#M1 talks to / interviews
Gavin Boardman’s career thus far has touched on just about every aspect of the fashion industry. With a life long passion for photographers, models, and all aspects involved in a creative process, he has worked as a model agent during the time of the ‘supermodels’ and beyond, and is now working as a photographic agent here in London at The Pure Agency. Gavin has the knowledge and skills that could only be gained through a lifelong career in an industry that has so many avenues, and that is constantly evolving.
Models 1: Was fashion always an industry you wanted to get involved in?
Gavin Boardman: Yes, I did work experience at ElitePremier when I was 18 and studying Fashion Promotion and illustration at Epsom. I left early and went on to become a booker. I had previously already done work experience during holidays for John Galliano and Red or Dead PR, and someone had recommended for me to work at Premier, and I found that I just preferred working to classes.
I started out in the art department, doing all the books. This was before computers were around, so I was working with hard books on images from around the world. I went on to work for ElitePremier and Storm, two days a week at both. After that I went back to Premier a bit longer and became a booker on New Faces. I was the agent of a couple of ‘The Years New Faces’, including Jools Oliver.
I then went on to work at Take 2, which was really cool at the time, so different from working at the other agencies. I had initially been so excited about meeting all the supermodels, but it was brilliant to come to Take 2 with its original attitude.
M1: Working at Take 2 in its height, you went on to start up their very influential men’s division. Tell me about that?
GB: It was so cool, every month David Simms would find boys and bring them to us. He once found a homeless boy selling the Big Issue, took some Polaroid’s and brought them to us to send around. The boy went on to be shot by Bruce Webber for L’uomo Vogue and Versace.
We took on unusual, edgy, grungy boys, who would end up doing such high end jobs, as opposed to the classic look that was the norm. One of our boys was the first boy to be on the cover of Face for years. It was a brilliant place to work, they were so forward thinking.
M1: Having worked at a number of different agencies, what do you think is essential to create a successful agency?
GB: Absolute continual scouting. You have to be able to keep on offering new things. It’s easier now because people are more interested in the personal lives of the model, as opposed to them being merely a canvas. You also need a really enthusiastic team, and can’t afford to rest at any point. Nowadays though it’s harder to rest, you have to keep up with everything that’s going on. When I started we did not have computers, we had a phone, a pencil and a rubber.
M1:The industry seems a lot more restricted today than it did in the mid-nineties. However at the same time, with the introduction of new technology, we’re given the opportunity to push boundaries. How would you compare these two very different era’s?
GB: It’s an odd one. Now it’s more corporate and less personal, but the selling process is easier. At the same time, everyone’s moving forward in the same way so it’s more competitive. A smaller agency who would never dream of phoning a client, can now contact them by email.
I like both era’s, I love photography in general. There is a lot of bad photography and re-touching around, but also a lot of amazing work which I completely appreciate such as David Armstrong, Nan Goldin. Mert & Marcus also produce amazing work.
M1: How do you think this transition into the digital age, and the introduction of fashion films, has affected the business of models?
GB: There are always models that aren’t capable of doing commercial castings, and can’t get the confidence for it. Back in the day you had print models and commercial models, so you could get away with it. Nowadays they have to be more well-rounded, and can’t be uncomfortable. A lot of clients ask for moving image and both the models and photographers have to be prepared for that.
M1: You nurtured the careers of many top models during the ‘Cool Britannia’ era. This must have been a very exciting time to work in the industry.
GB: In terms of ‘Cool Britannia’, it just seemed like the first time since the 60s that London was being recognised, instead of just America and Paris. Music was everywhere, it was really cool.
M1: As an agent, what did your role involve?
GB: After working on New Faces at Premier and Take 2, I went on to work with people like Sophie Dahl and Lily Cole. Working with girls like that everyone comes to you, so my job was to filter it out, and working out what’s going to advance her image and career. Basically leading them down the right path.
M1: Who inspires you?
GB: I didn’t set out to be a model agent, but when I was 14 I read an article in Tatler. It had all the agents in a row and all the supermodels behind them. I have always loved both photographers and models, and was reading i-D when I was 13, Vogue when I was 14, and spent most of my time at galleries or doing fashion drawings. So I guess you could say I’m inspired by magazines and art. I’m a bit of a fiend for it.
When I was 15 I was accepted at Fashion College, the youngest person to be accepted, purely for the size of my portfolio. They could see I had such a passion for it.
M1: You branched out from being a model agent to being a photographer’s agent. Why was that?
GB: I had been a model agent for 18 years and I came to the conclusion that I needed to do something else. So I took some
time out to get a handle on what I’d done, and now I’m helping out at Pure Photographic, which is the photographic arm of Pure Production. My main focus has always been photographers and the end image.
M1: How do these two roles differ?
GB: In a sense the selling is the same, but working with photographers is a lot more specific. Its also more personal, as you are dealing with the artist, not the canvas. A photographer has so much more to bring to the table. The model just has to get to the shoot, model well, be charming to everyone and leave, but the photographer has a whole process before and after, retouching and editing, right through to the publishing. There is a longer process involved, which I like.
M1: Which photographer/editor do you think has had a major influence on the industry today and why?
GB: Of course Katie England with all her years at McQueen, Edward Enninful, being so young
. Photographer-wise, Helmut Newton, David Simms, Corinne Day, Mert & Marcus. Everyone is inspired by previous work, it’s a natural progression
M1: Having explored so many different avenues in fashion, are there any other professions you would like to pursue?
GB: Alongside fashion I have always been very keen on interior design, my house is full of pieces I’ve picked up over the years.
M1: I hear you are quite the avid collector…especially fond of robots. Is this true?
GB: I have a lot of collections, including robots, which was featured in a window at Liberty for a month. They were doing a window display on “Collections” and a friend called me and told me about it. I sent them a picture and they contacted me saying
they would like to use it. I also collect Peter Blake, I have three pieces. Pop art is a massive influence. I love David Hockney, Americana, and all that type of advertising.
M1: Where do you think fashion is heading?
Fashion is so multi-faceted. One of the things I love is that it’s so ethnically diverse. Designers are influenced by Africa and the Far East, from fabrics to shapes and colours. Its brilliant, an ethnic mix-up. It’s the same with interiors, it’s a montage of different influences. People are saying that the new minimalism is in now, but I disagree. For me its all about lots of visuals, the more the better.
GB: It would have to be a dinner party. I’d invite Irving Penn, David Hockney, Alan Bennett, Jeff Combs, Peter Blake, Andy Warhol, legendary food critic Jeffrey Steingarten, and my boyfriend John Gilbert.
I would also like to mention our 2 miniature Dachshunds, Waffles
and Jude. They actually did their first shoot this week which was very exciting!
To visit The Pure Agency click HERE