#Behind The Scenes
MADE BY M1 | Agent Billy Mehmet
You know the story of a supermodel. Scouted at a young age in a wholesome location; the local mall, the corner shop or at a festival. A few months later she goes from the pretty but quirky tall girl from your hometown to the literal talk of the town, snatching up runway shows and big campaigns left and right – but what of the eagle-eyed agent that found her?
The hard-working agents that scout, develop and manage the beautiful faces that designers and stylists dress up and down often go unsung and industry admirers miss out on learning more about the agent career path. As a modelling agency, we of course want to change that. Today, M1 New Faces Agent Billy Mehmet chats with us about what it takes for a model to make it to the top and her job shaping the faces of tomorrow.
M1: What are your earliest memories of fashion modelling?
BM: I’d say really early on. It was all about the clothes at first for me; I remember really wanting a pair of Moschino jeans when I was 13 – I thought to myself “oh my god, fashion is kind of amazing…and I cant afford any of it (laughs)”. I ended up going to fashion school and it helped solidify that fashion was what I wanted to do. I was obsessed with magazines from a really young age. Publications like Heat, Closer, Look – I was obsessed with them until I started picking up ones like Vogue, Dazed and ID. It was only later that I started to take interest in the shoots and the styling – which is what I eventually went into for a while. I studied fashion promotion and imaging at school and devoted myself to that for a number of years. I did work placements at magazines but I was intrigued by the model side of things, more so because I took notice of how they were being taken are of and I got curious about what being an agent could be like so I made the transition after a while.
M1: So it’s safe to say you always knew you’d be working in fashion?
BM: Yes, always fashion, but never specifically this job because I didn’t even know it existed until I got in the industry. I have to give credit to a few of my agent friends at the time because it was them who really pushed me to look into it. Being an agent really suits my personality, it feels tailor-made for me to be honest, I’m very lucky.
M1: How long ago did you make the switch to becoming an agent?
BM: I think it’s been 10 or 11 years. I started at a really small but absolutely amazing agency in Shoreditch.
M1: Was there a model in particular that you loved growing up?
BM: It was probably the real British models. You know the story of being found somewhere in Primark or a girl from South London. Any girl that has a story where she came from nothing – then of course the supers of the 80’s and 90’s.
M1: You said that you feel like this role was tailor-made for you – what do you think makes a great agent?
BM: Excitement! You know what else I think it is? I love my job. It’s the excitement of scouting a really great girl out on the streets of London and devoting time to developing her and her career. From working with her on her first season and having a belief in what she can achieve – going through the steps to get her there. Walking, building a portfolio, the growing confidence and then to see it turn into something bigger in the year or two following is amazing. All of that is what drives me everyday still – I love to see the growth of the girls. Imagine, when they first come in, they’re petrified to try out their runway walk and then three months later she’s owning it and you go “omg look at you go!” From there they go on to book their first shows and editorials…being a witness to that is just priceless.
M1: What’s the trait that you think an agent needs to have?
BM: Patience. Yeah…lot’s of patience. You have to be able to meet your girls at their level and be honest with them. Additionally, being able to think creatively and outside of the box and have a plan in place for their careers. What you have to understand is that each girl is different and their paths won’t all be the same; some girls will be super high-end and editorial while others will be more commercial. I don’t know…what do you think?
M1: Well from what I’ve seen, there needs to be a deep level of fashion knowledge. One thing that I was told early on was that you can scout a really great model but unless you have a list of casting directors, photographers and clients in your mind that you know will love their look, you wont even know what to do with that great face if you find it.
BM: yeaaaaaah! That’s so true. It seems so second-nature to me but I’m addicted to that. I’m on Models.com probably 7-10 times a day, I just love to see what’s going on and dying to know what photographers are doing what. You’re right, after a few years you start to understand what someone like Hedi from Celine will want that season or what Saint Laurent might be looking for this season. What Jonathan at JWAnderson will be looking for – you start to slowly understand what’s desired so when you are scouting and putting a plan in place for the girls, you being to get a rough idea of how their career will play out and if it doesn’t, there’s always plan b.
M1: When you’re scouting, do you feel that you’re free to find anyone or do you feel like you’re trying to cultivate a specific package of models?
BM: I think we’re really lucky in London because its so diverse here. Our clients aren’t looking for any one thing so we don’t have to be prescriptive when it comes to size, height or skin color. I never have to think “Okay, I’m going to go out scouting looking for THIS” – my eyes are open to everyone, that’s how I do things. If i see a girl and im just drawn to them, I’m going to approach – when I’m inspired by a scout Im ringing my clients up right away to get them in front of them. If your client feels your excitement, you can work them to make something great happen and they begin to trust the young talent that you give them.
M1: What do you think is the hardest thing for a new model to overcome?
BM: Certainly rejection and comparison, rejection is really prevalent in our industry. A girl can go to 20 castings at a time and get just one or they go to ten and they get seven of them. It’s a real task getting them to understand that it’s not a personal thing, it really isn’t. The rejection could be something as simple as the length of your hair – not who YOU are. Even those with the thickest of skin fall victim to comparison – we all do at times don’t we? A model that has areas of interest outside of modelling is what I find to be best; being multifaceted prevents you from putting all of your hopes and dreams in one place – it makes the failures or missteps seem more like speed bumps rather than pot-holes. Additionally, multiple interests and skills makes you even more desirable to the clients that you’ll meet.
M1: So what’s the lesson?
BM: To be themselves. You just have to be the best and most confident version of yourself. You can be super shy or you can be super loud and bouncing off of the walls but there’s got to be a strong and self-assured girl within you. We have girls studying at Oxford, YouTubers, Equestrians, writers – so many different girls, we only ask them to show up as they are.
M1: Can you tell that a model is going to be success? What would inform you of her ability to make it to the top?
BM: ABSOLUTELY NOT! (laughs) I wish we could! It’s really tough – you can have an idea but you just never know, the industry changes so much. We have one girl who we thought would go the commercial route but she’s currently holding Burberry and Prada wants an exclusive. You just never know what the client is going to throw at you or how things will shift with the season. I wish I could say yeah, I’d be very rich right now (laughs).
M1: What role do you think social media plays in your job as a booker?
BM: Instagram is a massive tool for us. As with anything, it has it’s negatives and positives. The models can scroll and see what their fellow models are working on and it goes back to that dark place of comparison where they may feel like they’re not doing enough. On the other-hand, it’s a good thing because it gives clients an insight into your personality – it’s an extended real-life portfolio. I think a lot of clients will check out a models Instagram before they ever look at their portfolio.
M1: They want to see what’s in their tagged photos.
BM: (laughs) Exactly! Got to see which ones need to be deleted! Seriously, it’s a big tool for scouting as well because as you know, so many people reach out to us directly and ask us questions about the industry. There’s a lot of dodgy people out there and we want everyone to be safe and protected so we advise the best way that we can.
M1: I remember you telling me once that as a booker, because you have so many influential people in the industry following you, posting a new girl makes them feel like they’re getting a sneak peak into someone great.
BM: Yeah. If I post a girl, clients and foreign agents are on my line wanting to know who she is and can they have her. It’s so much more personal seeing it come from an agent directly rather than a website. I know I follow a slew of agents all over the world – I want to get in there first!
Keep up with all of our amazing scouts and the new faces of models1 by following @Models1Scout on Instagram.