Tall, thin, and beautiful is how most people would describe the average runway model. It’s hard to differentiate one woman prancing down the catwalk from another, when they all possess long, flowing legs, flat chests, and stand at an average 5’11”.
Certain professional models, however, have begun to break the stereotype, bringing their individual style and unique personalities to the world of high fashion. Models like Chloe Norgaard, whose rainbow-hued locks are now most famous for serving as a muse to Rodarte’s Laura and Kate Mulleavy, the pierced and tattooed Dorith Mous—who fronts the latest Diesel campaign—and Mariacarla Boscono with her shaved hairline have all made strides in the fashion industry without looking like a carbon copy of the traditional runways.
It’s this trend of increasing individuality that has propelled the rise of street casting, with brands like Urban Outfitters, Lanvin, J. Crew, and lingerie line AERIE opting to cast people found on the street for lookbooks or campaigns, rather than professional models.
London-based modeling agency, Anti-Agency, is ironically blurring the lines between the two—signing and representing “real people” with multi-colored hair, piercings, and all as, well, models. Founded nearly nine months ago by friends and longtime fashion industry veterans Pandora Lennard (formerly of Tank magazine) and Lucy Greene (a freelance stylist), Anti-Agency has established itself on the premise of being, naturally, nothing like a typical modeling agency. “We don’t have requirements for size or height. That’s the big one," Lennard told The Daily Beast—although the agency's roster as a whole tends to be on the thinner side, with a pair of large breasts or curvy hips here and there. "But we also don’t do portfolios or ‘books.’ For us, models should get booked based on their personality, not based on a load of pictures of them dressed up in different ways… We have to remind people that when we send our girls and boys to castings that they’re real people, not just clothes horses! They might look beautiful and be very cool, but they definitely don’t take any shit!”
Since the agency’s conception, its models have worked on projects for the likes of Uniqlo, Dr. Martens, and Urban Outfitters, and walked the runways of Giles, Maison Martin Margiela, and Meadham KirchHoff.
“It was exciting to know that our girls and boys were being picked based on their personalities,” Lennard added, “not because of their portfolios or measurements.”
Anti-Agency describes itself as a home “for people who could’ve been models and decided not to, for people who are too cool to be models—with real lives on the verge of exploding in music, fashion, art, illustration & other creative industries.” Its models are more than “just pretty faces,” and are actually discovered—via “hours of Facebook stalking and girl crushes,” Lennard laughs—and signed to the agency based on their “individual style.”
Amy Blakemore, an award-winning poet who dons a shaved head and nose ring, seems an unlikely choice for a fashion model. “I have a high opinion of the practice and manufacture of fashion,” she told The Standard, emphasizing that Sylvia Plath was once an intern at the now-defunct Mademoiselle magazine. “Fashion, painting, poetry, music… we all want to create things of beauty, essentially. In terms of a day job, it’s not a bad place to be.”
There’s jewelry designer James Tanner, illustrator Isabella Cotier, and Russian photographer Dasha Love. There’s Alex Glover, vocalist for the band the Relics, freelance music journalist Alison King, and artist Ayesha Tan Jones, who considers her individuality and style a direct feminist statement. “There’s a lot of stigma around the word ‘feminism,’” she said, “but I pride myself on being a feminist. Just the fact that women wear jeans is an outcome of feminism. People don’t consider that.”
Be it political statement or personal promotion of fashion, Anti-Agency and its models are moving the casting world on the right track in terms of focusing on models’ distinctiveness, both inside and out. Think of the popularity of Georgia May Jagger’s gapped front teeth, or Cara Delevingne’s wacky, out-of-this-world personality. Sure, there’s something unconventional (and ironic) about modeling as a non-model, but then again, conventionality doesn’t really seem to be Anti-Agency’s speed.