When you think of fashion in Boston, two words come to mind: Newbury Street.
We may not be the 'Big Apple' but we have many of the high-end boutiques, the small one-of-a-kind boutiques, the fashion photographers, modeling agencies and models. We too have a fashion week, where many of our own Boston-based fashion designers get to showcase their lines.
What makes us different than any other city? It's our sense of community. Because we are on a smaller scale than, say, New York, most people in the fashion business here all know one another. From the girls who work in make-up at the department stores who will also work on photo shoots, to the photo stylists who work either through an agency or independently, to the models and photographers themselves.
No place like home
Robert Casey, agency director of the 40-year-old ., has seen many a 5' 10" model go to New York, and return to Boston because of that sense of community.
I recently spoke with Layla Hosseini, a twenty something Maggie model, who had worked in Boston for about 10 years before heading off to New York where she was represented by Eileen Ford.
"When I went to New York, I missed all of my model friends whom I would see every day on castings in Boston. Hosseini said. "In New York, you walk in and every girl looks just like you. I stayed in New York for one year and then decided to come back. I missed my friends, my family and the relationships that I had built working as a model in the Boston market."
Kathy Ben Harris, an older model with Dynasty Models & Talent was very enthusiastic in our conversation. Ben Harris came into the modeling business later on in life. Children grown and out of the house, she wanted to try something that she had never done. Complimented by all for her stunning good looks and figure, Ben Harris is now doing an assortment of work in the commercial market including runway shows, background extra work in several of the films that come into Boston and corporate video work. She is thrilled with "all the opportunities that modeling has given her in the fashion industry".
Casey said, "You work with the same photographers, stylists and make up artists so you become somewhat of a family."
People know you on a first name basis instead of, oh she's with FORD or IMG.
Boston, he said, is for the girl (or boy) next door. Compared to the rest of the fashion world, Boston is in fact conservative. Clean and classic rules over edgy and editorial. If your not 5' 10" and a size 00 (so pretty much most of us) this is good news.
"There are many more opportunities in Boston for people of all shapes and sizes," Casey said.
Variety is key
Man or woman, size and shape does not matter. Boston is a commercial market so there is always a chance that they are looking for someone who looks just like you.
Over the past 10 years, we've gone from rail thin model Twiggy in the 1960's, to Christie Brinkley and Cheryl Tiegs with a new fuller figure in the 1970's, and then Cindy Crawford with her 'curvy body' in the 1980's and 1990's.
Back in 1977 when I first started modeling in New York, most girls were a size 6, 8, or even a 10. When I posted a FORD - New York headsheet on my Facebook page, many women tagged themselves in it as a way to identify with the larger sizes, as opposed to a smaller size. The women who tagged themselves sent me emails stating that they felt good when they saw the sizes of the models back then, 10's and 12's were normal and it meant that they could feel better about themselves since they were of similar size. Again I say, when did models become double zero's?
Now, in 2011, looking at some of the Italian and French Vogue editorials, many of the models are somewhat androgenous. Like Andrej Petjic who walked the catwalk in a women's gown during London Fashion week. With his long blonde locks half way down his back, you couldn't pinpoint his sex, but he was quite stunning.
In Boston, models tend to be a little less extreme.
Today, lifestyle work like photos you may see in a bank or supermarket of everyday, good looking people doing everyday things, make a large part of the Boston fashion world. So it's a great opportunity for an average-sized model. At Dynasty International Models & Talent Agency, it's still a big part of their business, said owners Gin and Joe Freeman.
Many modeling agencies have also branched out.
Tim Ayers, agency director at Model Club, said at one time they only represented children. Now they represent kids, teens and adults, and have placed many models in front of Hollywood cameras when film crews are shooting in this area.
Ayers said Model Club is also recognized as "an agency that concentrates on development."
Boston as a place to grow
They look for the 15, 16 and 17-year-old girls who are between 5"9" to 5' 11" in hopes of later placing them with a New York agency, as well as get them booked for department runway shows at stores like Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Saks 5th Avenue, he said.
Ayers says they don't just scout the girls, but they take the time to teach them how to walk on a runway and move in front of a camera.
More and more companies are also becoming online only. They still use models, but the shoots are no longer the big budget ones that used to frequent Boston studios, Ayers said.
Casey of Maggie, Inc. added, "after 9/11 most of the photographers closed down their studios and moved into the suburb's".
Boston can hold its own in the fashion world
Yet despite changing times, Boston has managed to create it's own fashion revolution, said Gin Freeman at Dynasty.
While the lifestyle jobs are still a big part Dynasty's business, she said the many fashion events around the city provide an economic engine for models and agencies alike.
At the Liberty Hotel's weekly "Fashionably Late" and the new "Fashion Doctor's Shows" at the TAJ Hotel , Boston is also able to showcase high-end, world renowned designers which otherwise would not be possible, she said.
"Boston models are able to be showcased in a more sophisticated style and have established portfolios comparable to that of New York," Freeman said. "Now more than ever, clients and agencies nationwide are adding Boston to their network."
I've always said, "It's never too late to become what you might have been". Please let me know how you make out. For more information about modeling and talent agencies in Boston, click here.