In the past decade, the fashion industry has seen a major push for inclusivity. This is part in thanks to the pressure by the younger generation’s push for a more open image of society. Recently, major designers such as Alexander Mcqueen have included plus-size models on their runway. Magazines such PAPER, and Harper’s Bazaar have been applauded for their diversity in their pages and representation of all parts of society. However, what is often forgotten are the agents between magazines and models that are responsible for scouting, supporting, and representing the talent.
Darrin Jenkins has had a remarkable career as an agent over the past 28 years. He has worked with prestigious modeling agencies such as IMG and Ford. Currently, he is an agent at Surface Model Management and upon looking at whom he represents, a contender for diversity. The board is representative of all ethnicities, genders, and LGBTQ. I conducted an interview on how the industry has changed over the past 28 years, diversity in commercial clients, his responsibility as an agent to nurture diversity, and how much farther the industry has to go.
How has the industry changed since you started 28 years ago and now?
To start-social media has been a major game changer for this industry. While it’s not something I personally believe in, it is necessary. This isn’t just about platforms either such as instagram, but also the way the relationship has changed between model and agent. I prefer picking up the phone or talking one-on-one compared to everything over email where the tone can be easily misconstrued. Furthermore, looking at social media-it’s not something I particularly care about. I’m not going to sign a girl just because she has thousands of personality, but rather if I like her energy and her personality and what she has to offer.
The ‘It look”
In terms of the “it” look in the industry, it has done a huge cycle. Obviously looks from all decades come around but in terms of models the industry has become far more open. Back in the day the “it” look was more of a white girl next door vibe with Nikki Taylor or Cindy Crawford types. Today, it’s far more open in terms of ethnicity. There’s a lot more black, asian, spanish, and combinations represented. Fashion changes based on how society is changing and today we are lucky that it has transitioned to being more open minded. You want someone to represent different looks-whether that’s teeth gaps, wide eyes, pale, albino, dark skin, non-gender specific, gay or whatever. Being myself a gay man, it was hard coming out at 17 in the 80s but now we have all these icons to look towards that weren’t previously showcased.
Are commercial clients willing to adjust to diversity or do you often find they’re just checking a box in order to avoid being scrutinized? Do you find their genuinely pushing for diversity in the industry?
I find there’s a major differentiation between American and European Clients. Europe tends to take a challenge on new models. America hasn’t gotten to the point yet where they are willing to try new models-in terms of diversity.I find that America is way more focused on social media. In terms of clients, magazines are a bit more open. They’re more willing to take a risk on a model, but a lot of the times this can be contingent on how many followers they have. Personally, I think casting should go back to how it use to be. I mean this in terms of giving an opportunity to someone rather than hiring based on what they have already have done. I find that photographers often bridge the gap in order to do this. Particularly, european photographers are more likely to shoot someone of a different background and they often are the ones that open the door for these new faces.
Where do you want to see the industry go?
How Much Farther We Need to Go
I really want for it to open up. I think America needs to follow Europe’s lead and take a chance on new faces. I think things need to be a little bit more uninhibited and stop holding back because of what is capitalizable.
Interview by: Kylie Lauren, Producer at SOUL