He rocked the ramp as one of the supermodels during the 90s, and then graduated to being the most reckoned name in fashion industry. In a tete-e-tete with Ritika Handoo of Zee Digital, Marc Robinson, discusses what it is like to be the fashion director for Elite Model look. He also talks at length about what major changes have taken place since he started off as a model. Here are the excerpts:
How has the experience of grooming fresh talent been so far?
It has been good since I have been doing it for a while now. The focus has shifted in last 6-7 years. I was the National Director for Miss India; have been associated with beauty pageants. But working with Elite is different, as the focus is purely on finding a model, who has no inclination to join Bollywood. That has been the intent.
Seeing the same models over and over again is common in India. They just don’t leave the runway. So, we don’t see much of the fresh faces on the ramp. That drove me to find new talent. We found models who want to be just models—they have different aspirations. Their choices are different—and that’s good. No Bollywood in mind, given the fact that there structures and features also would fit the runway more. We have found unique people. The association with Elite and Max is hardcore fashion. We are feeding the passion with good talent, which is dedicated to finding new faces and feeding the industry with freshness.
You are a brand name when it comes to modelling. What makes Elite different from other similar avenues?
Elite is the only credible place which automatically gives you the opportunity to work internationally. It absorbs you within the Elite family. It’s a sure shot success spot. If you win, then you have work. No beating around the bush. It just rids you out of the rat race. We have international scouts and runway trainers coming down from Paris and New York. If they like someone, they take him/her. It’s a clear-cut, sure shot, straight, non godfather industry, no casting couch (smiles).
What’s the difference between when you started off in the industry as a model and now?
It’s a lot more structured and focused. The industry has become a money game right now. But when we started off, the media made us supermodels, today they just make Bollywood stars and cricketers. Media always wants stars whenever there is any fashion show but in our times, we were doing all the things—be it ramps, advertisements or campaigns.
Today, that space has been taken by Bollywood celebrities and cricketers. Indian models are only seen on the runways. But then there are magazines like Elle that feature only Indian models. They are infusing the industry with new talent.
What key areas does Elite focus on while preparing a model?
With Elite the parameters are quite strong and clear cut. It’s all about youth and freshness. How well packaged you are, which includes your confidence level, determination to succeed and how you present yourself. Obviously, there’s a certain height requirement—for boys it’s 6 feet, for girls it’s 5’8 ft. Age limit 14-22 (23 , may be). Indian girls have to compete with international models, who are as young as 14-15 in age.
What does the word ‘supermodel’ mean to you?
It is somebody who is an iconic figure in their own right; who has his/her own style, when he/she walks into a room, heads turn. Someone who is comfortable in what he/she wears; not only fascinated with brands, but how they mix and match. It’s about being a brand ambassador, creating one’s own space; also, more importantly being nice to everybody. The nicer you are, the better it is for everybody.
Any favourite models in India and abroad?
Internationally, yes of course I like Gisele Bundchen, Adriana...also Naomi Campbell and Tara Banks. Then, Carolina was great too. Among men, I guess after Marc (the Dutch model) not many could make it to the supermodel slot. Again, that space has been taken either by a golfer or a footballer like David Beckham or somebody else. I am at a loss when you ask me about Indian models. Because I can’t remember who was on the cover of Vogue last time—sadly no models.
So, I would say Kangana, Sonam have got great style. They have hired stylists this year, which marks a huge change it their wardrobe too. Huge difference in how Kareena, Anushka or Deepika looked last year. I am afraid as I have no favourite models in India right now—but there is a lot of potential that needs attention. All the Bollywood beauties, be it Priyanka, Katrina or Deepika—they have started off as models. They could have become supermodels. But, of course they chose Bollywood. For boys, it’s even more difficult. Not much work for boys, so they join TV serials. Mumbai is an expensive city to live in, so they find means to make ends meet.
Any specific advice for aspiring models?
Education is key. Dabble with it, keep it as a hobby. See if modelling works for you. I would say, have a fling with it, see if it is your passion. With Elite, the winner gets some hundred thousand Euros. It is a great industry with a lot of money, commercials at the end of the rainbow. In India everybody wants to be a model. That has to be defined and media has a large role to identify who are models and who are supermodels.
Earlier, darker skin was one of the hindrances for Indian models back home, but now even that trend is changing. The fascination to get darker skin is now seen on the runways because the West is imbibing it as exotic and beautiful. The aspiring models should be educated and focussed on what they want.
How important is it to look all prim and proper in the fashion industry?
Fashion has a glamourous approach to itself. In your own space you can be off make-up and non-glitzy. But when you are working you can’t really afford that. With make-up everything changes. It is one of the demands of the profession. Looking fabulous, and glitzy—that’s where the cosmetic companies have a huge part to play. They won’t support non-glamourous, sloppy look. So, it is important to look your best when you belong to the industry.