17 Aug 2015

Storming the catwalk

9:26 am on 17 August 2015

In the lead up to New Zealand Fashion Week, we go inside the world of casting calls.

International model Ashleigh Good front and centre with some of models taking part in the casting.

International model Ashleigh Good front and centre with some of models taking part in the casting. Photo: Sonia Sly

Hundreds of models gather nervously together in Auckland’s Aotea Centre, awaiting their chance to walk.

The pressure is on.

As designers push to complete their collections in the lead-up to New Zealand Fashion Week, they want to cast the right models for the runway.

Every year Murray Bevan, Director for Showroom 22, sits in on the casting.

“They’ve got 40 metres to make their mark,” he says.

“Some people I haven’t seen before and they did really well, but you can see the looks on their faces when they come through that door. They’re staring straight ahead like a horse about to bolt at a gate going, ‘Oh my God I hope I get this right’.”

Agents prep their models with tips about what to expect before filing into a narrow corridor where they must wait by an open door until their names are called one-by-one.

International model, Ashleigh Good, has been in the industry for the past three years and has already walked runway shows in New York, Milan and Paris.

“I got nervous in there, I don’t know why,” she says. “It’s quite intimidating [in] a big room of designers.” 

Good is also helping to coach models from RPD, her mother agency in New Zealand.

“It’s nice here. I’m with the girls that I mentor and I help them with walking lessons. Catwalk is a real thrill [and] it’s also quite a challenge. These girls here know nothing of what it’s going to be like when they head overseas.”  

Sophia Frankish (left) and Kizzie Amoore (right).

Sophia Frankish (left) and Kizzie Amoore (right). Photo: Sonia Sly

Tipped as rising stars are two girls from 62 Models. Kizzie Amoore recently featured in the Kate Sylvester lookbook and editorials for Remix and Black Magazine, while Sophia Frankish has just been shot by David Shields for Blk on Blk, and featured in campaigns for Lonely Hearts and Miss Crabb.

The 16-year-old school girls are excited to be at New Zealand Fashion Week castings.

“I felt quite nervous, but it was such a rush and I really enjoyed it,” says Frankish, who adds that walking at New Zealand Fashion week last year helped to build her confidence as a model.

Both girls say that Fashion Week also provides plenty of time for networking and fun on the social front.

“There’s lots of instagramming going on,” says Kizzie.

Marijke Van Dillen is an agent for 62 Models and has also walked at New Zealand Fashion week. Now in her early 20s she says she enjoys working with models because she can identify with what they’re going through. 

“We’re really excited about Sophia and Kizzie. They’re doing really well locally and that’s a really good sign. We are going to push them overseas soon because it’s important that they take that step [and] hopefully they’ll end up doing the New York market or even the European market.”

Inside the casting room.

Inside the casting room. Photo: Sonia Sly

62 Models hand-pick the girls and guys from the casting call, and prerequisites include presence on the runway, strong walks, great posture, symmetrical faces and a great attitude.

Van Dillen maintains that the industry, and what it demands from models, has changed over recent years. Looks and beauty are taken into consideration, but personality - along with how many followers a model has on Instagram - counts for a lot, especially in the international arena, and increasingly, requests come through regarding details about a model’s social media following.

“That means the designer gets more reach. If they get a beautiful model who has 20,000 followers on Instagram in their show, it’s very likely that that model is going to post up about that show.”

Van Dillen says that a few thousand followers in New Zealand is considered reasonably good, but she adds that while it’s imperative to have growing social media profiles for the international market, not having a social media account can work in one’s favour and can add to a bit of mystery, which some designers prefer.

“It’s not a 100 percent of the time that that’s the way it rolls, but that’s a trend that we’ve found,” she says.

LISTEN to the podcast on RNZ’s Standing Room Only:

Sonia Sly will be covering New Zealand Fashion Week 2015  with reviews for the Radio New Zealand National website, whilst also keeping a daily diary on her blog to provide an inside view into the week-long event.