Explained: Model Casting

We selected Angelika for the HABITUAL Spring 2012 shoot.

The HABITUAL Spring 2012 line is nearly finished, and we’ve just selected a model for the new lookbook shoot. It takes a bit of vision and a lot of work to find the girl that will embody the look of the brand for a whole season, and that’s why model casting is a crucial part of the fashion business. In the case of HABITUAL, we don’t hire tons of different models each year for multiple campaigns and runway shows, we do only a couple of shoots per year, and we have to be very particular to pick the model that best reflects the style and feel of the line.

The first step to casting a model is figuring out basic requirements. In general, we have a specific size that we know works best for our samples. We can’t select someone who is too thin because they have to show off the shape of the denim. Of course, the girl you want has to be LA-based and available on the shoot date.

We also have to keep in mind the budget. Every model has a different day rate. In general, new faces are less expensive than the seasoned girls. Sometimes having a great photographer can get you a more experienced model for a lower fee. You also have to consider usage rights – in this case, we are using the shots for the lookbook, our own website, PR, and potentially even some advertising. Broader usage rights translate into a bigger fee.

Next you have to think about the look of the model – who is the HABITUAL girl, and what look are we going for with this season’s line? For the spring shoot, we were looking for a brunette with longer hair and a bit of edge and mystery to her. Even though we are based in LA, we were not really looking for the bubbly blonde Southern California girl. Our celeb inspirations included the Natalie Portman, Emmanuelle Chriqui and, Zooey Deschanel style of brunette. She’s not the reality star, but someone who is genuinely talented and has some substance and character.

You might have also worked with a model previously. We hired someone as a window model at an event earlier in the year, we were really impressed with her work ethic, and so we called her back to the casting for the shoot.

Based on these requirements, we’ll narrow it down and look at the portfolios of a few dozen girls from different modeling agencies. In the old days, we used to have to tell the agency what we were looking for, and then they would messenger over physical portfolios of the girls they thought were the best fit. Now, thanks to the web, we have access to thousands of portfolios instantly. We’ll end up reaching out to three or four LA agencies with whom we have relationships and invite less than ten girls to the live casting.

Angelika in the showroom trying on a Spring 2012 look.

During the actual casting, it’s not all about the pretty face. First and foremost the model has to look great in the denim and the denim needs to look great on her. She has to know how to move, how to work the camera, and how to show off the best features of a particular look. There is a skill to modeling, and that experience and skill is why why some models are better to work with and command a higher fee.

Beyond aesthetics and skill, perhaps one of the most important considerations is attitude. Even if a girl takes amazing pictures, you have to spend a whole day or more with this person. You need someone that can handle switching looks all day long, without complaining. Bad attitudes can upset the dynamic on location and even hurt the quality of the images. In casting, we try to ask the models basic questions to see if they are engaging, funny, interesting, and animated.

Finally, we like them to know a bit about denim. Do they wear denim? Do they know the difference between a crop, a skinny, and a trouser? What are their favorite brands? We hope this will help them appreciate the clothes and believe in the product and really “sell it” during the shoot.

For Spring 2012, we selected Angelika from Photogenics Agency. We knew we picked the right model when she came in for a second time and we found out she has a tattoo of a Maltese Cross – exactly the same shape as the HABITUAL Glory pocket. We could not even believe the coincidence.

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