By Natalia Zurowski
There's no denying the incredible amount of influence the United States has when it comes to determining market trends. In respect to modelling, New York is the epicentre of the industry - the same can be said when it comes to fashion and design. Before they've learned much else about the industry, new models already know that New York is where careers are made. If they're successful in New York and receive the American stamp of approval, their careers can flourish.
Whether the US is a fashion innovator is up for debate, but it's an undeniable economic powerhouse. Ranging from high end clients, beauty brands, and e-commerce giants, the US is home to some of fashion's top brands and companies such as: Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, The Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Maybelline, Nordstrom, Victoria's Secret, and so forth. These clients don't only pay top dollar, but also act as prestigious endorsements of a model's caliber and relevance to other clients, agencies, and the media.
Models.com, the most renowned website about the fashion modelling industry since its conception in 1999 by Stephan Moskovic, is also based out of New York. The website regularly features promising new faces, supermodel rankings, agency lists, and up to date news on the world of fashion and modelling. A mention on the website, let alone a profile, is already a boost in itself and can get a model on agencies and clients radars.
US publications also have massive clout. Condé Nast, the premier media and publishing company in the United States, attracts 115 million consumers across its print, digital and video brands, which is no small feat given the current state of the publishing industry. The company’s portfolio includes Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Brides, Self, GQ, Details, Allure, W, Teen Vogue, and model favourite Style.com.
The world still largely looks at American publications to identify what is happening in fashion. A model who shoots for a major American publication becomes buzz-worthy, not just in the fashion world, but in the commercial world too.
Top American fashion publications also boast greater social numbers than their international counterparts. Let's take a look at a couple of the top global publications: Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and ELLE.
International Vogue publications by popularity on Instagram
International Harper's Bazaar publications by popularity on Instagram
International Elle publications by popularity on Instagram
American publications have significantly more followers than their International counterparts; followers attract advertisers and advertisers are what keep publications alive. Being featured, mentioned, or doing an editorial for any of the above American publications is career gold for any model.
A model can have a successful stint in Paris or Milan but ultimately, the end goal for most fashion models is to be based in New York. Despite the present economy, modelling jobs in the United States still tend to have a higher number of clients with larger spending power than those in other markets. Above all else, those jobs offer the unparalleled exposure that comes from being a face of any major American label, be it fashion or commercial.
Even major global brands look to New York agencies to book models for their campaigns. Being signed to a (relevant) New York agency is akin to the blue verification stamp on Instagram or Twitter: hiring this model is objectively worth our time and money.
American agencies are able to propel a model's career forward, not just with exposure through proper modelling work, but on social media. Some of the top agencies in New York boast huge Instagram followings.
American agencies by Instagram popularity
No leading European agency has over 175,000 followers. Only Storm, Elite Paris, Premier, and Elite London currently stand above 100,000 followers.
European agencies by Instagram popularity
Globally, the only other agency that comes close is Way Models in São Paulo, with 93,000 followers. All other agencies worldwide boast numbers significantly less, regardless of their legitimacy, credibility, and history.
Booking good work in the United States comes with tremendous exposure. Booking a campaign or television commercial in Tokyo or Hong Kong is usually for either national or regional usage; the same thing goes for many European clients. When you book a campaign in America, more often than not, it's global. Your face will be visible worldwide, boosting your exposure and recognizability tenfold - to say nothing of those usage cheques. If it's a television commercial, even if it's just syndicated nationally, big American commercials still garner a lot of online attention globally.
A caveat: In order for models to be successful in the States, they must appeal to beauty ideals as perceived by a select few individuals. First, they need to get signed by an American agency. Second, they must be booked by big clients by appealing to influential creatives, advertisers, or casting directors. These clients are able to significantly propel a model's career forward, taking them from obscurity to the top of the ranks almost overnight.
When it comes to campaigns for big fashion designers or top fashion editorials, models based out of or represented in New York will be more likely to book the lucrative blue chip jobs. Even those picked-from-obscurity Prada exclusives need to translate that into American momentum in order for their career to continue on an upward trajectory. Many models also have to first generate attention and experience abroad before they're signed or find success stateside (such as Hilary Rhoda).
Even in markets like Singapore or Tokyo, agencies and clients have a preference for New-York-connected models. Top agencies often work with models who are either already in New York, or are very promising new faces in development who are destined to eventually get there. Clients see these models as being of a higher caliber. They want their brands or publications to be associated with and reflect a specific kind of lifestyle and quality.
That's the power of the American stamp of approval.