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What Designers Look For at a Casting Call

Casting calls are a big part of a model’s life, and no matter how many you attend throughout your career, they can still be very nerve-wracking. You never know what the client is looking for, and if you’re look is anywhere near what they have in mind. It’s also really hard to stand in front of a panel of people who are all looking at you and judging everything about you.

Even after all my years of attending casting calls, every time I go to one, I always wonder what are they looking for? To help get some insight of what is going through a designer’s mind when they’re booking runway models, I reached out to a few of Kansas City’s top designers (Roger Figueroa, Christian Michael, & Natalia Meyer with Lucia’s Sarto) and picked their brains about what influences their choices when they have so many models to pick from.

Q1: What are some of the top things you look for when booking a runway model for your collection? Do you have a type that you typically gravitate towards?

RF: I look for models that fit the aesthetic of my collection. Models that are unique in their own way, but can still look cohesive among everyone else in the lineup. Then, I make sure the model has a positive social media appearance, is responsible, and most importantly- that the model has a great runway walk/overall appearance. I don’t believe I have a type, as all my models have very unique & diverse looks. One trait that they do share is their attitude and fierceness on the runways.

CM: I used to only cast according to the industry standards, but things have changed for me and I think the industry as a whole over past few years. NOW I'm looking for a model with a unique and individual look, vibe, attitude, and presence.

I want the models I cast to be as strong as the clothing in the shot/look. I want confidence and personality.

Photo by Danny Bourne, wearing Christian Michael F/W 2018

NM: When I'm looking for models, though I do look for variety of unique qualities - it is familiarity I lean towards. As in, a person I've worked with before and people who have taken initiative to get to know me are the ones who are more likely to get picked. However, a majority of the folks I pick, have several or even a majority of these qualities:

- Unique look

- Distinctive features

- Being relatable

- Positive attitude

- Strong walk

- Active Social accounts

- Availability

- Hard-working

- Confidence

That all said, I truly do not have a model "type" I'm always looking and I look toward all types of people.

Photo by Danny Bourne, wearing Lucia's Sarto F/W 2018

Q2: What are your thoughts on the ‘industry standards’, and does that influence your picks?

RF: Personally, I don’t agree with the traditional industry measurement standards, however, I do understand why most designers do it. I believe the industry and designers want to show a collection with all industry standard models or ALL plus size. No in between.

I love working with industry standard models as much as any other body type. But with that being said, I do think being a model requires strict discipline many don’t understand. I think no matter if you are a standard size model or plus size model, you should always have a discipline as routine for your body. Standard size models should have some type of workout, even if they are standard size naturally. Just like plus size models should also have a routine for their body. It will be firm and look spectacular on the runway. I have also heard similar comments from other designers, photographers and MUAs.

CM: Model casting for me is something that has and is changing in my mind these days. I have always been an advocate of casting the "traditional" runway model. 5'11" and/or taller, and a size 0 or 2.

My thought process around this was with a mindset of doing my best to show myself and my label as a "real" designer.

I say this and thought like this because as a designer in a small market city like KC I felt I had to prove myself as a "real" designer and cast models to fit the industry mold and standard legitimizing me and my brand by fitting the mold.

NM: While I truly believe in the Body Positive movement, "... all human beings should have a positive body image, and be accepting of their own bodies as well as the bodies of others", it is hard for me to always feel positive, I often feel as though I'm not doing enough. I do strive to look a specific way. I think it's okay to be motivated by beauty and to strive to stay healthy - as long as your goals are reasonable and realistic - again, not sure I'm always reasonable and realistic, but I do try.

As for 'industry standards' for Models, I do 'size' my design samples to a standard model size and to a medium and plus size - depending who I will have model the sample on the runway. I do this, so in future shows, it will not be to difficult to find a model to fit my outfits. However, I do believe with any 'standard' you tend to loose individuality, you loose distinction - standards create an average of and average. Yet that also means, if an individual 'is' standard, they will need to work twice as hard to be different.

Q3: Do you create your designs with a specific model type in mind, or do you cast the models to fit your designs?

RF: I always have a vision before I interview as a designer for that show. Once I’m selected, I have the vision of the models I’m looking for, then, I pair the model with the look that would work the best for her body type or look. I think that’s very important, and as an artist I like to always be on top of that. Many other designers just like to pair models with what they fit into, and I don’t always agree with that.

Behind the scenes moment with Roger Figueroa S/S 2019

NM: I believe I choose models a bit deferentially, compared to others. I'm continually asking myself “does she look like trouble?” If the answer is, yes, then that's my type of model. I strive for different than standard on my runway shows. I like variety of sizes, color, hight, religion, sexual orientation and even for those who aren't traditional models, where modeling isn't their job - military, teachers, someone in civil service, the person you meet in your day-to-day life. I tend to pick people based on my emotional connection with them - whether from a brief encounter, a conversation, or someone I've known for sometime. When people become available, are extra kind, do something nice that stands out, they'll warm my soul and I'll think of them in one of my designs, and I'll reach out and mention how great they looking, how wonderful they are, and if they would like to model for one of my designs.

Some of my designs are for specific people and some are designed with a “standard size“ in mind. However, I almost always design, not with just sizing in mind, but also with an eye towards considering the models character. If my models have the right feeling on the runway, if my designs help them have that feeling, then the feeling will become contagious and the audience will catch it, feel it, as well.

Lucia's Sarto F/W 2019

Q4: What is a big turn-off that causes you to not chose a model?

RF: A turn-off would be a bad walk and how they express themselves on social media or in public. Another turn off would be hair: not so much on the style of her hair, but the condition of her hair, if that makes sense. For example, sometimes girls show up to a casting with a hair color that is no longer presentable, like they had colored it red but now it looks orange or oddly faded. This can be misleading, because I don’t know what it might look like in a couple of weeks/months when it comes to the day of the show.

NM: My big turn-offs when casting a model are:

- People who are rude or mean

- When people don’t show up or are real late

- Models who get too intoxicated

- Bad hygiene

- Lack of enthusiasm


Now that you have had a little bit of insight to what a designer is thinking when they are casting runway models, use this to your advantage at your next casting! As you can see from above, it's not all about fitting the traditional "model" mold anymore. Having a great personality and strong, confident presence will get you noticed and give you an advantage to the other models.

Don't forget that Kansas City Fashion Week castings are coming up Saturday, December 1st - 9am- 4pm and Sunday, December 9th - 9am- 4pm. To help save time in line, make sure you preregister! Good luck!


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