Shailah Edmonds Unleashes the Rebel Within in “Wild Child to Couture Style”

In the fashion industry, the word legendary incorporates both fashion designers and fashion models. We all know legendary designers—Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen, Hubert de Givenchy, and many others. And the list of legendary supermodels continues to grow.

Still, there are legendary names that should be added to these hallowed lists. Though some of these superstars are not household names, their contribution to the fashion industry is immeasurable.

Shailah Edmonds is one such fashion luminary. In an era when black models dominated European runways, Shailah Edmonds was a standout member of a core group of African American superstar models. These models of color changed the way the fashion industry perceived runway presentations and the way couture fashion was presented to the press, buyers, and fashion elites.

Though she is an unsung legend in fashion, her story has now come to light in her memoir, Wild Child to Couture Style:The Shailah Edmonds Story. Shailah set down with Fashion Reverie editor-in-chief William S. Gooch and talked about her unlikely ascent in fashion, her love of runway, and that rare, but brief moment when women of color ruled the runway.

Fashion Reverie: Why this memoir at this time?

Shailah Edmonds: I wrote this book because I feel that I have done about everything that I am going to do in the fashion industry and I wanted to expose the industry to a younger audience. I wanted to detail how hard black models worked to get traction in the industry. Back in the day we had to walk the streets and beat on doors and go for our own. 

FR: How did you come up with the title Wild Child to Couture Style?

Shailah Edmonds: The original title of the book with my co-writer was supposed to be black couture because my co-writer was enamored of the fact that I had ended up working in the highest rung of modeling. As I writing the chapter about working in Tokyo, performing in the Wild Child band, it occurred to me that I was a wild child, even as kid growing up in Portland, Oregon. I am a poet at heart so Wild Child to Couture Style from that moment just came me. And I knew that this should be the title of the book.

FR: What do you think early on in your life helped prepare you or gave you the qualities to become a top model?

Shailah Edmonds: Both of my grandmothers were very fashionable, proud ladies. I have pictures of them in their hats and furs, dressed to go to church. My mother was also very fashionable. My entire family was well dressed when we went to church. So, that sense of style informed me early on.

I believe that’s why some black models have been so successful in Europe, we brought that sense of elegance that you can find in the black church. When you put on a fantastic garment it changes your sense of yourself and it can inform your walk.

FR: Why do you think Europe, and in particular Paris, was more open to black models in the late 70s and early 80s?

Shailah Edmonds: Fashion began in Africa. Most folks have witnessed the beautiful fabrics and designs that come from Africa. And if you have ever seen African women walking with a jug of water or a basket of fruit on her head, there is nothing more regal and stately than that!!

Some black people are born with that sense of rhythm and style. The designers in Europe recognized that and it gave the designers energy when they witnessed the way black models reacting positively to their beautiful creations.

FR: In your book you talk about your swirling runway walk, something Pat Cleveland also had. Where did that walk come from?

Shailah Edmonds: When I came to New York City in the mid-1970s, I had the opportunity to watch Pat Cleveland and Billie Blair walk in fashion shows. I thought if I could get my feet to move like they did then I would have a fantastic runway walk. I would go home and practice and practice, and I finally I mastered a very good, signature runway walk.

I knew that if was going to be a fashion model I had to have a distinctive runway walk. My walk was different from Pat Cleveland and Billie Blair because I loved to dance and I added some dance elements to my walk.

FR: Everyone talks about how open Europe was to black models, but in your book you detail that wasn’t always the case. Could you elaborate on that?

Shailah Edmonds: Some European designers would blatantly tell you that they weren’t interested in black models. Some would say they had enough black models and didn’t need any more. There was a lot of rejection.

In one of the chapters in the book, I talk about going on a casting for Guy Laroche. And he flatly told me he was not interested in me. I countered him about his decision not to cast me. I was tired that day and had been rejected from so many designers that particular day and his rejection was the last straw.

I asked him if he would let me try on one garment. He was so taken aback by my determination that he let me try on one of his garments. I modeled the garment beautifully and was cast in his show. And from that moment on almost every fashion designer in Paris wanted to work with me. It takes a lot of determination, even to this day.

As I was having so much success in Europe, many more black models came and started having success. At one point there was an overabundance of black models on runways in Europe. In fact, we were ruling the fashion runways in Europe. Then the backlash came where the European fashion houses in the mid-90s stop using a lot of black models and other models of color in that respect.

FR: And why was that?

Shailah Edmonds: Well, at one time during the 80s, there were just too many black models in Europe. Also, Europe started imitating the US, where there were few models of color working steadily; particularly, when the US fashion market started going global. And lastly, the black models were racking in a lot of the money because we were in such demand. Audiences loved our walk and the designers loved the way we showed off clothes. So, some of the powers-that-be in the industry decided to change all of that and started wanting a simple walk and less extravagant runway shows. All of this took away some of the black models’ dominance in Europe.

FR: In the US black models, at that time, were not getting a lot in fashion campaigns. Was that the experience of black models in Europe?

Shailah Edmonds: In Europe, at that time, there was a real division between runway models and print models. Beverly Johnson and Iman were more print models so they received more campaigns in the US and in Europe. However, runway models like me usually got two or three campaigns a year, and nothing in the US. However, the European campaigns paid very well.

FR: You started your modeling career in New York, then you went to Europe and had great success, and then you came back to NYC and had a better time than the first time around. However, in your book you detail that when you came back stateside, NYC was not as open to you as you had hoped. Why was that?

Shailah Edmonds: I was so excited to come back to New York City. I had European tear sheets in my portfolio. However, booking agents in NYC said my tear sheets were not American enough. I was told that my images didn’t match the American market. They were not excited at all that I had gone to Europe and made a name for myself.

I heard the same stories that I heard before I had originally gone to Europe. It wasn’t until I started walking for the top couture designers in Europe Yves St. Laurent, Valentino, Thierry Mugler, and others that I received better acceptance in the States.

This was like the third time back in NYC. I always wanted to model in NYC but I had to go all the way to Europe and work for top fashion houses there before the top American fashion brands would work with me.

FR: Who were some of your favorite designers?

Shailah Edmonds: Yves Saint Laurent is at the top of the list, as well as Valentino. I was a fit model for both of them so I spent endless hours working with them. I loved working with Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana. Versace and Armani were always great because they used just fine fabrics. Gianfranco Ferrè was also a favorite. No one could make a shirt or blouse better than him.

Hana Morai was wonderful. She took me to Tokyo and Mexico to model her clothes. She was responsible for getting me to come back to NYC. When I finally came back to NYC, the style of modeling was changing and many of the American designers had moved on to the supermodels of that time—Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Tyra Banks, etc. Still, I loved working for Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, and Stephen Burrows, who were so supportive of me.

FR: When you hit your stride in Europe, you were in your late 20s. However, everyone thought you were much younger. How did you pull that off?

Shailah Edmonds: Thank God, there was no Internet at that time. We were not dealing with global terrorism at the time, so it was very easy for me get to fake IDs. I really mastered hiding my age with my identification putting me about ten years younger than my true age.

I even went so far as to pour nail polish on my passport, concealing my age. I got away with that for four or five years. (Hey, I did what I had to do.) And by the time everyone knew my real age, I was making so much money and headlining top fashion shows, my age didn’t matter.

FR: How did you balance modeling with parenting?

Shailah Edmonds: It was very difficult. I had my kids at a very young age, so when I first started modeling, they lived with their father. Later, I brought them to NYC and I had to hire a nanny to take care of them. That was the hardest part, but I had no choice because I was working all the time. With any success, there is sacrifice.

FR: In your book you talk about making the transition from being a top runway model to a showroom model in NYC?

Shailah Edmonds: When the major runway shows stopped happening for me, I was sort of at my wit’s end. I started talking to other seasoned models and I learned they were doing a lot showroom work for designers. After runway season, most major designers/brands have a showroom where they show their current collections to prospective buyers at a private showing at their atelier or showroom.

It is a lot of hard work because I worked for the major showrooms in NYC like Valentino, and you are trying on clothes non-stop for ten to twelve hours a day. But, it was well paid, though seasonal. There were at least three to four months of no showroom work, so in that downtime I coached young models and did some commercial print work. I also worked as an actor.

                                        Images courtesy of Shailah Edmonds

FR: What’s next for you?Shailah Edmonds: I start my book tour in September at the Black Caucus Convention in Washington, DC, and I am continuing to love and embrace life.

Wild Child to Couture Style: The Shailah Edmonds Story is published by Lyons Publishing and is available on amazon.com and at shailahedmonds.com.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Tea with Kristopher: July 2018

                                Image courtesy of pinterest.com

It’s a hot summer in New York City, and Fashion Reverie has got some tea for you! Fresh off the heels of New York Fashion Week: Men’s spring 2019 season, the tea pot is flowing over. Grab your cup and a plate of scones as we pour up the steamy insider fashion gossip.Item 1 insider tea

A former CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nominee is so broke they have switched PR firms because they could no longer afford the retainer at their previous one. They are not in the money, honey!!

Consumers cough up the green backs and buy their clothes, sil vous plait!! Their cash flow is so limited they are even having trouble affording models for their presentations. The shame of it all!!

Item 2 insider tea

A top fashion publication with a storied history has been cutting staff, unbeknownst to the general public. While they are still considered a cornerstone of the fashion industry, the team is currently running on skeleton crew. While it’s been a rough time in media, they always seemed like one of the untouchables. Oh, how the mighty are falling!!

Item 3 insider tea

A notable designer, best known for her outerwear, could be returning to New York Fashion Week. This would be the designer’s first showing in decades, and she’s known as a favorite of top Vogue editors. While nothing has been confirmed yet, it’s sure to be a celebration just to see her back on the calendar. Make New York Fashion Week: The Shows great again!

                            Image courtesy of medium.com

Item 4 insider tea

The trade shows are attempting to go direct-to-consumer. Retail in the US is not what it used to be, and in response, rather than being what was strictly a buyers and press only event, is now looking at going to a consumer-focused model. It’s the see-now-buy-now of trade shows. These people need to make money somehow, and it sure isn’t coming from retailers.

—Kristopher Fraser

Missoni’s Fall 2018 Campaign

For its fall 2018 campaign Missoni Creative Director Angela Missoni and photographer Harley Weir juxtapose Missoni’s crazy quilt patterns and eclectic smorgasbord of color, textures, shapes against vibrant blue skies. This amalgam of texture, color and fabrication is framed on the statuesque bodies of Supermodel Gigi Hadid and French male model Yassine Rahal.

Gigi Hadid is the Supermodel of the moment, scoring campaigns as diverse of American sportswear mega brand Tommy Hilfiger to the 2019 Pirelli calendar to Versus Versace to Balmain. Harley Weir uses Hadid and Yassine Rahal’s long limbs stretched against and ever-expanding skyline. Weir’s full-length portraits in this fall 2018 campaign promote an anthem of freedom and personality.

That said; freedom and personality have always been touchstones of Missoni’s signature DNA. Where can you find more personality and freedom than in Missoni’s mélange and assemblage of color, texture, and fabrications?

This fall 2018 campaign is an invitation to compose, superimpose, and deliberately interpret the extraordinary craftsmanship, finishings, and details of a collection rich in creations and variations; shades and patterns, and weights and textures. This campaign also conjures up images of that unique mix of bohemian culture and current-day coolness. (Imagine the offspring of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet, maybe Zoe Kravitz, seen through the lens of modern chicness and inclusivity.)

                                        All images courtesy of C&M Media

Missoni’s fall 2018 collection is a series of patchwork designs, mesh fabrics, fringe details, jacquards inspired by the coats of wild animals, and streaked and spotted capes reference multiethnic costumes, urban graffiti, the colors of Africa and Jamaica. And this Missoni fall 2018 campaign emphasizes a style that morphs into an unmistakable expression of energy and singularity against the immense backdrop of clear blue skies.   —William S. Gooch

Model Spotlight: Georgie Badiel and the Georgie Badiel Foundation

Images courtesy of venturesafrica.com, fashionbombdaily.com, and georgiewater.com, respectively

When it comes to top fashion models, no one shines brighter than Georgie Badiel. Having modeling since the age of 15, almost two decades later Georgie Badiel is just as effervescent, sunny, and joyous as when she became a top model and muse for Jean-Paul Gaultier.Georgie Badiel’s infectious personality now extends to giving back to her native country, Burkina Faso. With the Georgie Badiel Foundation, Georgie hopes to help solve the issue of clean drinking water scarcity in her country. And helping she is. In just under three years, the Georgie Badiel Foundation has helped provide clean drinking water to over 100,000 people.

During Fashion Reverie’s “The Nina Sisterhood” editorial shoot, Georgie sat down with Editor-in-chief William S. Gooch and talked about her modeling career, her foundation, and the new love in her life.

                             Image courtesy of the vossfoundation.com

Fashion Reverie: Could you talk about the Georgie Badiel Foundation?

Georgie Badiel: My foundation was founded about three years ago. We fund for clean drinking water, sanitation, and planting trees in Burkina Faso, Africa. As you know, I am a native of Burkina Faso.

FR: Why did you start this organization and could you detail the scarcity of clean drinking water in Burkina Faso?

Georgie Badiel: I started the organization because people in Burkina Faso need clean drinking water that is not readily available. When I was a child I used to walk three hours everyday with my grandmother to fetch clean drinking water.

My grandmother passed away in 2009 and when I went back to my country because of my grandmother’s death I saw that my sister was getting up very early every morning—even earlier in fact than I did—to fetch water just as I had as a child with my grandmother. My sister was very pregnant at time and having to do the same thing I was doing when I was a child, very little had changed.

In Burkina Faso, less than 80% of the population has access to clean drinking water. So, I decided to start a foundation to change this situation.

  Images courtesy of uptownmagazine.com, esssence.com, and pinterest.com, respectively

FR: Why is there not more investment by companies to assist and change the scarcity of clean drinking water in Burkina Faso?

Georgie Badiel: There are a few companies that have and still are trying to change the clean drinking water scarcity. Unfortunately, many of these companies are not investing in ways that help the people of Burkina Faso. For example, there are over 5,000 broken wells in my country. A lot of organizations helped people dig and build these wells. Once the wells were working, the organizations left, thinking they had done enough. However, many of the people did not know how to maintain the wells. So, many of the wells went into disrepair.

With the Georgie Badiel Foundation, we not only train people to build wells for clean drinking water, we teach them how to maintain the wells, also. The women of the villages are doing most of this work.

In less than three years, we have provided access to clean drinking water to over 100,000 people. This year our main goal is to reach over 1 million people with clean drinking water. I know that the people of my country are hard-working people and having access to clean drinking water will give them a much better life.

FR: Talk about Georgie Water.

Georgie Badiel: Voss Water who also has a foundation that inspired me to launch Georgie Water. I started Georgie Water so that when consumers by one bottle of Georgie Water they are also giving to the Georgie Badiel Foundation.

          Image courtesy of Amazon.com

FR: You have a book out, The Water Princess. Could you talk about that?

Georgie Badiel: The Water Princess is a children’s book related to my childhood story. This book is about me walking with my grandmother from my village to get water from the only well that had clean drinking water. My grandmother would wake me up at 6am to get water. I really didn’t want to get up so early to get water before I had to go to school, but in Africa, and particularly in Burkina Faso, it is the duty of the women to get clean drinking water. Sometimes, I went to school with a dusty throat because of the lack of clean drinking water.

FR: Was there clean drinking water to drink at your school?

Georgie Badiel: I was lucky that I went to a private school where we had a well. However, doing the dry season the school cut off the water. Still, there was a woman who sold water to the people during the dry season outside of the school. Sometimes, I didn’t have money to buy water, so I would go back inside the school dusty with a dry throat.

How can consumers purchase your book?

Georgie Badiel: They can go on Amazon.com and purchase it. Penguin Books is the publisher and Scholastic has made an animated cartoon about The Water Princess.

FR: We know that you are a top model and that you are still modeling; however, you have found ways to diversify your talent. Looking back on your modeling career, who was your favorite designers to work for?

Georgie Badiel: There have been so many great designers that were a joy to work with. I loved working with Ralph Rucci, Zang Toi, Rick Owens, and of course, Jean-Paul Gaultier.

FR: You are currently working a lot with Diane von Furstenberg. Could you talk about that?

Georgie Badiel: I do most of Diane von Furstenberg’s (DVF) showroom, which I love doing. Nathan Jenden is the fashion director of DVF, and last fashion week I walked in DVF’s presentation.

        Images courtesy of popsugar.com, thestylehg.com, and twitter.com, respectively

FR: What other designers/brands are you currently working with?

Georgie Badiel: My model management company, Major Models, only sends me to designers/brands that I really want to work with because as you can see I am super busy with my foundation, my future children’s books and I am getting married later this year. So, I am extremely busy.

FR: Talk about your fiancé.

Georgie Badiel: My fiancé is from Liberia and a friend of mine introduced us. And we very quickly fell in love. I come from a big family, 10 siblings, so I want to have lots of kids.

—William S. Gooch

 

Patti + Ricky: Curating Fashion for the Disabled

                                              Image courtesy of mashable.com

As the fashion global market continues to expand and fashion saturation reaches a breaking point, there is much talk bandied around in fashion circles about inclusivity and the new democratization of fashion. Where once great fashion was only for the wealthy and the slender, fashion is now making attempts to provide affordable fashion for the masses, as well as embracing plus-sized consumers, consumers of color, and even gender, non-specific consumers.Unfortunately, one population that has been left out of this fashion democratization is the disabled community. Probably, because the fashion industry and retailers don’t consider that people with disabilities care about fashion or that some consumers with special needs have deep pockets. (Tommy Hifiger being one exception.) However, there is lots of hope for this community on the horizon.

Patti + Ricky is looking to change all that. As an online shopping experience that caters to people with disabilities, Alexandra Connell, the founder of the site, has curated great fashionable; quality product for this often ignored population.

Alexandra Connell with great passion and joy spoke with Fashion Reverie about her journey to establish this great service for this special needs community. 

 Wheelchair raincoat image courtesy of Patti + Ricky

Fashion Reverie: Both of your parents worked in luxury retail in the 80s and 90s, yet you thought you would never work in fashion or had no interest in the industry, why?

Alexandra Connell: Both my parents worked for SWATCH watches in the 1980s, and in the 90s my mom was the president of Kenneth Cole belt division. Later in 2000 my mom started her own company, Spreadology. And at one time my father was the president of Christian Dior jewelry.

I always wanted to work with people and help people. I was drawn to helping people with disabilities because of my ADHD disability. I was also caretaker for my mother when she was diagnosed with brain cancer. So, when my mom got really ill and was asking for specific clothing items to wear, I couldn’t find things for her. When I finally was able to find the things that she wanted, my mom was so happy. Additionally, my cousin Ricky has been confined to a wheelchair his entire life so finding clothing and fashionable things for a person who was wheelchair bound was a huge challenge. So, all these things infused and informed me when I started my online shopping store, Patty + Ricky.

FR: You have called yourself a fashion disruptor, why?

Alexandra Connell: I guess I am a fashion disruptor because there was no place in the fashion market to get fashionable clothes for people with disabilities. So I guess in some sense with Patti + Ricky I am disrupting old patterns of leaving disabled people out or not providing great fashion for people with disabilities.

With Patti + Ricky, I wanted to bring designers together who create garments and products for people with disabilities and create a beautiful shopping experience. 

FR: Why the name Patti + Ricky?

Alexandra Connell: Every product that we curate I am always thinking of my mother and my cousin Ricky and the disabilities that they had. I really wanted to pay homage to them and I know that if my mom and my cousin like the products that I have curated, a lot of other people will like these products as well. So I am always thinking about them as I am curating products that are finely crafted with good quality. And of course their names are the names of the site.

                                              Images courtesy of Patti + Ricky

FR: Could you explain adaptive fashion?

Alexandra Connell: Adaptive fashion is fashion that has different functions and works for communities that have a variety of needs. A lot of the product we curate and offer is universally designed so it can work for many different people that have many different needs. For example, our shirts with magnetic buttons are very adaptable and useful for people who have arthritis or someone having difficulty buttoning their shirts. Laura Horton makes our magnetic shirts, and she initially designed these shirts for her husband who has Parkinson’s disease. So, these shirts are for people that have dexterity issues.

FR: How do people with disabilities suffer from style discrimination? 

Alexandra Connell: I discovered that when my mom got ill with brain cancer there was nothing on the market for her that was both fashionable and functional. I really searched and I couldn’t find much. Now, ten years later that is starting to change. We work with over 40 designers on our site that offer product for people with disabilities in an environment that mimics a virtual department store.

FR: You have some interesting items that you offer like wheelchair bags crutch accessories. How do you curate the items you offer on the site? 

Alexandra Connell: From the beginning I really wanted to find things for people with a lot of different needs. I knew I wanted bags for people who used wheelchairs. Now we have a suggestion section on our website and consumers write us and tell us the about things they want that are stylish, as well as accessible product they are looking for. And we try to find it for them.

FR: What are your price points and the range of products?

Alexandra Connell: All of our product is high quality and mostly made in the US. The range is price is from moderate to higher priced items because our product for the most part is made stateside. We also have great customer service that works with consumers individually to meet their shopping needs.

                                         Images courtesy of Patti + Ricky

FR: What are some of your best selling items?

Alexandra Connell: Our best selling products go across the board because we offer a wide range of products for specific needs. Our decorative arm slings for people who have suffered strokes or have a broken arm sell extremely well; particularly, for those people who are going to galas and special events. Our braille jewelry is very popular because you can personalize a message on the jewelry. And our wheelchair bags also sell very well.

FR: Are there are any disabilities that you have not been able to provide fashionable product for?

Alexandra Connell: We are currently searching for a lot of different things to meet specific needs. We are looking colostomy bag covers so we hope to be meeting that need soon because we get a lot of requests for that.

FR: How are you looking to grow and expand your business?

Alexandra Connell: We are always looking to grow and partner with designers who can meet our customers’ needs. We are doing a pop-up shop in NYC for people with disabilities that should launch in the early fall. This will be one of the first stores for people with disabilities. It will be specifically designed for people with disabilities with large aisles for people in wheelchairs and braille on the hangers for folks with sight disabilities. This pop-up shop will be inclusive, beautiful. We hope this will lead to other pop-up shops around the country, maybe even in department stores.

—William S. Gooch

New York Fashion Week: Men’s Spring 2019 Pre-coverage

               Todd Snyder spring 2018 images courtesy of fashionbytherules.com

It is that time again. Well, it will soon be. New York Fashion Week: Men’s (NYFWM) spring 2019 is just around the corner and New York City gets ready for the onslaught of fashion industry professionals and fashionistos who anticipate the collections from some of the best menswear designers in the industry.Interestingly, with all the excitement there is one hitch. Similar to last season, many well-known American menswear designers will be absent from the roster for the spring 2019 season. NYFWM, in this iteration, was created to attract top American menswear designers to fashion week in New York City. And it worked for the first couple of seasons. Tommy Hilfiger showed, Michael Bastian, John Varvatos, and Calvin Klein followed suit. Add to that Nautica, Perry Ellis, and Hugo Boss.

Unfortunately, it was a brief shining moment, and in recent seasons the major menswear designers have all defected or in some cases returned to the European shows where there is better press, venues, and better markets. The CFDA has tried to make up for the lack of household names by inviting designers from the West Coast, and even China, but without major corporate sponsorship, NYFWM continues to flounder.

                  Todd Snyder spring 2018 images courtesy of fashionbytherules.com

Still, there is some hope. And Fashion Reverie is loyal. There are some American designers that have stayed the course—Parke and Ronen, Carlos Campos, Willy Chavarria, Nick Graham, Landlord, David Hart, DYNE, and Todd Snyder, to name a few—and Fashion Reverie celebrates them. Newcomers this season include HBNS, Limitato, Alessandro Trincone, Sundae School, NIHL, Swonne, and Reconstruct. New York Fashion Week: Men’s spring 2019 takes place July 9-11.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Tea with Kristopher: June 2018

 

                           Image courtesy of aliceteacup.com

Would you care for earl grey or English breakfast? There’s a fresh pot of fashion tea to be had for sure. Fashion Reverie is pleased to invite you to the tearoom during this hot summer. As usual, the tea is hot and spicy!!

                            Image courtesy of poshluxuryfashion.com

Item 1: A top luxury brand known for dressing major celebrities is currently so broke that one of their high level executives can’t afford to hire an assistant. You would think given the exorbitant costs of their garments, they could at least cover an entry-level assistant’s salary, but money is tight. It’s been suspected they might even try and sell the company. Here’s to hoping a savior with some deep pockets bails them out.

Item 2:

A notable fashion publicist has been caught pilfering clothes from his clients to sell to consignment shops. Now there is no such thing as enough money in New York City, but there are less messy ways to make some extra cash. Like they say in Sweeney Todd “Times is hard.”

Item 3:

Hearts broke around the industry when news that Andy Warhol’s legendary Interview Magazine was closing. However, it looks like the magazine will relaunch under Crystal Ball Media, a new holding company formed by Interview’s president Kelly Brant and Jason Nikic, who was Interview’s chief revenue officer. Kelly is the daughter of Interview’s former owner and publisher, billionaire Peter Brant Sr. Nick Haramis will continue on as the publication’s editor-in-chief, and Rihanna’s stylist, Mel Ottenberg, will be the new creative director. The only question is, with the amount of money Interview owes to unpaid freelancers and creditors, how is this not illegal? Such is the world of bankruptcy law.

                             Image courtesy of bisousmagazine.com

Item 4:New York Fashion Week: Men’s is just around the corner—July 9–11—and there appears to be a dearth of big name designers this season, yet again. Hugo Boss, Nautica, Calvin Klein’s Men, John Varvatos, Tommy Hilfiger Men’s, Tom Ford, and a host of other menswear designers are nowhere to be found, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

A representative for CFDA has been attempting to court member designers to show, but it has worked to no avail. A former member of their Incubator Program, who is now designing abroad, shamelessly turned him down.

Is the end of NYFW: Men’s right around the corner? Maybe, things do not look so bright. Oh, the shame of it all!!

—Kristopher Fraser

Is the Fashion Industry Embracing Trans Models?

                                             Image courtesy of youbeauty.com

Transgender rights have been on the forefront of the sociopolitical movement for past few years. Between Trump attempting to ban transgender people from serving in the military to politicians and state legislators passing bathroom bills in some states forcing some transgenders to use the bathroom of their birth gender, there has been no shortage of attention to the cultural and political issues trans people face. On the heels of the transgender social and political movement, transgenders are beginning to have more representation in media and entertainment, including the fashion industry.Though the fashion industry purports to have become more democratic and diverse, embracing diversity in all its many forms and variations, where transgender models were getting some traction in the industry a couple years back, that traction has stalled. Where is the breakout transgender supermodel Andreja Pejic? Where are the transgender models walking in major fashion shows? Why the retreat, what’s happened?

Carmen Carrera in Victoria’s Secret 2013 campaign image courtesy of pinterest.com

The transgender stars making headlines in recent years are coming form the worlds of film and television. Carmen Carrera, a former contestant of “Rupaul’s Drag Race” has been enjoying a burgeoning acting career with guest spots on “Jane the Virgin” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” And who could forget Laverne Cox, who has received an Emmy nomination for her role on Netflix’s hit series “Orange is the New Black.” Still, that is the entertainment industry, not fashion.Amanda Lepore, a darling of the New York nightlife scene, is considered the first trans supermodel, having been a muse for designers Richie Rich and Traver Rains at Heatherette. Models like Gigi Gorgeous are also regarded as transgender model icons. However, models that had had gender reassignment go back to the 1970s and1980s, not revealing that they had been born male. Such a revelation would have marked an end to their careers. So, those who could pass as female fashion models never revealed their truth.

                                      Image courtesy of theadvertiser.com

In the past decade, there’s no question the fashion industry has at least evolved on that issue. Model Buckangel, signed with Kavyon Zand’s Zandwagon agency, has become one of the most recognizable faces among trans male models. He gives the industry a mark for much improved since he first started out modeling as a trans man in 2002. “It was very rough [at first],” he said. “People said horrible things to me, even death threats, all because I chose to expose my body and show the world that being a trans man is beautiful and that our unique bodies are just that! It’s most definitely better today, and visibility has helped with this. Back in the day there were, if any trans men out showing their bodies to the world.”Buckangel recently shot a big fashion spread where the photographer wanted him nude for the layout. “That to me shows a ton of advancement as representation. They are reaching out to all types including myself who happens to be 56 years old. That in itself is diverse representation!”

However, he doesn’t deny that trans models have been treated like a trend within the industry. “Any marginalized group that has started to become represented on some level is a trend,” he said. “Right now transgender is the new hot topic and buzzword. That said I think its amazing all the exposure, But I am also aware that they are not just doing it to help our community they are also reaping the benefits financially. Its how business works. And fashion is a business.”

One of the most sensitive topics among the transgender community is also the issue of “passing.” Those who have transitioned that have an easier time passing for cisgender men and women often have an easier time getting work. Buckangel’s fellow Zandwagon model Lexie Bean, who is not passing has had her own share of struggles with this. “One of two things usually happens to me because I don’t pass, I am either not believed or I will be welcomed on paper in a breakdown or casting call, but will be immediately misgendered upon entering a space,” Bean said. He added that, “The gap between what is said and claimed to be celebrated and the reality can be painful, can make me feel caught in my head. As in any working environment, standing up for yourself in any capacity can lead to losing the job.  Another issue that is unique to assigned female at birth trans folks is that most people assume I am a trans woman when I come out to them. The lack of visibility and representation of us, especially pre-medicalization, is complete erasure.”

                              Ted Quinlivan image courtesy of dopemagazine.com

Passing privilege is all too real in the greater society and the fashion industry at large. In 2017, model Teddy Quinlivan revealed her gender identity on CNN Style, and knew that it would shift the way she was viewed in the industry. “I think the fact that I’m transgender isn’t what makes me successful, but it is what makes me special and unique,” she said to CNN Style. “Is it the most important thing about me? No. But is it a part of me? Yes. I didn’t want anyone to be able to say, ‘Oh, well you just got that show because you’re trans.’ I wanted to make sure that nobody could say that about me or use that against me because your genitals do not play a factor in how successful you can be as a model.”Quinlivan has walked for top designers in Milan, including Versace and Prada, without ever revealing her gender identity. It became no secret that she was able to amass much of her success due to her ability to pass as a cisgender woman. (Cisgender denotes or relates to a personal identify and gender that corresponds to the birth gender.)

                           Image courtesy of youtube.com

In the 1980s and `90s, the transgender fashion models that had the most successful careers were all known for passing privilege. Top models like Caroline Cossey and April Ashley were well known for being able to pass, with Ashley even appearing in the pages of British Vogue without her birth identity being revealed. April Ashley wasn’t unknown to have been male bodied until her husband filed for divorced and the government declared her legally male. (This was years prior to the U.K.’s Gender Recognition Act of 2004.)After experiencing difficulty booking modeling jobs or finding agency representation in New York or Bangkok, her birthplace, even though she had posed for a Barney’s campaign photographed by iconic photographer Bruce Weber, trans-female model Peche Di founded Trans Models. “[Agencies] would accept a photo [of me], but nothing would happen after,” she said in a New York Times article. “I realized what the community needed was employment. I figured why not create a space for them?”

                                        Image courtesy of thehollywood.com

Still, it was the top models of the 1970s and `80s, trans and cisgender alike, that would influence the ballroom culture now celebrated in television programs like the recent FX hit “Pose.” While some transgender models that came out of the gay ballroom culture attempted to have a career as fashion models, for the most part, those who could not pass as gender female, the opportunities were few and far between.Like many things in fashion, this current movement to embrace transgender models could just be window dressing. Still, the time has come for the fashion industry to move beyond lip service and genuinely reflect a cultural shift that is gaining global momentum.

—Kristopher Fraser

Sandi Bass Remembers Hubert de Givenchy

How do you measure someone’s worth? Is their worth equivalent to their earnings, their name recognition, the adulation of adoring fans, or their market power? Perhaps, those things do define some elements of a person’s character, but often speak little to someone’s humanity.

Sandi Bass has had a very long, sustained career in fashion. First, as a fashion model, and in the last couple of decades as a casting agent extraordinaire and model scout, of which all of her career paths she has carried off with elegance, dignity, and kindness. With all the success Sandi Bass has experience, the things that define her most is her gentility, her kindness, and her wisdom; virtues that cannot be measured.

Sandi Bass bears witness that the things worth measuring in someone’s life cannot be measured, but should be experienced. And experiencing Sandi’s love, generosity and knowledge have more weight than gold.

Sandi Bass generously spoke with Fashion Reverie about her time being a part of the recently departed Hubert de Givenchy’s inner circle of models. This revealing interview exposes the things in fashion that we still yearn for and how a country girl from Tennessee got to model from one of the greatest fashion designers of the 20th Century. Hubert de Givenchy passed away on March 10, 2018 in Paris.

Fashion Reverie: How did you get started as a fashion model?

Sandi Bass: I have always loved fashion. I was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee so I am a country girl at heart. My fashion icon was my mother. She was a fashion plate, very stylish. I don’t ever remember seeing my mother wear pants. She always wore beautiful dresses; she always had her hair styled. So, that is what I grew up with.

When I finished high school in Nashville I went to California to model. I knocked on all kinds of doors and got little response. When I did get the chance to model, the pay was very low. Sometimes, I walked in fashion shows for as little as five dollars. I didn’t really care; I just loved fashion. I was extremely thin at that time, but also very healthy. I was 5`8.5 and was smaller than a size 0. Clothes from the department stores would always hang on me, so I would sew my own because I could never find a pair of slacks that fit properly.

I went to a model casting at Mary Webb Davis, which at that time was the biggest modeling agency in Los Angeles. She said to me, “Honey, why don’t you have lunch. None of the clothes are ever going to fit you. But, give me you number.” I gave her my number, but didn’t hear from her for some time.

Anyway, I loved my life in Los Angeles, but I wasn’t really getting any where in my career. I was still walking in a lot of fashion shows, but working for very little or no money. I worked for some of the top designers in Los Angeles. I even taught at one of the modeling schools in the area.

Finally, I got a call from Mary Webb Davis for a casting for a fashion show featuring Hubert de Givenchy. None of the models from her agency could fit the clothes. She sent me to the Beverly Hills Hotel and there was Givenchy, this tall, elegant man. Now, this is 1978.

Anyway, I was wearing my tallest heels. Remember, I was not a very tall model, but I was thin, weighting about 104 lbs. I was also already 28 years old, but I looked I was in my late teens. Givenchy chose me for the show because I fit the clothes and I had a very good walk. After, the show Givenchy asked me to come to Europe and become one of his muses. That is how I got to Europe.

I was supposed to stay six months in Paris and I ended staying six years in Paris, five years in Rome, five years in Tokyo, working for all the top designers. That is pretty much my story.FR: You were a part of Givenchy’s inner circles of models, which is France they call a cabine. Could talk about what that was?

Sandi Bass: A cabine is a group of models that are muses to a couture designer. Couture garments are clothes that are actually made on models. The clothes are very expensive and a lot of the work is done by hand. Unfortunately, it is a fading art form in fashion. However, couture established some of the great luxury fashion houses in Europe—Christian Dior, Balenciaga, Chanel, Lanvin, Elsa Schiaparelli, Vionnet, etc.

When Givenchy found me in LA, he also discovered another model, Carol Miles. Dianne Washington was already working for him. Michelle Denby and Lynn Watts were also brought to Paris to work with Givenchy around the same time. We were all a part of Givenchy’s cabine and we were all models of color. There was one white French girl, Sophie, who made up Givenchy’s cabine in the late 1970s and early 80s. We were larger than life. And did all of Givenchy’s shows, fittings, etc.

We all had our own dressing room with lighted bulbs around huge mirrors, just like in Hollywood. We did our own makeup and hair. We had robes with our initials engraved on them. We had our own dressers. The phone would ring and we would go up and get fabric draped on us and we collaborated with Givenchy on what the fabric looked like, how the garments felt on us. It was a true collaboration between designer and muse model.

Givenchy always respected us, and listened to us. In 1979, Hubert de Givenchy won the Gold Thimble, the highest award a designer could win in Paris at that time. And the models in his cabine believed that he won because of the beautiful way his muse models displayed his collections. His cabine at that time was very chic and a very exclusive club, so to speak.

FR: At that time, in the late 1970s and early 80s, there were five models of color working almost exclusively for Givenchy as a part of his inner circle. Why did Givenchy choose five models of color to be his model muses?

Sandi Bass: Givenchy loved our spirit; he loved our walk and our energy. And I also believe that he did not see color. He told me once, “Sandi, you girls were like family to me. I didn’t care what your race was.” He loved us because we brought his clothes to life.

FR: Was having a core group of models of color unusual at the time?

Sandi Bass: Yes, it was. At that time we were a group of black models that was an extension of what had happened in Paris in 1973 when black models—Pat Cleveland, Alva Chin, Bethann Hardison, Billie Blair, Norma Jean Darden, and a few others—modeled in the charity event, the Divertissement de Versailles. Givenchy got a taste of the spirit of black models from that event.

As he was traveling, Givenchy handpicked us to be a part of his cabine. I don’t think it was a conscious thing, but it happened. The fashion industry was very different then. Runway models did not book print jobs, and vice versa. Beverly Johnson was an exquisite model, but she was not considered a runway model; she did mostly print.

Once the black models started to trickle into Europe in the late 70s, others followed. Instead of working mostly in Paris, we also started to get traction in Italy and other European fashion capitals. Dior and Valentino would call Givenchy wanting him to share his black models and at first he didn’t want to share us. He finally relented because he didn’t want to hold us back.

FR: Now you were Audrey Hepburn’s fit model for Givenchy. How did that come about?

Sandi Bass: That was a real honor. I had the same measurements as Audrey Hepburn, though she was a little shorter than me. I believe she topped at 5`7, but our proportions were the same, small and very petite.

At first, I didn’t know I was fitting Audrey’s clothes. However, one of the fitters told me that I was the fit model for her clothes. I did meet her one time. Monsieur Givenchy introduced me to her and we exchanged pleasantries. It was a huge honor.

                                        Sandi Bass modeling for Valentino

FR: How long were you a part of the Givenchy model cabine?

Sandi Bass: I worked from 1978 to 1981 as a part of the cabine. I took a pause in`81 to have my beautiful daughter, Christina. I was back on the runway for Givenchy in February of 1981 after having my daughter in January. I continued to work for Givenchy almost exclusively through 1983. After then I started to work in Italy and Japan.

After I left in `83, many of the other models in the cabine left and began to model for other designers. Within a short amount of time, Givenchy’s model cabine had completely dissolved and he never formed another one after that.

FR: Why did Givenchy not form another model cabine?

Sandi Bass: Well, we were special and it all happened during a very special time in fashion and in Monsieur Givenchy’s life and I don’t think he felt the need to replicate the cabine. Monsieur Givenchy always encouraged us to do other things outside of modeling; he felt having outside interest made us more interesting. I was in a rock band, The Peter Jacque Band, with my husband, Jacob Wheeler, Von Gretchen Shepherd, and Dianne Washington, which toured with the Bee Gees and ABBA. And at one point Monsieur Givenchy asked me if I wanted to sing or did I want to model. But, it was all good. He liked models that had a variety of things going on in their lives.

FR: What is one of the most important things you learned working with Givenchy?

Sandi Bass: I learned to be honorable. I know that sounds like a cliché, but it is true. I also learned to be kind. I was not the tallest or prettiest model; however, clients continuously wanted to work with me because I showed up, I was on time, and I did my job. That is what I mean by being honorable.

To have Hubert de Givenchy as a mentor at the start of my career was immeasurable. I was a country girl and to experience his kindness made my ascent in the fashion world easy. I used to bring him country ham from Nashville and we were great friends.

                                      All images courtesy of Sandi Bass

FR: How do think Givenchy should be remembered?

Sandi Bass: He should be remembered as a simple, kind, very giving, talented, amazing human being. He was a good person who happened to have great taste and talent. He was elegant up to the end of his life. When I went to visit him last year, although he was experiencing hearing loss, his conversation was just as sharp as it had always been.

FR: What are you doing now?

Sandi Bass: I am scouting director for Red Model Management. I have been so blessed to travel the globe; to have had a successful modeling career, and my list of blessings is endless.

My main focus now is to take care of my health, love my daughter and grandchildren, and give back. That is what I do at Red Model Management. I really try to support and mentor the new models at Red Model Management. I instruct them on how to have longevity as a fashion model.

I travel all over the world, scouting models. Thanks to the Internet and social media, I don’t to have to travel so much. I have kept all my contact from modeling in major international fashion capitals. I have placed models in Asia and Europe for over 15 years now. So, I bring everything I’ve learned to the models at Red Model Management, and it is so fulfilling.

—William S. Gooch

 

 

Model Watch: Isaac McKinley

What does it take to make it in the fashion industry as a fashion model? It takes more than good looks or an appearance on “America’s Next Top Model.” Speak with almost any working fashion model and you will soon understand that launching a career as a fashion model is an arduous task. It takes good looks, the right body proportions, the right model management company, a sense of adventure, and a whole lot of good fortune.

Isaac McKinley appears to have all of that, and then some. Right at the top of all the prerequisites for a successful modeling career is having the right attitude. And no one has a better attitude and state of mind than Isaac. Fashion Reverie witnessed Isaac’s joie de vivre as he was photographed for the site’s “The Future Is Now” editorial.

With all these attributes, Isaac McKinley is primed for success. And Fashion Reverie has the evidence to prove it.

Fashion Reverie: How did you get your start in the fashion industry as a fashion model?

Isaac McKinley: I started modeling two years ago. What got me started was that I would make a video log of my workouts at the gym. A freelance videographer noticed me recording myself in the gym and recommended that I pursue fashion modeling. After doing a little bit of research, I decided to give fashion modeling a try.

The freelance photographer that scouted me spent about three months in Chicago, my hometown, shooting commercial and fashion editorial images. All this happened while I was a sophomore in college. It was a lot of test shoots. I probably took over a thousand images with this photographer that gave me the opportunity to develop my craft.

FR: Now you very muscular before you started modeling. Did you have to slim down?

Isaac McKinley: I had to slim down significantly. I couldn’t fit into any sample sizes. I had to alter my diet and my weight training to obtain the look of a fashion model and fit into the sample sizes. If you cannot fit into the sample sizes, you don’t get any work. It is just that simple.

FR: Which model management company were you with in Chicago?

Isaac McKinley: I was with BMG Chicago for about a year and then l went to Miami and I got signed to Wilhelmina Miami. My original plan was to work a lot in Miami and work the swimwear market. But I changed my plans and moved to New York City instead.

FR: Why New York City over Miami?

Isaac McKinley: At first I thought Miami would be a good market for me because of my athletic body type. My initial impression was that Miami had swimwear and undergarment work year round; however, I later found out this was not necessarily the case. New York City was a much larger market with more opportunities, so my choice was to go were there were more opportunities for career expansion.

FR: How long have you been in NYC?

Isaac McKinley: I have been here about ten months now.

FR: Which model management company are you signed with in New York City?

Isaac McKinley: I am with State Management New York. I chose them by getting a feel of the bookers who worked there. I noticed that they were not glued to their laptops. At the open call, they really took the time to meet and talk with each model. They liked me and signed me immediately and within a month, I moved to NYC.

FR: You arrived in NYC just before New York Fashion Week: The Shows. Did you book any shows for that season?

Isaac McKinley: I was only able to book one casting because I moved to NYC toward the end of casting for fashion week. I didn’t book the show from that casting. However, I learned something very important. I learned that I needed to be more confident and trust my unique walk and movement, and not try to emulate other models. I was trying to walk like the models I saw walking in big shows on youtube. Casting directors want you to be confident and authentic. Anything other than that is a turn off.

FR: What have you booked since you signed with State Management?

Isaac McKinley: I have booked a mix of commercial and editorial jobs. I have more of a commercial look so I have been booking more commercial than editorial work, and of course commercial work pays more money. That said; I have booked a jewelry campaign, which came from the same photographer that shot the editorial I booked with Fashion Reverie. I also booked jobs with Fila, J.S. Sloane, Heineken, Union Bay Pacific, and Bleu Magazine.

FR: Which designers/brands would you like to work with?

Isaac McKinley: I would love to work with Dsquared2, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, YSL men’s, you know most of the greats. I would also like to continue working with emerging designers and brands.

FR: Where would you like your career to go?

Isaac McKinley: I would like to be based out of NYC, but work in other international fashion markets. This well-rounded approach will be give me a better understanding of where my particular look will get the most amount of industry traction.

                              Images courtesy of State Management New York

FR: A male model once told Fashion Reverie that his main career goal was to be able to make most of his income from working as a male model and not have to work side jobs to support himself. Is that one of your goals? Isaac McKinley: I want to be active at all times and even if I am frequently booking modeling jobs, I don’t want to put all my eggs into modeling. Right now, modeling is my sole focus; each day I practice my facial expression and posing. However, I am looking to transition to theatre and acting later on.

I think it is important to focus intensely on one thing at a time and master that craft. And right now my concentration is developing my skill as a male fashion model.

FR: You have only been in NYC less than a year. How are you supporting yourself financially?

Isaac McKinley: Right now I have three different jobs while pursuing my modeling career. I work at a restaurant and bar as a host. I also cater high-end events. I keep myself busy, keeping myself on point with my vision and goals. I believe I will get there!!

—William S. Gooch

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