CT: So, you are a casting director – tell me more about your role and what exactly do you do?
AH: I work with fashion clients – brands, designers, photographers, stylists – casting the models for their shoots and shows.
CT: Do you get a brief from the brand? Tell us how the process works?
AH: Normally, there is a discussion about the collection, particularly with show casting. We’ll discuss the clothes, inspirations and references; some specific models are normally in mind (current and historical), sometimes actors or other figures, as examples. I then research, using my own database from castings/ go sees, agent-submissions, contacts, and the world wide web, and will put together a casting package to present to the client. The process differs a little depending on the client, also whether its a show or a shoot, but essentially an initial casting presentation will be edited down to a favourite group of models, from which the final casting will be selected. Models are cast in person (meeting the client), by sending their portfolios of work, digital (Polaroid) images, and videos. Before we can book the models we also have to make sure they are available for the job, which is effected by dates, timings, locations, rates, teams, and the nature of the job itself. Casting directors main communications are with the clients and the models agents.
CT: You’re constantly seeing new faces. What would you say the trend is at the moment?
AH: I feel that there are less identifiable trends currently, at least in terms of there being a certain type of model, physically. The wave of incredible Dutch girls just continues so you cant really call it a wave anymore, but within that, interestingly, the typical idea of a Dutch beauty remains but has also diversified…and i suppose more diversity in the new faces we see is what is “current”, and welcome, but is more a significant shift than a trend. With some clients I’ve been working with there has been a desire, more recently, to book models who have a physical presence, character, the strength of a young woman rather than a girl.
CT: When did you first become interested in modelling and casting and what were you doing before?
AH: I was scouted to be a model, when I was 18 and a student. I appeared in a music video (for Skunk Anansie) and the stylist there suggested me to a model agency (Take 2) who took me on. I modelled for about 4 years, then worked for a year in fashion production and in 2003 I started working for Russell Marsh, who was the casting director for Prada, amongst others. I worked with Russell for nine years before starting my own casting company, in 2012.
CT: What do you feel is the biggest misconception people have about casting?
AH: That its easy. Ha ha. Perhaps people don’t necessarily appreciate how organised you have to be, to keep up with who all of the new models are, to keep on top of all your jobs that are often going on at the same time, satisfying peoples needs and requests. Its also important, for us, that everything we present is done is a certain way, that it looks good. You also have to manage budgets, negotiate contracts, work out logistics to make sure models get to and from places at the right time. On top of that, and most importantly, we are dealing with people, and people’s careers. You have to be prepared to deal with people’s needs, requests, sudden changes of circumstance, and as casting you have a responsibility to both the models and to the clients.
CT: From Spring 2018 shows, what was your favourite show to work on?
AH: I enjoyed them all. In New York, we worked with Self Portrait, it was the third time we cast the show and the casting has got stronger each season. Its nice to feel like you’re growing with the brand. We have been casting for DVF since Jonathan Saunders became the creative director and its exciting to be part of his amazing rebranding, and rewarding to see how much its evolved in just a year. He’s brilliant. In Milan, Roberto Cavalli came back with a fantastic collection, under Paul Surridge, and the casting there was a great opportunity to push the brand in a fresh direction. Marni show was beautiful, and in Paris it was a pleasure to work for the first time with Sonia Rykiel. In London, my hometown, I love working with Christopher Kane. It always feels special.
CT: What is your views on the Hadid sisters?
AH: I have limited personal experience booking them but I often hear how nice they both are.
CT: What challenges do you face each season?
AH: First of all there are the regular challenges of running any business. I don’t have a big staff but i have responsibility to make sure the people working for me are happy and can manage, that they are willing and able to represent the company in the correct way. There are also challenges when it comes to booking the models that you want; the challenge to meet the expectations of the client, the stylist, the photographer, my own expectations to feel like we’ve done the best job possible with all the variables of timings, availability, budget, strategy…
CT: What is the work flow like? Constantly last minute?
AH: The men’s and women’s shows account for much of January, February, early March, June, September and early October. In between there is a fairly steady flow of editorial, look book, advertising shootings. If working regularly with a brand there can be eccom and online content to cast for. I wouldn’t say things are constantly last minute. You have some clients who tend to operate like that, weeks of planning but everything decided the night before the shoot, but part of our job is to push the casting decisions along, if possible.
CT: How do you feel about celebrity casting?
AH: I think the definition of Celebrity has broadened a bit, as has the typical notion of a Model, especially since the power of social media has grown. There is a bit of a blur which, for me, makes it harder to define “celebrity casting” these days.
CT: Do you feel the industry is turning to natural beauty? If so.. how long do you think it’ll last? AH: I don’t think so, I think there are more requests for all different types of beauty. But there is more openness to so called real beauty, currently, then there has been in the recent past.
CT: Do you spot faces on social media channels like Instagram?
CT: What advice would you give to someone reading this who wants to get into modelling?
AH: Firstly, that you should definitely want to get in to modelling, or at least, not be overly-reluctant or pushed in to it against your will. Modelling can be fun but its also serious, its a job and you should go in to it with a professional mindset, as any other job. You are punctual, you attempt to engage with the people you are working with. Creating an image, for example, is a collaboration between the model and the team, you are a key part of that team, so you have to be prepared to put in maximum effort to fulfil your role. You also have to be prepared to look after yourself, keep fit in a healthy way, and present yourself in the best way possible. Do plenty of research before you submit images to a model agency. There are lots of reputable ones but a few to be wary of…namely any agency that asks you for money in advance. Most agents only need to see simple digital shots that a friend or relative can take for you…just pick a plain backdrop, in decent light, and take a clear head-shot, a profile, a three quarters shot looking at the camera, and a full length. Submit these images (by email is usually ok) along with your details (age, location, measurements) and see if you get a response.
This interview was from November 2017.