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Commercial Print

If this industry were a movie, editorial fashion modeling highlights the leading men and leading woman: the "stars" of the business so to speak. The commercial print model fits into the picture as essentially, a character type.

Pt 1.

The commercial print model is The Girl Next Door in that ad for Kodak film. The commercial model is The Mom in the Skippy's peanut butter in Redbook magazine. It's the tattooed B-Boy in that Pepsi ad on the subway platform. In many ways, a successful commercial print model is an idealized version of a "type". Your anonymity becomes, in its own way, your selling point because then the product takes precedence.

And as is clear from those examples, commercial print modeling involves a wide range of looks, heights, ages, body types and ethnicities. Typical clients will request a very specific ideal of what they're looking for. On one day, "Japanese male and female in their late 20s to early 30s, regular, good looking, hip." On another day they might only give a generalized outline "White Male, 40s".

Because diversity is the ideal, a commercial print agency will try to have as many of these types as it can reasonably stock on its modeling board. What that means is, two different models at a commercial print model may very well be a universe apart in terms of looks and age. This is unlike the board of an editorial or commercial fashion agency where the models have a high degree of similarity in terms of looks and body type.

Examples of commercial print modeling advertisements

Unlike an editorial or commercial fashion agency, there is not a huge focus on recruiting and developing models on an international or even national level. Residence near the key local markets for commercial print modeling (New York, Chicago, Miami and LA) is a big plus when a commercial print agency recruits potential models.

Given the vast number of these clients and products in our everyday life, commercial print modeling does involve a significant volume of work. That volume, however does not necessarily stream through a specific commercial print agency in the concentrated way it would through an editorial agency.

Very few commercial print models make an exclusive living from this market. Since it is a job that requires daytime go-sees and castings, a high number of people like actors, waiters and bartenders as well as retired individuals gravitate towards commercial print modeling as a way of supplementing their income.

Another point of interest concerning this field is that it is not uncommon for commercial print models to "freelance" with more than one agency. The time and cost intensive process that is devoted to marketing a new editorial model, is not reproduced in the marketing of a commercial print model. Thus the "exclusive contract" is not as common in this field.

Commercial Fashion
In every large "editorial" agency, usually on the other side of the booking board (or in some cases in a separate room) will be the comp cards of a certain kind of model, that we will label here, as commercial fashion models. These are the faces that you see in department store ads and catalogues, cigarette and liquor campaigns, ads for swimsuit, lingerie and for bridal-wear.

The irony is, these models are often times physically indistinguishable from their editorial sisters. They may be as tall, as thin and as beautiful. Or they very well may be closer to a more approachable, girl next-door ideal especially if they are targeted towards the increasingly lucrative teen market.

Commercial fashion models, while they may not date Hollywood stars to worldwide fascination, in essence carry their agencies financially. The market need that these models fulfill is formidable indeed and represent the bread and butter bottom line of the industry. It is where the agency lingo "money job" and "money girls" stems from.

A commercial fashion model can very well be a former editorial model who has been bumped over to this lucrative market. And the commercial fashion model may in fact make far more money than her editorial counterpart since a lot of very prestigious "editorial" jobs will pay only a few thousand dollars for a campaign exclusive.

Examples of commercial fashion modeling advertisements

In fact, among a cluster of boutique editorial agencies in New York, an interesting trend is evolving where models who were thought of as being exclusively ultra-editorial, are now actively pursuing more middle-of-the-road clients. Thus a Vogue cover girl can also shoot Express campaigns and do the Victoria's Secret show, a scenario that just two years ago would have been considered disastrously down market.

Conversely, a commercial fashion model may be moved with a bit of skill and reinvention into the high-end editorial category if a believing agent and a entranced client seek to take the model in that direction. Quite a few of the top editorial models of the moment have had such a fate.

A lot of smaller, lesser known agencies nationwide also make commercial fashion modeling their bread and butter since outside of NY, LA and Miami, the pool of high-end clients is severely limited. Signing with a local agency, for the most part means your career will be tracked in the "commercial" direction. The point is the borders for a commercial fashion model are pretty fluid. A commercial fashion model may be requested for the same casting as a commercial print model, for say a Prell shampoo print campaign targeted for teen publications.

Plus Size
Despite the folding of one of its most visible aspects, Mode magazine, plus size modeling is a field that is currently surging. It is almost as if frustrated with the fashion industry's reluctance to address its needs, full figured women have taken steps to forge a viable market of their own.

From magazines like BBW to Curvy, to catalogs that feature plus-size looks and fashion lines like Lane Bryant and Elisabeth by Liz Claiborne, more and more full sized women are demanding and getting better consumer options.
Thus plus-size modeling has evolved into a lucrative market with major agencies like Wilhelmina (via its Ten/20 division) and Ford Models doing quite well in this field. There is a significant cluster of agencies that specialize in plus modeling, or have plus modeling divisions in New York, California, Florida, Illinois and Georgia.

Plus size models range in height between 5' 7" and 6', though with local markets, models at 5' 6" and less have some negotiating power. Plus size models tend to range from a size 10 to a size 18 though most of the conventional "editorial" plus size market settles in the range between a 10 and a 16. Again, local markets will entertain models who are size 16 and up but there is still a tendency for the plus size industry to highlight the smaller sizes, with the 14's getting a lion's share of the work.

Plus size modeling (from left to right, from the Elisabeth/Liz Claiborne catalogue, the catalogue, the Audradella Intimate Apparel catalogue)

The plus size market is also strict in terms of what it demands of its models. A size 14 still has to be toned, which means a model with very little cellulite is the ideal. And of course, height needs to be proportionate with weight. Just as in high fashion editorial modeling, clothing samples come in fixed sizes and the conventional wisdom is the model fits the clothes, not the other way around.

The prime age range for plus size models is between the ages of 22-35 but there is a small but emerging market for teen plus-size models.

A lot of men, when they aspire to models, presume that one of the first calls of duty is to "bulk up". How surprising is it for them to find that most editorial and commercial fashion modeling requires them to fit a size 40 suit. Fitness models embody a more athletic, muscular ideal than the conventional fashion model. Fitness models specialize in promoting products relevant to the universe of fitness and health.

This ranges for items like nutritional supplements, to aerobics wear to gym equipment. The explosive growth of magazines like Men's Health and Shape have vastly expanded the market for this type of model as more and more Americans embrace the cult of the weekend athlete.

Fitness modeling ads, not just for Mr.Universe

Logically therefore, fitness modeling is also a market populated by a high number of athletes, bodybuilders and personal trainers who view it as a great way of supplementing their income. There are very few models who make a lucrative and exclusive living via the fitness market. Agencies like The Lyon's Group in New York has done a very good job of emerging as a market leader in the field.

Although this market does skew predominantly towards men, there is a respectable demand for female fitness models, especially focused around the field of aerobics, which is a boom industry, in and of itself.

Again, the principle of overlap still rings true, as it is perfectly conceivable that a commercial print agency will get a request for a "bodybuilder" type. There is no hard and fast rule as what a fitness model's proportions should be. Runner's Magazine might request a very lean, very toned body type, which would not be appropriate for Muscle & Fitness magazine. The question of overall conditioning takes precedence over questions of height and weight.

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In our next Installment, An overview on:

  • Children's modeling
  • Television Commercial modeling
  • Glamour modeling

Special thanks to Roger/RandL, Betty Sze and the MDC Modeling Forum family for their invaluable help in researching this article.
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