Luís Graça @ L'Agence
On the eve of another fashion week in Lisbon, we visited L’Agence to meet its headbooker Luís Graça, who was kind enough to find some time on his busy schedule and talk with us about the fashion industry.
L’Agence has more than 20 years of experience on models’ career management and today, they operate in 4 specific areas: Models, Talents (Celebrities), Commercial and Kids. And Luis Graça, who started his career in fashion has a model, has been for the most recent years, the responsible for the Models’ department.
L’Agence is currently accepting participants for its contest - Go Top Model 2017. Is this L’Agence’s main source for finding new models?
Yes, but it’s not the only one. Finding new models is something that happens in a somewhat organic way for us. But we have this platform, this contest that started in 2013. Before that, we already had experience with contests, with the "Super Model of the World”, which was an international contest, associated to Ford Agencie's network. Then, Ford agency went through several management changes and they decided to stop making this worldwide contest.
At the time, besides Elite Model Look, there were no other contests being made and we decided it was a chance for us, because I believe contests have a very specific dynamic in the way an agency works. We are talking about large quantities of people applying every year, which makes us pay more attention to all these people. And it also makes us work in a different way in the sense that we’ll be incorporating in the agency several new faces, most of which of very young ages.
And so, in 2013 we launched our own contest, won by Maria Clara which is currently on her way to make a wonderful international career.
As a booker, which are your main concerns?
One of my main concerns is to have a good board of models that I can present to our clients, and of course, the constant monitoring of our models, according to the needs and specificities of each one and also, according to their international potencial. If there’s something that bothers me, is seeing people with that international potencial, and not taking it.
And, in what concerns to the international market, how is that management made by L’Agence?
It starts with their will. Needless to say that the model has to be ready to take that step, but we believe their will is fundamental. We have many models with good careers in Portugal, but that don't match the international standards. And we’re not talking about measurements alone. It’s everything, the whole package. They also need to have a certain image to capture the attention of the international agencies. The main international agencies are a bit “spoiled", because they receive candidates from all over the world, so their standards are really high.
Considering the model has that image, we also think that age has an important part in this process. For instance, we don’t recommend doing it before 16 [years], unless they are accompanied. After 16 and within short distances (Paris or Milan) short stays are a possibility, but always with the proper following of the agency and their parents. And being able to speak English is also very important.
Maria Clara is the most recent case of success among L’Agence’s models. What characteristics can you identify, that support this path she’s been making for herself?
Maria Clara has a very specific image, that matches the looks that most brands are looking for these days. But besides that, Maria Clara has a highly captivating character. She’s intelligent, a perfectionist and she has a very independent attitude and focused on what she wants. We think her incredible path so far, has much to do with this attitude. And she’s also and adventuress, a curious girl and she loves travelling. She loves meeting people and new places, and this natural curiosity and lightness of hers, makes her feel well in pretty much everywhere she goes.
This is something that doesn’t happen with other models. They like the work and they like the shootings, but everything else… they don’t like the trips, the long distances or the absence of their loved ones. Maria Clara is the kind of people that when having 3 days off in Paris, will visit all the museums and gardens, instead of staying in the apartment.
And what has been the impact of Maria Clara here at L’Agence? Do you feel she’s already looked upon as a reference for other young models?
Yes, L’Agence is definitely very proud of what she’s been doing. And Maria Clara, being the humble person that she is, has a great relationship with our other models and we feel that it’s like the “group’s pride” - the rest of the models are also very proud of her achievements.
Nowadays, we’ve been assisting in Portugal, to a “new generation” of models, that are a mix of Portuguese genes with other nationalities. Quite recently we met one of your models, Duda, which is a good example of this mix. Do you think these are isolated cases or will we be seeing more of them in the future?
Genetics are really varied and the possibilities are immense. You mentioned Duda, that has very specific characteristics, but we can’t really say that they are typical from her Brazilian mother or Portuguese father. And even Maria Clara, who has typical looking Portuguese parents, but she has characteristics which are much similar to northern people. So, genetics end up being a very subjective part of this equation.
We’ve noticed that in the international market, some agencies already have “curvy models” or “plus size” models’ departments. Even next to us, in Spain, you can find them in Francina or in Trend, just to mention two of them. Do you think we’ll be seeing that happening in the Portuguese agencies as well?
We are a small country with a small market. Spain’s population is 4 or 5 times larger than ours, which means there are other types of needs and opportunities. I think that’s pretty much the reason why we don’t have them in Portugal. We still haven’t felt that need from our clients, that would justify having a board for those specific models. But obviously that, as soon as this reality changes, we’ll probably be one of the first agencies to have a "plus size" board.
And still on the same subject of agencies and industry trends, what’s your take on the digital influencers? International model agencies are starting to represent them as well. Do you think the arrival of the digital influencers is actually changing the fashion industry or is the just a trend?
We are aware of that trend and we’ve started to feel that change with some of our models represented in the American market, specifically with Alina Boyko and André Costa. But here in Portugal, we still haven’t had clients asking us for models with a certain number of followers. Let me just say that I’m only talking about models, because when it comes to celebrities, that’s a different reality.
But yes, the appearance of the digital influencers is clearly a trend, but I think it’s still early to say if it’s a trend that will have a significant role in the future of fashion industry itself. Social media has clearly changed the industry and the market, but our position has an agency, is to be aware of these trends and to work with them best way we can.
One last question before we wrap it up: being social media an extra tool for your work as an agency, when it comes to the models you represent, do you have any special precautions or tips for them?
Yes, we have several tips - which I can’t reveal [laughs] - and we make sure the models are aware of them. Nowadays, social media is like a window display to the world and therefore, one must be careful with what is being posted, when and how that communication is being made. We keep track of the social media channels of our models and we advise them accordingly to what we believe to be the best for each one of them.
photography Gonçalo M. Catarino
thanks to L'Agence for having us!