Bhumika Arora is one of the definite break-out new faces this season. The hitherto unknown 27-year-old from a small town in India started with Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs in New York, and followed it up with Gareth Pugh, Bottega Veneta, and Fendi.
With interviews with Bhumika and her team at The Society, Ray A. Smith constructs a thorough analysis of the strategy behind her success for The Wall Street Journal.
Here are our highlights:
Many models walk at fashion week. Only some make a name for themselves. Ms. Arora’s New York-based agency, the Society Management, has been preparing for months to get Ms. Arora noticed by influential casting directors, fashion stylists, and other industry taste makers.
“It’s really important to lay the groundwork,” says her New York agent, Christopher Michael. “Once you’ve built that, you can move on to the other arms of her career.”
Growing up in a small town in the state of Haryana, Ms. Arora was a tall, skinny girl. While some people teased her for looking “like a guy,” she says, others said she looked like a model. Ms. Arora sometimes started to watch fashion shows but then changed the channel. “I used to think I was really, really ugly,” she says. “So modeling couldn’t be my thing.” In her town’s conservative culture, nice girls weren’t models. Her parents objected any time she brought up the idea.
After she moved to a bigger town, Chandigarh, for college, she indulged her modeling fantasies through selfies. A friend submitted pictures of her to the “Model Watch” feature of a publication called “Cafe Beat” distributed at a local café. Ms. Arora was surprised to hear a few months later that the magazine had published her photo, placing it alongside three other young people it dubbed “steaming hot.” That convinced her—and helped convince her parents—that she could try modeling.
Ms. Arora started to pursue an M.B.A., but soon a photographer who had seen the published picture offered to take her first professional photos. Armed with those, she moved to Delhi and modeled there for a few years. She began sending out her pictures to agencies in Europe, including Elite Paris, in December 2013. The agency signed her soon after. Both Elite Paris and the Society Management are part of Elite World, a global network of agencies.
A team at the agency that includes Mr. Michael, the Society Management’s executive agent, helps Ms. Arora and other models with personal development, including finding a personal style and dressing for castings. The team also advises her on things like traveling around cities. They also guide her and other models on social-media activity. Ms. Arora currently has a relatively small presence on social media, with an Instagram account that lists nearly 1,700 followers and 63 posts. The agency hopes to increase her interaction with her audience.
While she was in Paris last February, Ms. Arora didn’t have a visa that would allow her to work in the U.S. But her agency was laying the groundwork for a future move. It introduced her to Anita Bitton, a well-known U.S.-based runway casting director who was in Paris. “We kept her on our radar of people we like,” Ms. Bitton says. The agency regularly updated Ms. Bitton—and it let her know when the model obtained her U.S. visa.
As the fall 2015 runway shows approached, the agency’s first big step was targeting a few big, high-impact shows for Ms. Arora. For her first New York Fashion Week, “we didn’t want to have an anticlimactic start,” said Mr. Michael. “We were really quite targeted in terms of where we wanted to begin with her in terms of our shows and where her first appearance would land.”
Ms. Arora started New York Fashion Week with a bang, making her runway debut at Alexander Wang’s show, one of the week’s must-see events. The casting director was Ms. Bitton. Ms. Bitton’s team requested that Ms. Arora not appear on any other runway before the show, which took place Feb. 14, two days after fashion week started. Ms. Bitton says the show had “a very strong point of view and one that Bhumika was a very key part of. We wanted to preserve that moment until she had walked our show.” Mr. Wang, the designer, says: “She exemplifies a unique look and I was immediately persuaded by her.”
Ms. Arora’s appearance in that show sparked interest from other casting directors, Mr. Michael said. Three days later, Ms. Arora walked in Vera Wang’s show. Vogue.com singled her out as No. 3 in its “7 Things We Loved Today” feature, writing: “Our hearts were stolen by a fresh face on the Vera Wang runway: the moody-eyed, sultry-lipped, and enviously angular Bhumika.”
Ms. Arora then walked on Anna Sui’s runway and closed out New York at Marc Jacobs, one of the most sought-after shows for a model. Ms. Bitton, the founder of New York City-based Establishment Casting, cast her for that show as well.
Mr. Michael had sent Ms. Arora’s model show card—which features her picture and details such as height and shoe size—to stylist Charlotte Stockdale while Ms. Stockdale was in New York. “She just blew me away,” says Ms. Stockdale, who styled the Fendi show and played a role in choosing models, in collaboration with the show’s casting agent.
After the show season ends, Mr. Michael hopes for Ms. Arora to make ”an impressive splash” in magazines and ad campaigns in the coming months. Mr. Michael, who is in Paris, meeting clients and supporting the models there, says several of the shows Ms. Arora walked in provided “a stamp of validation.”
Read the full piece here.