For MMSCENE Magazine‘s latest print edition Founder and Director of KULT Models MARCO CORDES sits down with our Editor In Chief ZARKO DAVINIC to talk about what sets his agency apart from others in the market, but also travel regulations for models and longevity of top models.
When and how did you get interested in the modelling industry? – Fashion was always something I was fascinated about, but growing up in Munich, I always assumed that particular industry was limited to those living in Paris or Milan! I ended up going down a ‘conventional’ route and into banking. It was only while working in a bank that I came across a client who owned a modelling agency!! Their life seemed so fascinating and exciting! I actually gave up a very good job and became an intern for this particular client, and my life in the industry started there!
Fashion is of course a trend, so we are looking for brave people amongst us to stand up and start new trends. Let’s follow the positive role models and not those following much outdated trends and ideas on how this industry should look
What would you say sets apart KULT MODELS from other model agencies? – The people within! The models and the agents who carry the name. I try to surround myself with good people who I enjoy working with, who I can trust and who are of course super talented in what they do! Kult signifies a group of people from all walks of life, who each bring something different and exciting to the studios and agency every day.. and it’s a pleasure to watch.
KULT represents quite a few top models, for you what are the makings of a real top model? – Personality. Of course the industry is full of quite beautiful humans.. but the key to success is longevity and for this you need clients to really enjoy being around you. I think the days of the old school diva are behind us. But behind the closed doors, away from the lights and the action. To hit the top, the models really must find that motivation to succeed. The travelling and shoot days are of course fun, but can you drag yourself out of bed to go for a run at 6am, do you have the patience to get through those quiet phases that each model will have, can you bounce back from missing out on that campaign option. There’s a lot of rejection in the industry. Can you come back stronger each time and rise above the competition? If so then you stand a good chance of being a very successful model.
The much needed diversification in the fashion and closely connected modeling industry is changing the model landscape for the better, yet there is much more work to do. What do you believe is the next necessary change in our industry? – Yes, finally we can see the fashion industry starting to mirror more and more real people, and what is essentially real life. We all just hope these changes are here to stay and for this to happen everyone must come together, from the consumer, to the models, the model agencies, casting directors, the press. Right up to the designers sitting in Paris right now with a pencil in hand. It’s a huge effort but that group of people right there, hold so much power and can really make a difference by all coming together. Fashion is of course a trend, so we are looking for brave people amongst us to stand up and start new trends. Let’s follow the positive role models and not those following much outdated trends and ideas on how this industry should look.
Earlier this year, in response to BREXIT, British Fashion Council and BFMA have worked with UK’s Home Office on necessary changes recognizing the role of creatives and models allowing them better Visa conditions, but also legally recognizing models now in categories such as Top Models, Commercial Models, Model Required for Continuity and New Faces. What do you believe is needed next, and also how do you feel the EU is responding to these changes needed in our industry? – I have always believed that models did not always get the respect they deserved in terms of visa conditions. When you look at actors, pop stars, designers, entertainers etc.. who all come under the creative visa banner and seem to be able to travel with ease.. models are always left behind, struggling to get where they need to be and essentially losing out on work. There has always been this view of ‘modelling isn’t a real job’. I believe any profession that does require international travel, should be recognised with favourable visa conditions. We are all about protecting our models and making sure they are given the chases they have earned. We are thankful that within the EU, as it stands the models can move freely and work without restrictions.
We are still seeing mother agents and scouts recruiting models at a very young age, what is your stand on models under 18 working in the industry? – Once again it comes down to protecting the models and the mother agents doing the responsible thing on an individual basis. Look, we have some extremely confident and mature 16 – 18 year olds going on shoots here in Hamburg, working with clients we know and trust. It’s a really good experience for new models to learn in a safe environment what happens on a photo set. What we wouldn’t do is send a model on a shoot who was not 100% confident and happy to do it. When it comes to models under 18, automatically for us, it’s a situation where the parents are always involved and decisions are made together.
When we are talking about 14 – 16 year olds leaving their homes for the first time and being sent alone to a foreign country – then this is a different situation altogether. It’s something that should legally not be allowed to happen.
Each and every business around the world that has survived these last two years deserves huge respect
For the past few years the German Fashion Industry has struggled with the appeal of Berlin Fashion Week especially in relation to international buyers and press members, the announcement of Frankfurt fashion week confused the press and buyers even more. Do you think Germany even needs a fashion week at this point? – For me the German fashion industry is not at its strongest point right now. It comes down to a few different things. One being social media and every fashion show being streamlined live online. You know we have even seen NYC, London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks struggle with this and we have seen huge designers have their shows fall off the schedule. The press don’t all need to scramble over front row seats anymore to see the collections. The other point is and one which I feel strongly about is how we’ve harmed our own industry from within. We see all our top brands and magazines bypassing the German model agencies, photographers, stylists etc. and working directly with foreign companies. When our own giants of the German fashion industry reach out directly to Paris or NYC for talent. It really depletes the talent pool, takes money out of our industry and we’ve seen how badly affected the industry has been here. We’re now at a stage where foreign modelling agencies will not place models with German agencies because they can speak directly with the clients themselves. There is so much creativity in this country, if we can all work together we can really make the world look at Germany as a fashion hot spot again. But to answer your question, a fashion week here right now would not turn the heads that needed to be turned.
Due to the pandemic we are also entering a 3rd year of Fashion Weeks internationally experimenting with digital presentations. What is your stand on digital runways? – You know, let’s be honest. Nothing beats the electric feel of a great catwalk show and as long as it continues, but the pandemic has taught us to think outside the box, be creative under limitations and try and get the job done as well as possible. Each and every business around the world that has survived these last two years deserves huge respect. And to be honest I’ve seen some really cool alternatives to the usual show scenario. Saint Laurent’s shows in the dunes of Gran Canaria and last season in Iceland were both breath-taking.
Model careers are known as notoriously short lived, however KULT is proudly representing models growing with the agency for years. For you, what is the key to a long model career? – I touched on this slightly, but to go into more detail it’s all about being professional. Turn up on time, arrive looking your best, be a pleasure to be around. If you don’t build up a base of regular clients it’s so hard to keep busy year after year. You need to do your job so well that clients keep coming back for more and more! But what we also do here much more these days is to really map out a career for the new faces. What would be the ideal launch for them, an editorial, a show in Milano? Would it be good to get the support of this casting director, or maybe this designer has more reach. There’s so many potholes these days it’s so important to make the right decisions early on for your models. We put some much time and effort into development. We want these models to have a long and successful career!
In the last few years KULT started branching out with international offices, reaching as far as Australia, how important do you believe building such a network is for longevity of model agencies? – The whole basis of the Kult Group is to have a large pool of very talented mother agency models. We’ve seen during the Pandemic how important it is to have our own models and to have access to quick and easy first options. To be able to show clients so many amazing Kult models and to be able to respond quickly with options is so central to our vision here. We don’t want to have to rely on other agencies to scout models and to hope they consider placing the models with Kult, we see us having such a strong team across the globe that we can stand on our own to feet and be known across the industry as having developed these own top models under the Kult name.
I tell each of the models and the agents here to be ambitious and to not stand still. The trends change, technology changes, we always want to be at the forefront of these changes.
KULT is now a 20 year old, looking back, what do you owe your longevity to? – I owe it all to friends I have made along the way! Trust and support from many models, clients and members of my team. We’ve all helped each other out at various points over the years and without their support I wouldn’t have not lasted 12 months. They all know who they are.
What is next for KULT Models? – There’s so much you can achieve in this industry. There’s no limitations or boundaries on what someone can achieve in business. I tell each of the models and the agents here to be ambitious and to not stand still. The trends change, technology changes, we always want to be at the forefront of these changes. We want to grow but at the same time we want to keep our values and to always have time for each and every member of the Kult family. Right now though I want to travel and see old friends again in this business who we’ve not had a chance to see over the last two years. There’s so many people I need to thank for their support over the last two years and I would like nothing more right now than a good old fashion lunch!
For more of Kult Models log on to kultmodels.com.