Artist Management, and Métier Creative. We sat down with partners, Faith and Joel, and president of the New York division, Kyle Hagler, to talk about their legacy in modeling and the next digital frontier of fashion and entertainment.

Interview and text by Irene Ojo-Felix
Images courtesy of Next New York

LEFT: PROENZA SCHOULER F/W 16 BY ZOE GHERTNER | RIGHT: CELINE S/S 16 BY JUERGEN TELLER

My first question is how did you two, Faith and Joel, found the agency? Where were you before and what peaked your interest in repping models?

Joel: Well I started with Spectrum, which was a modeling agency in ‘89. Before that I was with Dan Brennan and Associates, which was a creative agency that represented photographers, hair and makeup artists. We then started Spectrum, and Spectrum came together with Next in ‘92.

What was the incentive for you guys in joining forces?

Faith: Well, we were two small boutique agencies and there weren’t very many modeling agencies at the time. I came from Wilhelmina and there were really three agencies; Wilhelmina, Ford, and Elite. When I started Next, I started with thirteen girls and what was needed was more of a management company. All of the other agencies were representing hundreds of girls and they weren’t doing a great job. So, we thought we could represent a small amount of girls and do better. We did that for many, many years and even when we brought Spectrum together we thought that would be the best way to grow the business.

So you obviously started and founded it in New York. When did the idea of starting other outposts in London, Milan, Miami, and more come about?

Faith: Miami was the next market that we opened. We opened there in ‘93, I think because so many of our clients were shooting in Miami. I remember going down the first time and sleeping in a hotel and it was like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. It was so scary you couldn’t even take your shoes off in the rooms! It became the second biggest commercial market outside New York for a very long time.

Joel: It became the winter location.

Makes sense, instead of having to go across the whole country to Los Angeles. And the European market, when did that first evolve?

Faith: We opened in London first. I can’t remember the exact date but it was a significantly long time ago. We needed an European outlet and we felt like London was the most like America. It was the easiest country to do business in and they had all of those high street brands, so many magazines for editorials. It was a great place to send girls to get them working.

LEFT: SAINT LAURENT #04 BY COLLIER SCHORR | RIGHT: VALENTINO S/S 17 BY DAVID SIMS
And who were some of the first girls who really started gaining momentum and hitting it big?

Faith: There’s Yasmeen Ghauri, Nadège (du Bospertus), Beverly Peele. That was the first wave of girls that were here.

How was it once you started getting that momentum? Did you then realize you had the opportunity to expand girls into other markets?

Faith: Because we didn’t have Paris and we didn’t have Italy, we had to give those girls to other agencies in those countries. They didn’t always have the same ideas as the agents here had. You know, you might have a job in Paris for Chanel, a job here for Calvin Klein and you had to figure out which to do. The girls used to get pulled in the middle, because everyone had their own interests. Here we were under one roof, everybody had the same interest.

Joel: And the last piece of the puzzle was opening in Milan. Which really formed the network and …

Faith: It closed the circle.

COURTESY OF NEXT MODELS

You could finally say Next Worldwide.

Faith: Right! If one person says blue, everyone has to say blue. What would happen is you had these girls with the other agencies and they weren’t on the same page as you and the girls would start getting confused.

Kyle: And the consumers lose sight of the way. If in one market you’re selling her as “x”, and in another you’re selling her as “y”, obviously there are no real borders. So people just kind of look at you sideways and go “what are you really doing” because it’s the same talent. In different markets she can be prestigious in one but not prestigious in the other. It doesn’t make sense and in the end, you end up killing her career because people don’t feel that there’s any focus and direction being given and taken on at a time.

So having that continuity across all markets, how is it even possible to make sure that everyone is on the same page globally?

Faith: We have very good managers and directors in each place. I mean it’s all about conversation. Everything is conversation. You can’t just be an island on your own. Everybody reports to the same people. So it works much better.

Since you’ve started almost 30 years ago, what are some of the biggest changes you have noticed throughout the years in the fashion industry?

Faith: Well, it looks nothing like it looked 20-30 years ago. Not even remotely. There’s nothing the same. The business, I would say in the last five years, changed the most.

“It’s also on the brands; the designers, the photographers, the stylists to actually do the same. It does take a village to raise a super star.”

What do you think brought that change on?

Faith: Read James Scully’s article! It’s true you know. We work very hard here to build the careers of models. These kids come from all over the world. We try not to start them too young and many of them are the sole source of income for their entire families.

Joel: And also, I’ll just say one thing. Girls want to start too young and they’re not ready. It’s like not even graduating high school and then skipping everything to be a senior in college. How are you going to do it? Everybody wants new new new. They don’t want to wait. They just want to throw it in and see what works.

Faith: The casting directors are only as good as the last girl they had and what they keep doing is cycling girls into a business that they are not ready for. These girls are still in school, they’re teenagers, their bodies are changing, then by the time they’re ready to go…nobody wants them anymore. That stinks. That’s why most of the girls don’t develop these long term careers like we used to have.

Kyle: The whole idea is that in any career it takes a developmental process before you get to a point where you can actually operate at full capacity. You cannot start the business and then run the company day 2. All of the girls that we see as top models or supermodels as they say, are models that have had experience with photographers, stylists, art directors and magazine editors over time. They understand how they can best move, how to service a customer, how to make people feel inspired. It’s also on the brands; the designers, the photographers, the stylists to actually do the same. It does take a village to raise a super star.

What you guys are kind of alluding to, is that the pace is very much a monster, in a sense. When you talk about photographers, is it as much their responsibility as the casting directors or designers? You could argue that they’re as much a slave to brands as the model.

Kyle: I think fashion in general is a fickle business. It always has been, always will be. That said, I think sometimes we as a community have to understand that it’s not just about finding new beings, it’s also about finding the newness in beings. We all can become different beings, we can present differently, we can invigorate the conversation, it’s just all in how you position people.

PRADA F/W 15 BY STEVEN MEISEL

Are there muses now in fashion as much as before when designers picked girls and used them constantly?

Kyle: There are, there definitely are. I think it’s on designers and the community of fashion to inspire these girls to be inspirational. You know you think about someone like Anna Cleveland, who is Pat Cleveland’s daughter. If you want to see her scared in a photograph, she might fall off the side of the building, land broken on the ground, and look up and be like “did we get the shot?” It is a real talent of being a model, it’s not just showing up and being beautiful. It’s actually communicating with people and taking them to a place they’ve never been before, through still imagery. But muses yes, there are definitely muses. You think about Grace Hartzel who was a muse for Hedi Slimane for years. Binx Walton has been a muse for Alexander Wang. These women inspire a brand and build out clothing lines and sell lifestyles that are inherently representative of those girls. It happens still, but the question I think we were debating was whether it happens as often, and whether we were encouraging or discouraging that and that’s a separate conversation.

In terms of diversity I feel that is it very important to make sure every woman is represented in an aspirational way. Are we there yet? No. Have we seen strides since the conversation started by Bethann Hardison in 2007? Absolutely. We’ve seen more women of color representing brands, we’ve also seen not only just in terms of race. I think about when Lineisy Montero started and that conversation that came about from that, in terms of the diversity of being. It wasn’t just the black, the white, the asian, hispanic conversation, it was about diversity of women, and how they present themselves. The season before Lineisy, you saw all these models walking down in the show, all made to look alike in one show. Same hair, same makeup, same everything. Problem is when you look at the still images from the show, not everybody looks good because it’s not really all of their thing. After Lineisy, you see someone with curly hair, you see somebody else with slicked back hair, you see somebody with an afro. And it’s meant to show that even in one design house all of these women can wear one type of clothes and still be incredible. So it is about diversity, it’s about racial diversity, size diversity and just general image diversity. Short hair, long hair, curly hair, dark hair, blonde hair, all of those things matter and that’s what makes fashion interesting.

Faith: I think also when everybody looked the same a lot of the brands got push back. The consumer was like “I don’t want to look like that”. But anybody could look like Lineisy on your street, or you could have a friend who looks like that. People related more to that.

“After Lineisy, you see someone with curly hair, you see somebody else with slicked back hair, you see somebody with an afro. And it’s meant to show that even in one design house all of these women can wear one type of clothes and still be incredible. So it is about diversity, it’s about racial diversity, size diversity and just general image diversity.”

How easy is it to find a viable pool and make sure that your board represents everything? Is that something that you guys inherently set out to do?

Joel: We have a huge scouting and development network, which is something that we really pride ourselves on. At the end of the day, we’re scouting for a girl that fits in with Next. Now, what is a Next girl? It’s a girl or boy that has the ability to go the distance, and not just bringing another face in just to have that face. There’s no mold that we look at and say, but we know what we want to find, what we want to develop.

How do you know when they’re ready?

Kyle: A lot of our job is kind of two-fold. One is getting the model to the place where she is confident enough to take on this mammoth industry.

Joel: Success brings confidence, confidence brings success. So it goes hand in hand but if you’re gonna throw somebody in before they are ready, then they are going to sink. You have to get them to a point. It’s like a parent saying “now we’re gonna push you into the pool.” You might fall! You might scrape your knee a little bit, but we’re gonna be there to help and that’s the difference. Hopefully, once given that opportunity, the talent grabs it and doesn’t throw it away.

You guys are constantly referring the girls or guys as talent. You really look at them in a multifaceted realm. How did the Next Talent board evolve, and what lead you to want to represent entertainers, influencers, and models crossovers?

Faith: As far as models goes, you don’t want to keep them in a box. You want them to be able to spread their wings.

COURTESY OF NEXT MODELS

It’s a unique standpoint. You know some people that think, “Models, just let them be mannequins.”

Joel: Well, you’re talented, so let them show their talent. Otherwise everyone would be a model!

Kyle: Living in the world of fashion you experience so many other things because it is the collision of all pop cultures. So, the possibilities are endless, you can be anything you want to be and move in and out of different worlds through the experience in fashion. So to limit somebody to just one job description in a world that’s not about that anymore…

Faith: I mean look at somebody like Langley Fox, right? She’s an incredible artist. So if we said to her “we only want you to be a model and stand in front of the camera,” it would be quite boring for her. Now she’s able to do collaborations with different brands. She’s able to do that as an artist, and she’s a really amazing artist. And we have a lot of kids like that. We have a lot of girls who were first models and then they became something else.

Kyle: Anais Mail is into design and she designs bodysuits. You know that is a passion of hers and very much her thing.

Faith: But if she wasn’t a model, it probably wouldn’t happen.

Kyle: Exposure through wearing clothes and understanding how the business of fashion and how it works helps tremendously. Riley (Montana) is a singer, that’s something that we unearthed on our own. She’s hyper talented in that respect. Then there’s Jane Moseley who’s a fine young artist and Myla Dalbesio same story. She’s a model but she’s also a fine artist and does performance works, paintings, and collages.

Faith: …and Les Twins with their dancing.

“Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were going, and we said ‘you know what, there’s platform for all of these people’ and you don’t have to be 5’9” and blonde and weigh 3 pounds, you could be who you are, and you could have an opinion.”

How did you find that it was a beneficial way to connect these influencers, these entertainers with the fashion side? What comes out of the partnership as far as you representing them in that way?

Faith: The first group we acquired were chefs, which was about six years ago. We looked at the chefs as the guys wearing white uniforms and always in the kitchen with an apron. And then all of a sudden, they became bigger stars than anyone because they all lined up on this television platform where you had guys like a Mario Batali who were guys that you never would have seen anywhere other than the kitchen. Michael Symon who is number three in the world right now for daytime television, after Oprah and someone else. He’s an ordinary guy from Cleveland.

Joel: They became rock stars.

Faith: Then with the influencers, we saw that there was more to this. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were really going, and we said “you know what, there’s a platform for all of these people.” and you don’t have to be 5’9”, blonde, and weigh 3 pounds, you could be who you are, and you could have an opinion. We really birthed (the influencer market).

One of my favorite shows that I just started watching is Chef’s Table, and it put really into perspective what you describe; chefs becoming rockstars in their own light within the New York City market. What was the interest as far as you guys combining with Two Twelve.

Faith: I think we thought, and we still think, that the chef market is huge. Everybody eats, right? So, we thought this would be a great platform to expand from, and it was. Scott Feldman, who is our partner in Two Twelve, had the same vision. He had been representing a bunch of chefs on his own, and came to us and said, “you know, you guys have opportunities that I would never get”. So we helped them get chefs in magazines, helped them get chefs in fashion ads.

Which leads to your investment in Métier Creative. Why did you think it was important to connect yourself with that company? Did you find that that was a new wave as far as influencers?

Faith: Absolutely. They were two very young girls with an amazing point of view (co-founders, Erin Kleinberg and Stacie Brockman). They started the Coveteur, which you know. I just felt like they had their female brand, and they know what’s the next thing. So, as great as partners in that business they’re also great people to talk to about things they know about, because they’re really in the game. Totally different. They’re not in the model world at all. They’re really in a different world, and now those two worlds are so interconnected. It just made a lot of sense.

Piggybacking off of that statement you made about influencers, how important do you think it is for a model to be an influencer as far as social media? As far as I’ve heard, ad agencies, when they’re thinking about a model they’re looking at her Instagram followers, a quantifiable number.

Faith: I remember many years ago doing a job for Cover Girl, and one of our girls was up for the job, and they asked, “well, how many followers does she have on Facebook” and I’m like what’s Facebook? I get it, that’s their contemporary, that’s who they’re speaking to.

BALENCIAGA S/S 17 BY HARLEY WEIR

Do you think that the new future is strictly digital?

Faith: My oldest child is 16 and I don’t think they’ve ever read a magazine.

Kyle: It’s the present. I don’t even know if we know the future. I think it’s a little archaic for us to say now that digital is the future when our whole existence is really dominated by digital communication. Most of the things that you want are online and the ease and convenience of doing it. You don’t have to stand in line anymore, you’re basically pitched through marketing. Like how brands say “it’s just social media” “it’s just digital marketing”. Where it’s seen as the secondary but it’s the main source.

I think that advertisers buy ad space in certain magazines now because they feel obliged and they need something from that company, but everything is digital, and there is much more of an emphasis on having an influencer, model, or a celebrity talk about their brand online because of the reach.

Kyle: The book and the magazine is really for the ad guys to say “look what I did today”. It’s not about eyeballs, it’s about positioning and people justifying their position in advertising agencies and brands. But it’s all the digital stuff – the social media pushes, the online advertising. All of those things are the things that really move the business. You see it as major magazines now have huge infrastructures around digital. The flow of information is exponentially more and the exposure to things is huge. Whereas in a magazine, it’s a finite number of things..

Faith: I also think that, in the last three months, the numbers that have been coming in, more people get their news from Facebook and Twitter than anywhere in the world. You know at Women’s Wear Daily, when that physical newspaper ended I was like, “oh my god, this is so depressing!” But now it’s so much easier as I’ll go online, I read it, I know what my day is going to be like. What’s better than a google alert about one of your clients, right? All of a sudden, you set it up and you know what your client is doing.

The book and the magazine is really for the ad guys to say “look what I did today”. It’s not about eyeballs, it’s about positioning, and people justifying their position in advertising agencies and brands. But it’s all the digital stuff – the social media pushes, the online advertising. All of those things are the things that really move the business.

What’s the long game for Next? How do you make the next 20 years just as fruitful?

Joel: Staying ahead of the pace, understanding and trying to anticipate what is going to be next. You’re not going to always get it right and if you think the world is going to change around you, it’s not. You have to change. You gotta be willing to change.

Kyle: I could say this working as the president for two amazing owners; they’re vested in their business. You’ve seen them in the throws of their business. They’re not in some glass tower, not doing the work. They’re very much vested in who the new people are, what’s going on, keeping their ear to the ground, working constantly, creating new integrations for the talent. That’s what the team at Next, globally does. You had asked the question about how internationally it works. You also have aggressive, excited people on top of the business really doing the work. I think that is what our brand is about, I think that’s what’s gonna keep us alive, regardless of our experience and our accolades or whatever, always being invested in how this business moves, always knowing what the new thing is before anybody can know what the new thing is.

COURTESY OF NEXT MODELS

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13 Comments to “The Industry’s Triumvirate”

  1. Sam says:

    Hi Kyle, Faith, Joel,

    It’s was a very interesting read and I’m a big fan of the agency and your roster. We book your girls all the time 😉

    I have a few questions.

    If you all, top executives agree that digital and social media is A THING right now why it’s still hard to get great girls for digital or online platforms from your agency? Why most of the agents has this old school, narrow-minded vision that doesn’t even work anymore? I mean, do they even buy magazines themselves? Ok, you send your assistants to buy magazines so models can have pictures from them in their books, thats it.

    We ask for specific girls for amazing online publications and all the time we hear this: ‘Oh, it’s not print, I’m sorry, she won’t be available then.’

    Maybe you guys need to send your booking table to seminars about digital era so they won’t act like they stuck in 1995.

    Pretty much all modeling agencies need a big reboot, otherwise a lot of them will be out of business in a few years with this kind of failing mentality.

    Unfortunately (for the agencies), the days of ridiculously big rates for models are over and challenges for the are just about to begin (even if you all guys already struggle to meet your year budgets). Only those who are smart and strategic about what is relevant at this very moment + will be relevant 5 years from now (hint: digital only) will survive.

    Thank you for your time.

    Sam, top casting director assistant.

    • Nancy says:

      Stumbled upon this blog. As someone who works as a market analyst, fashion print is not dead. Sales for fashion print magazines have stabilized in the past 15 years (plateaued). Ad revenues for certain fashion magazines have increased. News magazines have taken a big hit with the digital era.
      In general, digital media is only a very small percentage of media consumption. It feels greater than it is because it is self-centric and habitual for some people.
      It may come down to one defining factor. Fashion isn’t just about ideas like news. Fashion, including fashion photography, is *tactile* which is why the physical representation of it will never cease to exist.

  2. double m-by miguel says:

    Nàdege du Bospertus in 1990 she was with Eileen Ford?

  3. Klass says:

    I am frustrated with fashion right now as it seems to be lost with the # of followers a talent has. I represent great faces at Klass Models like (Marco Del Bello, Evan Vadnai; Keya Wings, Sydney Upright) that am told too cute by Next and some other agenies without talking to them.I’ve tried to bring on faces that will always be in fashion; to only be told they are not right at the moment. It sucks because no one understand how hard these talents work.So when Next mention longetivity, am a bit confused?

  4. double m-by miguel says:

    Elsa Beníted (second row Vogue Italia in green) was in the semi-finals of “Supermodel of the world” 1992 of Ford, where she started her career, and then she continued in Elite.?

  5. Chistopher Krile says:

    Incredible article. I love NEXT, the team and the fact that they aren’t a factory and are just picking up every anyone based on their followers. It should be about talent, proper management and consistent development. The word influencer is over rated and over used considering most of these so called influencers aren’t influencing anything besides the fact that the majority of them buy followers. I hope that this article resongates with the fashion industry.  I really hope that Mr. James Scully helps by making sure that every model is properly cast so they aren’t just used and disposable.

  6. Irvin Lubric says:

    NEXT lets bring fashion back to how things use to be. Kudos to the NEXT family.

    Agencies need to be more selective, Agencies need to stop giving everyone who thinks they are a model based on followers a contract, everyone doesn’t wear garments properly on the RUNWAY that’s why it’s called RUNWAY models. Just because you can bounce a basketball doesn’t make you a basketball player, just because you can take your own temperature doesn’t make your a doctor.

    I really hope NEXT continues to be selective, a  leader and most importantly properly manage. I won’t mention names but one particular agency  has become a revolving factory for socialites, so called influencers and it’s diluting the fashion industry. Wake up casting directors, agents, managers, photographers and be honest and forthcoming and not waste the time, energy of these young men and women. Know your agency brand.

    It’s better to keep it tight, diversified, selective this way you don’t have models disappointed because you just signed another socialite based on his or her followers it’s honestly laughable and disappointing that some agencies have made that their focus and other talented models suffer as a consequence.

  7. paero123 says:

    Just wondering – if everything goes digital don’t you afraid that one day FB etc. will run some AI platform of virtual agent for talents/models/photographers/clients and makes your agents/bookers/managers unnecessary? 🙂

  8. Seth Sabal says:

    Kyle is a class act, having known him; I always got a sense that he sees deeper than the surface, he understands something that rarely people understand, “what works in fashion.” Kyle at the helm of Next in NY was the best move for the current and future next model management . I also believe something is clearly missing from the interview about the onset of the agency. (like another unmentioned partner in particular that was truly crucial to the success of next.) Incredible article and visionary team.

  9. Terry says:

    Let’s talk about the economical crash in 2008 and how fashion models were discarded. The fashion industry destroyed a lot of people. It’s actually nice to see smaller designers winning, because major fashion labels for so long have stolen ideas and put people under or out of business. There needs to be more ethics in fashion and not nepotism. The fashion industry is not respected anymore, because people don’t care about it as much. Every time they go get some diversity, they go right back to their racist ways before, when other ethnicities would buy more. Now that Americans know the truth, they know they don’t have to put up with it anymore. Fashion is not really that ahead. There are no unions for models. Let’s not fail to mention that NY always throws shade at LA, but are the first people to steal ideas…point in case Phlemuns. Shoutout to that team for not caring about NY at all and still rising. What fashion and the rest of the world has failed to learn is that you can’t keep taking more than you give. No wonder why fashion has lost so much. It is paying for the many people enslaved and mistreated. One gets nothing in return. The bounce back is not happening. Models certainly cannot be getting as much as the long gone “supermodels” nowadays. Dior on the west the most recent “excitement” was a travesty. How do you get Solange to perform then have such little diversity? With people like Jay Z with more money and REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE THAT ADDS UP TO COMMON SENSE, I hope to see these crusty people living in an unrealistic bubble like Trump get booted, so something new can happen FOR REAL…not just major brands using a clump of diverse people then going back to white. been there done that fashion. Get it together already for ONCE.

  10. Terry says:

    As for “Influencers”….Not everyone has star power. That’s where celebs originated. They make you feel something in person. You guys are jumping to “Influencers” and are giving out all of this money to them when many many many of those people have bought those followers and have not one ounce of talent or presence in person…. nor do they have an in depth knowledge about art in general. You guys will also see the demise of the influencers. Phylicia Rashad from the Cosby show said it best….” Things are going to have to get so weird that they have no choice but to go back to the way they were”.

  11. Terry says:

    Fashion used to run things. Now everyone else is telling fashion how they should be run. So strange. Actors have taken covers because the infrastructure is so much better & the money…while not the same is still substantial enough so actors don’t have to go out and get a bazillion jobs while their careers are on the rise. So many models don’t even get the respect they deserve because you will see a girl on a cover, but broke. It’s sad how beautiful women have been mistreated & in many ways preyed upon by so many people. Fashion should be protecting its’ models. Eileen and Her husband had it right. Rest their souls. Next has a great roster, but a lot of those girls are probably broken.

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