THE BIG READ

Sunday Times - - Contents - By An­drea Nagel

The pioneers dis­rupt­ing art, food & fash­ion

If we were be­ing op­ti­mistic about the state of the mod­el­ling in­dus­try, we would say that its di­ver­sity stats were im­prov­ing im­pres­sively. Af­ter all, isn’t Ed­ward En­nin­ful (male and black) the new edi­tor of British Vogue? Isn’t mixed-race model Ad­woa Aboah (British mum, Gha­nian dad) the cover star of his first edi­tion at the helm?

Gen­er­ous in size, by usual model stan­dards, cur­va­ceous Ash­ley Gra­ham made the Forbes list of the world’s high­est­paid mod­els last year, and trans­gen­der model Valentina Sam­paio graced the cover of Vogue Paris last March.

But the fact re­mains that most of the mod­els whose faces and bod­ies grace Z cards from New York to Cape Town and Paris to Mi­lan are ex­tremely thin, young women, like Candice Swanepoel, Ken­dall Jen­ner and Bella Ha­did.

The fash­ion edi­tor at the Daily

Tele­graph in Lon­don, Emily Cronin, writes: ‘‘Di­ver­sity isn’t a box you can sim­ply tick. It’s a mat­ter of race, yes, but also of size, shape, age, gen­der and dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties, among other iden­ti­fiers. There are so many as­pects to the no­tion that some­times the word ‘di­ver­sity’ it­self, like ‘sus­tain­abil­ity’, can come to seem a husk, an empty buzz­word.”

A fo­cus on di­ver­sity should mean cre­at­ing a space where all women and men can see them­selves re­flected in fash­ion and ad­ver­tis­ing, and Fani Segerman, who opened The Fan­tas­tic Agency in Cape Town in Jan­uary this year, is at­tempt­ing to do just that.

‘‘I worked in the in­dus­try for many years as a stylist and cast­ing direc­tor, and later at a promi­nent mod­el­ling agency where I learnt the ins and outs of the mod­el­ling in­dus­try. I saw the space for a new, in­ter­est­ing and ‘al­ter­na­tive’ agency,” she says.

Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the in­dus­try from both sides of the cam­era — she was scouted at 17 and signed to a model and tal­ent agency for many years — Segerman says she be­lieves there’s def­i­nitely been a shift over the past two years to brands want­ing more di­verse and au­then­tic mod­els.

But old no­tions of beauty are still en­trenched and Segerman is work­ing hard to change that. ‘‘My aim is to rep­re­sent mod­els that break the mould of what is ‘nor­mal’ or ac­cepted, to en­cour­age brands to use faces that defy stereo­types, and to keep grow­ing along­side the new wave of mod­el­ling.”

Scout­ing faces from In­sta­gram ac­counts and the streets, Segerman wants to de­velop mod­els and tal­ent into in­dus­try jew­els. “I fo­cus on dis­cov­er­ing and de­vel­op­ing fresh tal­ent. Through my tal­ent se­lec­tion, I’m try­ing to make a shift in [an] in­dus­try that’s still very tra­di­tional and back­wards when it comes to rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

Her vi­sion for the agency is out­lined on its web­site: “We rep­re­sent the full pack­age — the peo­ple you stalk on­line, the muses, the am­bas­sadors, the vi­sion­ar­ies who bring life to brands.”

And the young mod­el­ling agent says: “In an in­dus­try based on im­age and ap­pear­ance, I am try­ing to shift the fo­cus to bet­ter rep­re­sent the peo­ple who are of­ten over­looked or ex­cluded. Rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the mod­el­ling world is so vi­tal and I hope

‘I SAW THE SPACE FOR A NEW, IN­TER­EST­ING AGENCY’

that can trans­late through the work I am do­ing at Fan­tas­tic.”

The world is hav­ing a pretty dis­rup­tive mo­ment and ‘‘norms” are chang­ing fast. ‘‘The space for im­por­tant dia­logues has opened up in a big way,” says Segerman. ‘‘Voices are be­ing heard and they’re sprout­ing new move­ments. With the #MeToo cam­paign we can see how quickly and pow­er­fully th­ese new move­ments can grow and en­cour­age change.”

One thing that’s con­tin­u­ally in fash­ion is that ‘‘the younger gen­er­a­tions al­ways pave the way for the rest of the world in terms of what is ‘in fash­ion’ or ‘on trend’. The youth will al­ways lead the way, and we need to pay at­ten­tion to that, ” she says.

So what is Segerman’s def­i­ni­tion of beauty? ‘‘Any­thing that moves me,” she says.

Pic­ture: Hana Sho

Masego Mor­gan, a model with The Fan­tas­tic Agency, which opened in Cape Town in Jan­uary.

Fani Segerman

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