LA Market Report: The Powerhouse/LA Models Pt.2

MDC’s Wayne Sterling interviews LA Models President Heinz Holba – [continued from page 1]

WS: It must have been pretty interesting to have first ventured into LA as modeling market 20 years ago.
HH: I felt there was a tremendous opportunity in Los Angeles and noticed fashion was taking a backseat to Hollywood and the entertainment industry, when in fact they are very connected as the whole world watches what celebrities are wearing and what trends and styles they are following. Also, in my opinion the art of cinematography and film has a connection to the art of photography, styling and the creative aspects of fashion in many ways. This synergy connects the two fields in many ways.
Both are forever evolving and changing in a fascinating way.

WS: You’ve obviously mastered the difficult art of diversification for LA Models. Is that the necessary template for survival here?
HH: There are plenty of fashion agencies in Los Angeles, many doing very well by representing only men or only women or children. Diversification is very important for L.A. Models because it allows us to better service our clients, locally, domestically and internationally. It is also a business of connections, relationships and information, the more we have of this the better we can serve our models. Since we are an aggressive agency in terms of seeking out new clients as well as maintaining strong relationships with our current clients we feel that we must always find and have the strongest models in each of our respective divisions. Also because of how the industry has changed now with technology (email, on-line services, economic globalization, etc), we don’t find really any limitations or difficulties to deal with clients, irrespective of their geographic location or market.

WS: Well speaking of synergy, does the modeling industry in LA suffer from being the runner-up to the movie, television and music industry?
HH: L.A. Models and agencies in general here aren’t really hampered by the movie, television and music industries. There might be some crossover in terms of models who also are actors, singer, etc, but their isn’t really any crossover issues with clients between the modeling and fashion world and the others. If anything, we do benefit from the movie industry, as L.A. is the place for anyone to be if they’re interested in pursuing an acting or entertainment career, including new talent that we could find and develop as models. The dream of “Hollywoodâ€? has been bringing beautiful people to this part of the world since the 1920’s. New arrivals come every day straight off the bus, train, plane…. What other markets have this allure, such a pool of creative talent and can boast so many “topâ€? and “supermodelsâ€? that wind up either spending extended periods of time or relocating here permanently for the purpose of establishing an acting career?

WS: How much do celebrities figure into the future equation of LA Models?
HH: Celebrities don’t really factor that much in our current business “equation� directly on a day-to-day basis. We have cases where some of our multi-threat models might transition from a working model to more of a working actor. Our current roster currently has a few models that are currently in this transition, which we keep for more specialized print jobs (advertising, etc). Of course it can be said that the industry on a whole has seen more actors willing to accept advertising print/TV and endorsement deals, such as Gwyneth for Estee Lauder, Kiera Knightley for Asprey, Scarlett Johanssen for Calvin Klein, Demi Moore and Halle Berry for Versace, Nicole Kidman for Chanel, Uma Thurman for Louis Vitton, Adrian Brody for Ermenegildo Zegna etc.
This visibility for high-end fashion products obviously helps them stay in the mind of the public and validates the power of the fashion industry. There is also such a marked interest by magazines (general and fashion focused publications) to give covers to a celebrity over just a model, or even a “supermodel�. I think it’s due partially to a significant increase in interest our society and the consumer market has with all kinds of celebrity and fame. Some have said this new level of fascination is bordering on an “unhealthy� obsession. Personally I feel celebrities will never take the positions of models and feel flattered by the validation.

WS: Who are some of the defining models right now at LA Models?
HH: Some of our “definingâ€? models that we’ve found, developed and jump started their careers from both New Faces and the Women’s Division –
New Faces -Aleksandra Rastovic, Atong Arjok, Christine Brinkly, Sharina Gutierrez, Jessica Shelton, Elsa Dieterle, Chanel Celaya, Lena Bedoyan, Tesla Collins
Women’s Division – Catrina Stella, Natalia Bogdanova, Ira Bezrukova, Aleksandra Pavlenok, Lenka Gubikova, Petra Kyselova (brunette Petra), Petra Kyzlikova (blonde Petra), Yaya, Bao Hoa.
Note these Names are only current ones and no New York found or based Models are mixed in, as other LA Agencies often do to enhance their local status. Of course we have access to all the up and coming New York Model Management Models, which would be a whole other list.

WS: So what is the local model aesthetic? Is it California girls and the athletic surf and skate dudes?
HH: It’s a bit of a misconception that L.A. is full of California blondes and surfer/skate dudes that are not only good looking but meet the physical requirements to model. There are a lot of both types of girls and boys but most aren’t tall enough or strong enough to work as print models. Then there’s the benefit of the “Hollywood� factor to bring us new potential models everyday to come here for acting. (Or their Parents came here for the same reason) Also as mentioned earlier, we have such a broad range of clients that look for all types of models with all looks, thus we tend to scout not just locally, but also pursue models all over the U.S. and also internationally.

WS: Which types of clients drive LA financially as a market? What sort of models are they looking for?
HH: The local clients here in L.A. and the West Coast range form department stores such as Macy’s West, Nordstrom, clothing companies such as Gap, Roxy/Quicksilver, but we also deal with clients anywhere we can find them. Our bookings tend to be split evenly between local clients and out of town/international clients. Thus one of our primary goals is to seek out models of all types where ever in the world they can be found. Another great draw is that we have such amazing locations, meaning you can go to the desert, beaches, mountains, ski areas, specific locations as Palm Springs, Las Vegas, L.A./Hollywood/Venice Beach all within a few hours drive from the center of town. For this reason we’ve seen more photographers either spending more time in L.A., booking more trips and productions or even relocating or purchasing a second home/studio. Here is a brief list of publications that shoot here regularly or have just begun to shoot here are – Vogue (U.S., Paris, British, Italian, Nippon), Elle (U.S., French, Italian), V, I-d, Dazed and Confused, Purple, Fjords, Surface.

WS: With those clients coming in, do you feel that there has been an increase or upgrade in the amount and quality of work coming to LA these days?
HH: There has been a major increase and upgrade in the past 5-8 years from what our market and client base was before, which was mainly local more commercial print and editorial to our increase now with all types of print clients, based both domestically and internationally. Not only have we increased our bookings with these out of town-based clients, but it goes the same for editorial publications as well. We’ve also had some great new clients that have grown and developed here locally just recently, such as Roxy/Quicksilver, Gap, Nordstrom, but we have great new publications that have gotten stronger and better through the years such as Surface, Soma, and Flaunt.

WS: So finally, what is your dream scenario for the idea of fashion in LA?
HH: The ideal “dream fashion� scenario for us as an agency would include the following –
1.To continue to find and develop the best new models, either based locally, domestically or internationally.
2.To aggressively search and start working relationships with new clients, irrespective of where their geographic location is.
3.To continue to provide the best service and models to our current clients, quality always over quantity and with a harmonious balance between art and commerce.
4.To facilitate the transition into the entertainment field for those models that have the talent, ambition and drive required to make this move successfully like so many Hollywood stars have done in the past. The Casting Studios and Artists Agency owned by us and in our building are an example of the relationships, information and connections available to help those models.

The ideal “dream� fashion scenario for our market here on the West Coast would be-
1. For the clients here in L.A to continue their strong growth that we’ve had recently, for new clients to develop in our market and for more out of town clients to shoot more in L.A. as well as being open to confirming models from L.A. agencies for direct print, advertising and editorial booking trips shooting on trips or in the client’s base city.
2. For our “Fashion Week� to continue to strengthen every season, with both strong and amazing clients showing and for better clients and editors from out of town to attend and to eventually get the same respect the New York or European Shows get.
3.For more of our clients and peers to understand how much growth and dynamic change has occurred in L.A. so we can dispel the myth that L.A. agencies and the modeling market here is very commercial, very catalog, very small and provincial, where only commercial looking “poster type” models can work.