When was the last time anybody was seen leafing through the pages of a real phone directory?
The answer to that question troubles companies like Workbook and Le Book. Once these businesses, which list and promote fashion industry creatives, were pioneers, their directories hundreds of pages long and a must-have for every creative director, stylist or producer. But since the internet came along, sourcing creative talent has changed radically. There are multiple ways to do this now and most of them live online.
On Wednesday evening in Berlin, Fabien Duverneuil, one of the founders of Le Book, which launched in 1982, unveiled a solution to his company’s digital challenge.
Le Book will join online model-booking platform Ubooker in a strategic partnership that will see the original directory, which describes itself as “the bible of the image industries,” take its large catalogue of creatives online. Beginning this fall, potential clients will be able to browse and book photographers, illustrators, makeup artists and many others via Ubooker’s platform.
The venture between the two businesses will be known as “Creatives by Le Book — powered by Ubooker.”
“Le Book was created 45 years ago,” Duverneuil told WWD in an exclusive interview shortly before revealing the venture. “Digitalization was inevitable. It has been a challenging process, of course, and we also just launched the new Le Book site.…However, we will always also love print, so we are glad that now we are in the position to run both.”
Le Book still publishes paper directories annually in four markets — Berlin, New York, London and Paris — but since 2005, has also focused on hosting dozens of in-person networking events for creatives. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company had to take these digital.
It was at the first of these digital summits that Duverneuil met the founders of Ubooker.
The site, which uses the catchphrase “by models, for models,” has been described as a kind of “Uber” of modeling because, although the talents on the platform are all vetted, Ubooker bypasses agencies as well as offers automatic invoicing, faster payouts and lower commission fees. Originally Ubooker, which was founded in 2017 and is based in London, specifically targeted larger e-commerce companies, some of which are booking up to 30 models a day to shoot their product with. Ubooker made that process easier and faster.
Speaking to Duverneuil at one of the digital Connections events, the synergies between the two companies became clear, Nicola Scagnolari, Ubooker chief executive officer and a cofounder, told WWD.
“Ubooker could bring its [online] expertise to help in the discovery and booking of professional talent,” Scagnolari explained. “It made sense because our technology can easily be adapted to an adjacent segment of the market.”
Ubooker could have started listing photographers and other creatives themselves, Scagnolari admitted, but “Le Book has over 40 years of experience and know-how in the industry. It seemed like a natural fit.”
“Our organizations remain focused on our respective expertise,” Duverneuil added. “Marketing and networking from Le Book, and technology and innovation from Ubooker, in a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Asked whether he thought some agencies might see Le Book’s move online to a platform like Ubooker as problematic, Duverneuil dismissed the idea.
“It could be seen as controversial but obviously it doesn’t need to be,” he argued. “Our aim is to include our partners — clients and creatives and also agencies — in this development, to learn from them and to offer them new opportunities for their roster of talent.”