From an ethereal Anna Martynova opening Rick Owens, to the pairing of Ruby Jean Wilson and Nastya Kusakina at Louis Vuitton, the casting of a fashion show is integral to its success. Noah Shelley and Angus Munro of AM Casting are two of the most influential casting agents in the business. Their clientele includes Ann Demeulemeester, Pringle and Marios Schwab amongst others, and Shelley is the casting director for Dazed & Confused. The pair combine a sharp eye with a sense of humour and the ability to survive the pressure and twilight hours of fashion week. Here AnOther spoke to Shelly and Munro about S/S13 casting, model behaviour and why the air kiss is on the way out.
What were the biggest differences you noticed between each city during fashion week? Were any trends particular to one city?
Angus Munro: It's a difficult question to answer. Presuming we are talking about intrinsic differences in model choices between the cities. It's very hard to generalise as all houses in each city are hugely different in their brand identity and therefore their casting will mirror this. I feel like New York was very upbeat in terms of casting. There were a lot of natural, fresh beauties as there often are in the S/S13 New York collections: post summer, the girls are tanned and rested. London is, well, London in so far as despite the great work the British Fashion Council are doing, many of the girls are just not able to be there, thus it's hard to get a proper read as to a particular trend, although I do feel that . We just need all the girls to get there! Milan is normally very similar to New York in its casting feel, however, this is where you normally first see the really big runway girls surface each season (due to the money and campaigns on offer). Apart from the Prada cast, Milan is, well, Milan. Paris always has many more girls than any other city, and is certainly the city most biased towards the perfect measurement, therefore, in Paris the girls seem to be inches taller, more perfect in terms of proportion and just chicer generally.
"London is once again leading the way in terms of its progressive feel for casting"
"Do you have any humorous anecdotes or stories from fashion week?
Noah Shelley: If you can't laugh during fashion week, good luck and God bless. It’s a month long endurance test for almost everyone involved. And it's so full of stress and adrenaline and chaos and magic – that we have to laugh. I mean we cry too, but mostly from laughing so much. Angus and I develop a lot of bizarre inside jokes based on the absurd things that we say when really exhausted. We can bring one up from years back and the other will keel over. Mostly however, our assistants laugh at us. And I do mean “at us” not with us. We aren’t that funny.
AM: Speak for yourself, I’m hilarious.
How do you survive during the long hours? What keeps you going?
NS: The hours can stretch to 18 hours at their worst (when we are in London for example) so you find ways to survive. For me it's coffee. The team knows to just keep a constant flow of black coffee streaming my way. Sometimes I think I can live on that and stress alone during shows. And because our support team is made up of such hard workers and thoughtful individuals they stop to remind us to eat once in a while so I don’t end up living on coffee alone. But that’s probably because they are hungry.
AM: I know that it sounds a bit naff but I love my job. I think I am really lucky to be able to do this for a living, so I try to remind myself that while supergluing my eyelids open at a 3am fitting in Dalston!
"If you can't laugh during fashion week, good luck and God bless"
What has been the biggest trend amongst models this season?
AM: Tall and pretty?! As a general rule, I think the girls are getting more aspirational. I have said for years that I just do not understand why we had the faceless generation of models that was so prevalent in the early-to-mid 2000s, and this season a more beautiful, aspirational trend continued but, more importantly, evolved somewhat. These girls had a bit of an edge, which is where it should be. I think we all went a little saccharine in response to the “modelbots” mentioned above; last season had more new girls that are my exact type of girl than any season in recent history.
NS: The last few seasons have really been about new new new. People can't get enough. There aren’t enough girls people want to develop and build into these characters we all know and love. There is almost a competitive element in finding girls. Which I find disconcerting, because why put the energy into finding them, if you don’t want to see them for very long? Of course, not everyone is that cut and dry about it all, but the industry as a whole seems to be speeding up. Regarding purely aesthetic trends, I feel like ‘strength’ is a good word, and confidence. There is a trend towards beautiful women that don’t seem to be pushovers, girls and women who are emboldened by their beauty and wear it well.
How do you politely say goodbye to a girl if she is not right?
NS: Politely of course. These are people, often very young ones, with lives beyond the room we all sit in. They have to be respected for getting up the nerve to walk into a room of strangers and hope for the best, and they should leave that room feeling great about themselves, whether or not we give them the job. Angus and I were speaking about this the other day. That when you start out going to castings, it's probably the first time in your life where the decision is so quick. A go-see is often as quick as a chat, a look at a book and a walk. And this is the case for the next big thing and the people who may never work. We don’t need much time to know. This is unusual compared to any other job a person might try to get outside of modeling. No interview, no talents required, no alternate route to winning us over. And I know you see that on their faces sometimes, the look of “is that really it?” and if you know how confusing that can be for people, and young people who are boiling over with emotion, then you can find a way to be delicate and positive through the process.
AM: Honestly, after all these years and having been a model agent in my former life, I am still trying to work out the best and most sensitive way. The trouble is that everyone is different and some people prefer absolute honesty and others would rather be spared that. Many of the girls tell us that we are pretty human compared to most of our peers, so that means we must be doing something right.
"By the end of just one show in a season you have air kissed the same girls you know and love an exorbitant amount of times – it's too much"
Do you have any pet hates when it comes to models?
NS: This may sound dumb, but I’m losing interest in air kisses at a rapid rate. You do a casting, you do a fitting, you do the show. By the end of just one show in a season you have air kissed the same girls you know and love an exorbitant amount of times. Let alone if you have loads of shows. The hello, the goodbye. It’s too much. I’m from this day forward instituting “high fives”. One big howdy do hand slap and we can all smile and get to work. I’m kissed out. “Low fives” are acceptable when necessary.
AM: Moodiness and moaning. I am not being insensitive, I have a teenage daughter therefore I know what these girls must be feeling and I know that the hours are crazy and that expectations and emotions are high. But please. You are so lucky. The travel, the money, the camaraderie – this is one of the most glamorous jobs in the world and one that can set you up for life. Treat it well. I am sure the other 25 girls in your class back home would cut off their proverbial left arm to swap places with you. It is a huge no no for me.
NS: That too!
Do you both have a similar working pattern?
NS: Funny you ask. The pattern of the job is the same, the process of finding, choosing, discussing confirming, etc., but we both have a different methodology. Which is why we always felt we work so well together. The little details – not the big picture so much. How we do our boards sometimes, stuff like that. Nothing major. I think maybe our clients or assistants could describe us better than we could. I'd love to hear it actually.
AM: Absolutely not! We could not be more different in our approach. However, as Noah says, the process is always the same, and some clients respond to Noah’s way and some to mine.
What look is proving very popular for editorial post fashion week?
NS: Bold. The girls I find people want to see in magazines are the really bold ones. Not just the pretty, chic or perfect ones, but the girls with defining character. Not every runway girl is bold.
Text by Mhairi Graham