July 23, 2024

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They Drink Fashion

The Modeling Industry in the 1960s

3 min read

The 1960s was an era of great change and revolution in the fashion world; modeling agencies first began to appear. At first, agencies providing secretarial services offered their services to models to get contracts, charging weekly rates commissions for bookings. Models were on their own in choosing brands and clients and in maintaining their contracts and billing accounts. Payment was usually in cash and hence, cat-and-mouse games between models and customs officials looking for cash on persons were always at loggerheads. As such, their work was limited to their own areas or cities and seldom did they travel. Most modeling contracts centered on single markets because of sketchy and unclear labor laws that existed in different countries regarding modeling. If a model travelled to say France or Germany where fashion magazines and houses were already well established, they were at the mercy of the agencies that exploited them by withholding their pay forcing them to return for more work, sometimes even without proper work visas. Competing agencies would often tip off police officials to raid hotels that housed models staying without work visas.

In the late 1960s London, with its more organized and streamlined approach to modeling, became the centre of the industry. It was time for the models to hit the jackpot; they became well-known outside their circles and became fashion icons. Models who ruled the London scene were Celia Hammond, Jean Shrimpton, Joanna Lumley, Penelope Tree, Pauline Stone and Tania Mallet were household names. The one significant person in the whole scene was Twiggy, just 16, who in spite of her young age and inexperience became ‘The Face of ’66’ inspiring many young women with her striking personality and fashion sense. In many ways, she was unlike many other models with just average height and small body and short haircut, almost boy-like akin to taller and more curvaceous models that were the choice of many agencies. She even earned more than the others; at £80 an hour against weekly averages of £25 she was the highest paid and very popular.

The formation of the Association of London Model Agents in 1967 revolutionized the modeling industry and brought about systematic changes and regulations so that the industry could operate on a more professional basis. Where earlier models were expected to be responsible for their own makeup and hair styles, modeling agencies took up this responsibility depending upon client requirements and contracts. That year also saw the setting up of the Wilhelmina Model Agency by Wilhelmina Cooper and her husband. This and other agencies that came up soon after like Models 1 and FM Agency helped models by representing them to businesses and helping them get better deals and work environments. The first modeling agency in the world, Ford Models, also encouraged teen models to earn money and support their families; they often had youngsters stay in-house, this became the precursor to ‘model housing’.

The year 1968 also saw the establishment of “supermodels”, color, ethnicity and race were no restricting factors; only models that held the attention of the world for considerable times and made it to the cover of magazines like Glamour, Vogue etc. were included in the list.

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