Hari Amado @ Karacter Agency
Having a previous experience as a model is not exactly a requirement to be a booker. And this time, we decided to talk with someone with a different background, with several years of experience in this business, who showed us that sensibility, good sense, attention to details and a passion for fashion, are equally important skills.
Meet the friendly Hari Amado, booker at Karacter Agency, who kindly received us and walked us through his work as a booker and Karacter’s roll in the Portuguese and International market.
Karacter has a history of 15 years in the Portuguese market and nowadays, it is more than a modelling agency. Can you briefly explain us the areas Karacter works in?
Going back in time, Karacter didn’t start as a modelling agency. It was created by Lido de Palma, that is the director, but Lido lived in Braga and had a models academy. He would scout and train the models and then launched them into the market. Back then, he had a partnership with an agency that gave them the models to work with and he would shape them and train them so they would get ready to enter the market. Then, Lido moved to Lisbon, but the models remained in Braga. But what happened when he had models in Braga was that they always had to keep going back and forth (between Braga and Lisbon) and ended up loosing their motivation. To prevent this from happening, Lido decided to open himself an agency – a commercial agency, since our market is much more commercial. Then, some years after, other bookers started coming into the agency and bringing different know-how and insights from competitors and nowadays Karacter is recognised as a fashion agency as well as a talents’ agency, with all the actors we represent.
When it comes to models, Karacter has a national contest that happens every year. Is this your preferential way of looking for new faces or do you also develop other types of scouting actions?
No, right now, with our new website and after the rebranding that made it much more appealing, we have been receiving a lot more applications. It is more efficient, as the upload of the pictures is fast and people can attach pictures and video. Then, of course we do scouting all over the year, because we have our open day at Tuesdays, always, from 10h30 to 18h30 where people can come in to the agency and try out. And, of course, our Model Tour contest is a big icon but focused both on commercial and fashion models.
This year Karacter organised also a bootcamp. Can you explain us what is was and how it worked?
Model Tour is, like the name suggests, a tour. It’s focused on Lisbon, Porto and Algarve. We do scouting for a few days to attract people and then people register for the contest and there's a casting. Then, with the pre-selected people from the three cities, we have the bootcamp. What does this mean? This year we had four days (in the previous years it lasted only for three days) of classes to prepare the people as models. Imagine I scout you and I find you have some potential for us. But then you have to be aware of the principles, fundamentals and ethics to be able to work in this market. Which attitude should you adopt when going to a photoshoot, how to go to a casting, how to represent in front of a camera… we have classes of videocasting, photography, skincare, haircare, nutrition, we take the models’ measures to understand who needs to loose and gain measures, we have styling lessons, drama classes and runway. During four days, models gain some training so that they are prepared to go to their first casting. This is the concept of the bootcamp: to train people so that they go with attitude (character) to future castings and assignments.
We have seen people signing up with agencies at younger and younger ages and often people ask how is it possible for that girl or boy to be a model, maybe because they don’t have any distinct characteristics. It is part of the booker's roll to identify potential. Can you describe which characteristics you identify in a young teen that make you want to bet on him/her?
Yes, I can. Let me show you two similar books. Sebastian has just entered the agency. He is 1.88m and is 16 but entered the agency at 15. Then we have Lucas, who is 15 years old. They have very similar potential. In their case, they both have very light skin, a proportional body for their height, light hair and eyes – which is something intemporal and what is most “consumed” by the market – and an angular face and profile. We look at all these things as potential, so we keep these young men in an embrionary stage, where people are aware they won’t have tons of work but they won’t have to put school aside. It is a balance between us and the parents with the goal of building successful careers such as what happens with Fernando (Cabral) and what is happening with Marianne Bittencourt.
It is important to seek new potential, because both agencies and clients are thirsty for new faces. Nowadays, commercial is more disposable, but in fashion a model can do several campaigns in a row. This has also to do with the fact that a career in fashion is shorter, so we need to capitalize on the model in the short-term.
Talking about models that are a reference, such as Fernando Cabral, that already has solid credit in this industry, and Marianne Bittencourt that is working in that direction, which were the characteristics you identified that set them apart?
Fernando had a very androgynous look. He was very tall, skinny and weird in a way. And fashion keeps asking for this weirdness nowadays, for these types of beauty that are not classical. Fernando had a great “basis” working for him: he wanted to be a football player, but had the image of his brother as an icon, that made him wonder if being a model was for him. He entered our bootcamp, participated in Model Tour 2009, which he didn’t win and… look at where he is now! He just won GQ man award this year. And then he has that natural skin glow working for him and he is a very versatile and humble person that has conquered the market and all the brands. He is now being represented in 14 countries, so…
As for Marianne, she started working with us in the Kids department, we saw her potential, because she worked with us so we could keep in touch and witness her development and growth. She didn’t go that year to the Model Tour because, physically, we didn’t think she was 100% ready. She was a bit demotivated, but then went the following year, because she was ready then, and she also didn’t win Model Tour. Neither Fernando nor Marianne won the Model Tour. That is why I always say that our contest is a way to prepare models, not to determine who is going to successful. For us, it is important in the bootcamp, to establish relationships between models and the agency and to prepare them for the market.
This year it was interesting that Marianne, by the time of Model Tour, had just came back from Paris and Fernando was going to New York shortly after, so they were both present on this year’s edition, to give their testimony. It was important to tell the other models “See? They didn’t win the contest and look at what they are now”. Sometimes the winner is not the one that will end up working more. Sometimes others can show more skills, potential, knowledge, willpower…
As a booker and working with models that go from the most unexperienced to models such as Fernando Cabral, which are your main concerns?
My biggest concern is to analyse everyday our “first line” models. For these models careers, sometimes a wrongly given “okay” or choice can destroy their careers. Naturally, these are the models with whom we are most concerned with. We have to talk with international agencies, see how their placements are going… Every morning, our biggest concern is to understand if everything is going well with them and to talk to their agencies abroad. Then we obviously have all the other models that we think have potential. On average, I ask models to come in about once a month, even if it is just for a coffee or a hug, so I can see how they are. It is important because, if I only see a model once in a while, after a few months, I can be proposing her for a job and in the maybe in the meantime she has gained some weight… It can’t happen. I need to check their progress at least once a month. This is difficult to manage, specially with models that live far, but has to happen, even if we do it through social media.
Knowing that social media is something we can’t escape nowadays, what is Karacter’s take on this subject?
Karacter turned 15 this year. Hence, we did a rebranding, changed the name to Karacter Agency, developed a Youtube channel, Snapchat, Instagram and we also have Facebook. These are the platforms that are constantly being updated. We have someone working on our communication. With all this rebranding, on the Model Tour we started having into consideration the models’ social media. When a client is hiring a model, one of the first things he will do is to check on social media to see what the model shares, who he was worked with… In this Model Tour we were careful about this subject and advised the models about social media. We don’t have anyone managing their own social media, but our rebranding strategy also considers a more attentive look for what our models post, so we can warn them if a picture needs to be taken down, for example.
The international market is also something that can’t be put aside for those who thrive for a successful career in this industry. How does Karacter manage this?
Let me show you our winner of this year’s Model Tour, Marcos Wu, half Portuguese half Chinese. Our Model Tour was in September and one month later, he already had an agency in Milan. See how fast things can go sometimes? Because he has the potential. But we need to manage all this. He is 19 and he’s studying in university, so it doesn’t mean he will start travelling tomorrow, but we already have an agency for him in Milan. In order to travel there, even though he is 19, we always try to manage things with the parents, to see if they authorise him to go. Eventually, him going abroad would happen around January, because, since he is 19 he can get a "student-worker” status and do his university exams later on. Yes, he would miss classes, but everything would be prepared in a way that it wouldn’t harm him.
We also have Carla Pereira’s case, from last year’s Model Tour. I took her to Milan this year in March and she immediately got a representation in Milan, Paris and New York and now she also has an agency in Madrid and Barcelona. She has 6 agencies now. In this case there was a maturity process involved. She is a woman - things happen at a different pace. She got in the agency at 15. Marcos is 19. It is different. This season, after talking to her parents, we got her to walk in Paris. At 16 years old, because in Paris and Milan they can already work as a model at 16 (but not before). The parents gave her permission and she spent a month in Paris. She walked in 4 runway shows in Paris Fashion Week, did lookbooks, e-commerce… and then she came back with a different attitude! She lost a few days of classes but we, at Karacter, believe it is better to loose some days at the beginning of classes than on the following season, in January/February. The agency has to protect them, so the agency could want her to work abroad for the fashion weeks in January, but we need to understand that this isn’t only business, but also feelings, so we need to balance things. As much as it would be important for her, as a model, to go to the January season, we know she can’t go because she is in high school and needs to focus on her studies as well. I’d rather have her working the whole summer fully dedicated and now, to have her completely focused on school, because the parents have already trusted us and it worked well – she even improved her Math grade!
From all the people we’ve met in this business, specially the younger models who never left Portugal, we noticed that they think this is easy and funny work. Most of them don’t understand the size and importance of this industry. What do you think would be necessary for them to look at a model career as something serious?
I always tell them that, in order to think of an international career, it is very important to have a good mother agency, that will support and guide them. Besides all the follow up we do with international placements if, for instance, a lawyer’s assistance is needed to help with some contract or client, that is something that a good agency should also provide.
Then, besides liking fashion, it is important to start developing a business mindset. Which means it’s very important they understand that this is a job and that they need to take care of their body and their looks in order to perform well. Most of the times, the client chooses the model based on photos, so their face and body needs to be as good as possible.
There is nothing wrong to start modelling looking at this as hobby, but if they want to earn money and be successful, they need to work seriously and face this with a professional mindset.
Is there any aspect you consider important to demystify when it comes to the fashion industry
Yes. It is not mandatory, ever, to go to an agency and pay for a book or a course. An agency that believes in your potential invests in you, in a test shoot, a training session to explain styling, posture… the agency has to invest. Not the other way around. This is something very important that needs to be understood.
photography Gonçalo M. Catarino
thanks to Karacter for having us.