Saturday, April 16, 2011

What Catherine did Next

christian dior RTW FW0809/sonny vandevelde via TFS

Catherine McNeil might still be listed as the world number 24 on’s Top 50 Women list, but we have not seen much work from her of late. In fact a Vogue Australia cover in February this year, her fifth Vogue Australia cover, appears to be the highlight of her 2011 portfolio so far – after a stellar 2010 that saw McNeil book, among many other jobs, four advertising campaigns: Givenchy Fall/Winter 2010 ready to wear and Narciso Rodriguez, Carolina Herrera and Lanca fragrances. And all of this in spite of the fact that she had skipped several international show seasons. But there has been some movement on McNeil’s profile. Her New York agency is now listed as Ford, as opposed to Next Model Management, which is the agency that launched McNeil's international career in 2006. Although still has McNeil listed with Next’s affiliate agencies in London, Milan and Paris, Stephen Lee, McNeil’s former agent at Next, told frockwriter that, as of yesterday, Next no longer represented McNeil in any market. “We wish Catherine all the best for the future both personally and professionally” is all tight-lipped Lee would say. So, did she jump or was she pushed?  

It is certainly true that models move around from agency to agency. McNeil is not the only model to leave Next - or notably, the only model to leave Next for Ford. She is in fact the second Australian to jump ship from Next to Ford in five months, after Elyse Taylor in around November last year. Both models remain with the same Australian “mother agency” in Sydney – Chic Management.

In May 2010, Next sued Ford for allegedly poaching three of its top contracted models, Poles Ania Cywinska and Anna Jagodzinska and Estonian Karmen Pedaru. Seven months later, the three models in question initiated a claim against Next for US$3.66million in back pay and punitive damages.

It is unclear whether these cases have been scheduled for later hearings, settled – or perhaps even thrown - out of court. 

What is clear is that there has been bad blood between the two agencies for quite some time, with Ford reportedly taking legal action against Next on at least three previous occasions over alleged model poaching. In one 2009 suit, Ford claimed that Next had wrongfully acquired models and employees under exclusive contract with Ford six times in less than a year.

As for McNeil, she might well currently be ranked the world #24 by, however she debuted on the list at #26 four years ago. And by July 2010, she had made it as high as #12.

But while McNeil’s MDC ranking is going south, Next currently has three models in the site's world top 5: Anja Rubik (#3), Karlie Kloss (#4) and Abbey Lee Kershaw (#5).

The winner, at just 14, of Australia's 2003 Girlfriend Model Search, McNeil remained at school and worked locally for three years before being launched internationally at the age of 17.

After an introduction by Next in late 2006, McNeil secured a six-month exclusive contract with leading photographer Mario Testino, which saw her shoot covers for Vogue Paris and V Magazine in record time. In March 2007, The New York Times called her “Fashion’s latest crush”.

Whether McNeil wants to work or not, is her business.
She has achieved more in the past four years than many models do in an entire career. There are certainly much easier jobs than modelling - particularly modelling at an elite international level, where the pressures are extraordinary.

We wish her luck with her new agency.  


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