MILAN — And then IMG Models created the man.
The Italian branch of the international model agency has launched a men’s division, elevating IMG Models as global agency offering both men’s and women’s representation services in all of its offices, located in key cities as New York, Los Angeles, London, Sydney and Paris, along with Milan.
Established in April — following the launch in Paris just a few months before — the opening of the men’s division in Italy reflects the company’s investment in the European market and it’s aimed to better serve regional clients and partners with localized support.
“We definitely opened some years late, but the fact is IMG’s men’s division reopened four years ago and we launched New York first, through a small staff, to see if there were the premises to do well there, which is still the most important market in terms of volume,” said Andrea Cairo, managing director of IMG Models Italy.
Cairo explained that after New York, the first European men’s division debuted in London, and the company preferred to consolidate its position in those two locations “and understand if a presence was necessary in Italy and France, both for models and our clients.”
Another delaying aspect was the search of the right team to base in Milan. “This was an important [element] because we can’t afford to make mistakes. Opening with the wrong team and the wrong models could be damaging, especially for a name like ours. So we’re very careful in proceeding step by step.”
“Milan and Paris were the last two locations that we were missing,” echoed Maria Ianniello, senior male models manager at IMG’s Milan outpost. “Both markets are essentials.…We used to be able to work on other markets from New York, but we realized we needed to work with clients also locally, as the day-by-day [activity] was missing,” she said.
Since the launch, roughly 100 male models have been signed by IMG’s Italian branch, mostly with the support of the agency’s global network.
“Some of the boys who were signed in London are kind of automatically included in Milan’s board, too. In addition, we have scouters working on a daily basis so every day we receive new offers,” said Ianniello, underscoring that the agency’s goal is to make sure they represent their models on a global scale.
Opened in 2006, IMG’s Milan outpost currently counts eight people working in the women’s division and two managers dedicated to the new men’s board, all overseen by Cairo.
The men’s board was set up just in time for Milan Men’s Fashion Week, opening here today. Ianniello, in particular, feels optimistic for the season as “there’s already [been] some movement for Pitti, which is becoming more and more influential on the fashion system, and we will have around 30 talents in Milan, plus models coming from New York and the rest of Europe through direct booking.”
The reduction of days in Milan’s official schedule seemed not to undermine her mood, as she considers “the three days left very intense and qualitatively important. Milan remains a key destination and it’s very aspired by our boys, because its prestige has remained intact [through the years].”
In general, both executives don’t see the evolving format of the fashion seasons as a threat. “Agencies adapt to everything,” Cairo said with a laugh, finding the silver lining in the increasing number of off-season staged shows, as cruise and haute couture presentations.
“Every two months there’s a new collection, and this has to be presented,” he noted. “Those who can afford it stage important, high-budget fashion shows, so even if you lose three or four shows during Milan Fashion Week, you know that the same client will stage a big show a couple of months later, maybe in China or Japan, and usually it casts the same models….So fashion shows are not facing a crisis, but on the other hand, they are increasing and becoming big events.”
Apart from the fashion seasons, IMG’s goal is to have 20 to 25 talents in town on a daily basis starting from September, to further strengthen the relationship with fashion companies and support their demands throughout the year.
Scouting-wise, Ianniello explained “there’s not a single feature” determining a talent’s inclusion in the agency’s board. “When you start to know your clients and what they want…you understand what kind of model they would like.”
Underscoring that there’s much more diversity in the industry compared to the past, the manager has also noticed a return to classic beauty. “There has been a phase during which the weirder you were the better, but those were trends that lasted a season, so a model after six months was already considered [out]. Luckily, now it seems that there’s the comeback of the famous names, who started to work years ago.”
Another key trend the executives discussed was the impact of social media on the business.
Cairo said the agency is always attentive to new communication media, though its “core business is discovering new talents, either they have one million followers or they don’t even have an Instagram account and build a career that doesn’t end in two months or two years.”
Asked if the number of followers is an essential feature for companies in casting models, Cairo said it “depends on the client: there are some that are not receptive to this theme and others that base a lot on this. But the real influencing models, the ones that make the difference, are Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Kaia Gerber, the angels of Victoria’s Secret and that’s all.”
Ianniello noted that social media exposure is more relevant in the American market rather than in Europe. In the U.S., IMG established a team dedicated to advising models in developing their social accounts and briefing them about how to create a tag, the correct timing to post, topics to avoid or to discuss.
On the other hand, Cairo wanted to draw a thick line between influencing models and influencers, who often reach out to the agency when approached directly from fashion houses. “An influencer doesn’t know how to manage these [deals], he doesn’t have the expertise and knowledge to understand if it’s a good one and if the budget is right, while we do.”
In order to accept to work with an influencer, Ianniello said “there has to be an interesting profile, because the number of followers is important but it’s not the only thing we [consider]. There has to be something that triggers your curiosity.”
Reiterating that IMG’s core business is models, Cairo defined the influencers’ phenomena “an extra,” though “a very interesting one in terms of volumes” and one that “will last, at least until there will be no Internet.”
“It works, also with clients. They have ways to understand if they’re selling more through an influencer, because everything is traceable….If you do a traditional advertising campaign on magazines, you will never know if it the model or the collection or the marketing strategy drove your sales. When you pay an influencer for a product placement, you directly see if somebody has visualized the image and clicked on the e-commerce [link]. It’s a more immediate feedback. So until they will be a promotional [vehicle] for clients, this [situation] will last.”