On Tuesday, IMG Models announced a new male plus-size division named Brawn and the first model on its roster, Zach Miko.
IMG Models is hoping Miko will push the big and tall market forward and Miko has similar goals.
Here the 6-foot,-6-inch model and actor talks about how this contract came about, what he thinks about being called brawn and the shopping experience for men his size.
WWD: Before appearing on Target’s e-commerce site did you consider modeling?
Zach Miko: Never in a million years. When you are a man my size it’s never even considered a possibility. So it’s kind of really cool that it has become a possibility and times have changed.
WWD: What led to the IMG Models contract?
Z.M.: IMG found me on Instagram and invited me and my manager to come in and have a meeting. I had to reread the e-mail several times to totally believe that IMG was contacting me. I went in and Ivan [Bart, president of IMG] talked about his vision around diversity and inclusivity and right away I felt like these people get me. They aren’t trying to cash in on something that could be a story. I knew who they were not only because of their roster, but I’ve also been following Ashley Graham’s career very closely and knew she was with IMG.
WWD: Have you met Ashley Graham?
Z.M.: Not officially. I saw her at a party. I didn’t get to meet her because that was the same day they announced her as the cover of Sports Illustrated. Everyone in the world was congratulating her. My wife still doesn’t quite forgive me for not introducing her to Ashley.
WWD: Do you want to follow her trajectory?
Z.M.: Ashley is a superstar. A couple articles came out and said, “He’s the male version of Ashley Graham,” which is awesome. Thank you for even putting me in the same paragraph as her. She changed the conversation of what beauty is. If I can do only a fraction of what she does I will be so honored.
WWD: What do you think of the term “brawn?”
Z.M.: I love it. One thing that has happened in society is that terms like “big and tall” and “plus-size,” which are just descriptive words, have developed a negative connotation. We’ve gotten to a point where fat is an insult and skinny is a compliment. Using terms like “brawn” and “curvy” change the connotation and celebrate these descriptions.
WWD: Has the market for big and tall or brawn men gotten better?
Z.M.: Yes and no. I still have a very hard time walking into any physical brick-and-mortar store and finding anything that fits. I don’t think designers feel like big guys want to look good. The average male waist size in America is 39 inches. A lot of stores don’t carry a waist size bigger than 36. You are eliminating a whole customer. There are brands that will produce bigger sizes but not sell them in store. That’s good that you can order it online, but we want to be able to go in a store, go in a dressing room, try something on, look in the mirror and ask our friends how we look. That experience doesn’t exist for us and it looks fun. I saw “Pretty Woman.” It looks awesome.
WWD: You are also an actor. How is that going?
Z.M.: I’m called on regularly to come and audition, which is great, but it’s still calls like, “You are going to be Jennifer Lopez’s prison guard.” I’m called in for the prison guard, the bouncer and you would be surprised how often they are looking for lumberjack and Viking types. It’s still awesome and I’m still paying my dues. I’m super happy to see where this leads.