Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fur, fashion and Book #13

A few days ago a friend and art director at another magazine emailed to ask if I had a fur coat. This, just days after my father asked, after cleaning out the basement, if I wanted any of my mother or grandmother's fur coats that were stored down there. While I didn't want to part with them -- I loved these coats growing up, and I still do -- I'm not sure I have the moxie to parade past the PETAs in one.

But today, the fur coats are going to be famous! They're heading off to be in a photo shoot. And just like any model, it's not about the model, it's about what the model's modelling. In this case, the fur coats will be the "coat rack" for belts. For a belt ad.

The strangest thing about this is that the coats are being paid a sum that is the same (or in some cases more) than some magazines pay a model for a photo shoot.

How sad is it that a 25-year-old coat is making more money than a 25-year-old model?

In other modelling news, I just finished reading Fashioning Reality by Ben Barry.

Ben started his own modelling agency in the basement of his mother's home in Ottawa when he was 14. Fourteen! Do you remember what you were doing at 14? He wanted to help one of his friends, who didn't have a typical model body but who was gorgeous nonetheless find work. He started with a few models, getting them mall shows and department store ads, and now, he has offices in London, New York and Toronto. His roster includes all women: short, tall, fat, skinny, young, old. His girls were used in the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty -- the one that changed the way we all think about beauty, models and advertising. The campaign that was just feted at Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

Now, he's at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University on an Ogilvy Foundation Research Grant, doing a study on whether consumers want to see a new style of model -- one that is more than tall, thin and flawless. The average model is 5'11" and 117 pounds. The average woman is 5'4" and 140 pounds. I think as consumers, we know which type of model we'd rather see in ad campaigns. And Ben is the driving force behind making this change.

I picked up his book last weekend and finished it in two sittings. It's part business, part fashion, part memoir, and all fun. While I loved the insider info on the fashion, modelling and agency world (Ben mentored under Elmer Olsen), I found the entrepreneurial message captivating and one that anyone can relate to, either in their own job or if they've ever thought of starting their own business. Meanwhile, the story of how Ben got to where he is today was as good as any novel. I never knew what was going to happen when I turned the page. From winning the CIBC Student Entrepreneur of the Year award while at U of T where he attended on a four-year National Millennium Scholarship to getting his girls into the final show at Toronto Fashion Week (sample sizes be damned!), Fashioning Reality is an inspiring, motivating, feel-good read.

I met Ben briefly at BookExpo and found him to be sweet, funny and charming. If he agrees, I'm going to get him to stop by here to answer all our questions about fashion, modelling, real beauty and what it's like to be running an international business, going to school, and still not being old enough to rent a car.

Can't wait? To read an exerpt of Fashioning Reality, go here.

No comments: