Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Vogue Australia's Model Series is an IMG Models exclusive

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The competition in Australia's modelling market was already heating up before IMG Models rolled into town last July. Sydney agency Chic Management was accused of "undercutting" the competition at last year's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia via the agency's "Chic Exclusive" shows featuring only Chic models. Frockwriter understands that the Chic Exclusives will continue at this year's event, which officially starts on Monday, but has kicked off already with a few off-schedule shows around town this week. Tomorrow morning's Carla Zampatti show in the Sydney CBD will feature only Chic girls. Meanwhile, IMG Models Australia has returned fire by stitching up its own big exclusive - with no less than Vogue Australia. And the other agencies are fuming. 

Last month the magazine unveiled the first of a five-part collector's edition called the 'Model Series', that will be available in a boxed set "presented by David Jones"

One tantalising detail about the Model Series that Vogue Australia has thus far neglected to mention, as far as we are aware, is that the series is an exclusive deal with IMG Models Australia and will feature only models represented by the agency - as confirmed to frockwriter by IMG Models Australia managing director Danielle Ragenard. 

Dutch supermodel Lara Stone featured on the first cover. Miranda Kerr is on the second, with speculation that Gemma Ward may be next in line. In January, the former world number one enthralled fashion watchers by switching Australian agencies to IMG Models Australia, which announced Ward's intention to resume her modelling career this year. 

Since IMG Models opened its doors down under, the agency has poached Kerr, Ward, Nicole Trunfio and a raft of other models who were previously repped by other independent agencies in this market. 

That's not counting model agency staff who have also been poached -  starting with former Chic Management general manager Ragenard, who defected to head up IMG Models Australia. Even Foxtel's high-rating model industry-based reality show Australia's Next Top Model is now affiliated with IMG Models Australia, after teaming up with Priscillas and Chic Management in previous years. The winner/s of this year's show will be offered contracts with IMG Models. The company's New York- and Paris-based vice presidents of development, David Cunningham and Jeni Rose, also took part in the interstate audition process in January. 

Little wonder, therefore, that other local agencies are not terribly impressed with the news that the cover of Australia's most prestigious fashion title is off limits to anyone other than the world's biggest model agency for almost half of 2013. 

With more than one of these agencies also repping creatives such as photographers, makeup artists and stylists, who would not like to limit their work prospects with IMG Models Australia, it's also no surprise that few are willing to go on the record.

“It’s not supporting local Australian businesses, it’s supporting an overseas-based conglomerate" said one agency head, of Vogue's IMG Model Series. "Vogue Australia has always supported local Australian talent and they’ve always been quite passionate about using Australian models. The first one was Lara Stone, the second one is Miranda. I suppose if they balance it and they support Australian talent it might be OK. But overall no, we’re not happy about it”.

Noted another, “We've got a big international company coming into town and all of these amazing family businesses that have worked from grass roots and we all feel really threatened. With IMG Models, there’s no history there. It’s just a very different place. It’s pure business. IMG [Models] are very successful worldwide because they have systems in place and they are big and they are corporate and they are powerful. Obviously it was a commercial decision but it takes out the fair playing field. It’s like an ad campaign for IMG. It also means that perhaps an Australian model misses out being on the cover. Every young girl wants to be on the cover of Vogue”.

“I think that we need to support our local industry and the fact is that we produce some of the best models in the world and my agency is testament to that at the moment, with Ruby Jean Wilson and Julia Nobis" said Priscillas Model Management managing director Priscilla Leighton-Clark. "And Australian agents can bring in great international girls. So we’re not just asking you to [only] use Australian. We have to keep our rather small industry cranking. We don’t make the money that the international agencies do, we don’t have the same margins. I think that Vogue has been very unwise with this decision as they’ve put people’s noses out of joint. It’s not a good business decision”.

Noted another agent, of News Limited's perceived monopoly in the arrangement, "Rupert Murdoch has hit the bloody jackpot - but where is the journalistic integrity of Vogue?" 

News Limited owns the Australian rights to not only Vogue but also the now IMG Models-affiliated Next Top Model franchise via News Limited's Foxtel network. Contrary to speculation, however, Vogue won't be the AusNTM magazine affiliate in 2013 as Harpers Bazaar Australia recently confirmed that this year's winner will be featuring on its November cover.

What is the David Jones connection? According to a DJs rep, the Model Series boxed set was simply an "advertising deal" done with Vogue Australia and the department store has no connection to AusNTM. But DJs does have a recent affiliation with Foxtel, with a one hour special on last year's Spring/Summer runway showcase screened on Foxtel's Arena channel in August. 

IMG Models and Vogue Australia may be interested to know that news of the Model Series has travelled a little further afield than these shores. 

Sources report that the April editor's letter from Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Edwina McCann was scanned and emailed to a number of international model agents, alerting them to the fact that although requests may be made by Vogue Australia for their models for upcoming editorials, all of those models have got Buckley’s of getting a cover in the coming months because of the IMG deal.

Here's an excerpt of McCann's editor's letter. We note - and again, to the best of our knowledge - no disclosure is made of any exclusive five-month deal with IMG Models. 
“Miranda Kerr is a queen bee whose social media following dwarfs most. A brand in her own right, she is managed by IMG, the talent agency that also manages the careers of Venus Williams and Justin Timberlake and runs Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, London and Australia. Clearly IMG is a force to be reckoned with and now that its model agency doors have opened in Australia, we can expect many more of our young Mirandas to become international superbrands in the future”.

And here is a portion of an email received back from one prominent New York agency in response to the editor's letter: 
"That letter is really shocking. I just re-read it....Let us hope that they only continue to product chipmunk-faced, Lipton tea saleswomen".

Representatives of NewsLifeMedia and IMG Models were unreachable for comment at time of writing.


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