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Silent Models Founder Eric DuBois on the Idea of ‘Disposable’ Models

Over nearly 30 years working in the modeling industry, Silent Models creative director Eric DuBois has managed the careers of Carmen Kass, Carolyn Murphy, and Isabeli Fontana. From 2003 to 2006, DuBois was the founder of Women Management’s Paris office, where he helped build the career of a young Natasha Poly. He then joined forces with modeling-agency veteran Vincent Peter to lay the groundwork for Silent Models in Paris, which became the home for talents like Emmanuelle Seigner and Léa Seydoux. His recent success stories includes the introduction of Anna Selezneva, who has starred in Calvin Klein and Versace campaigns. This summer, Silent Models quietly opened up a New York branch to carry its distinct Parisian ideal over into New York’s crowded modeling market. We talked with DuBois about his vision for Silent Models New York and his perspective on the modeling industry today.

How did you get started in the fashion industry?
I was greatly influenced by Frederika Levy and Marc Ascoli. Frederika was the director and owner of City Models in Paris, which was one of the edgier modeling agencies in the late eighties and early nineties. Marc Ascoli is perhaps one of the most important art directors of the last twenty years. He was the art director of Yohji Yamamoto, Jil Sander, and Martin Sitbon.

When did you realize you wanted a career in fashion?
When I came to appreciate how influential fashion could be in affecting the aesthetics around us.

Anna Selezneva (left), Isabeli Fontana (right).

Who is your all-time favorite model?
Linda Evangelista.

How would you describe the difference between fashion in Paris and New York?
Paris is more about shows and clothes — Paris is still the code word for luxury around the world. New York is a much larger market for fashion and is much more about studios and photographs.

Where do you like to shop?
Everywhere — style is everywhere!

What should every man have in his closet?
Blue jeans and a classic coat.

What’s something you never leave your house without?
My BlackBerry and my Balenciaga glasses.

What sets Silent Models apart from other modeling agencies?
We are very selective. Once we sign a model, we work closely as a team to develop the model’s career, both in terms of the quality of editorial work that she does and in securing the most lucrative advertising campaigns. We focus on the long-term, as opposed to short-term results.

What’s the typical scouting process before a model is signed?
We evaluate hundreds of models every week. During our careers, we have formed close relationships with a number of the most important scouts — the best ones come to understand our vision and will know right away what models are right for Silent and which girls will be the most successful.

Carmen Kass (left), Melodie Monrose (right).

What are the three things you notice first in a model you’re meeting for the first time?
Personality, style, and beauty. Personality tells us how she will interact with clients, how much energy she will bring to a shoot, and the kind of influence she will have on a designer. Style is also extremely important: How does she view herself today? What do we need to change or bring out in her personal style? Of course, beauty is the key draw for any model, but we’re always looking for something extra that separates her from hundreds of others.

Modeling trends seem to happen in waves: first the Brazilians, then Russians, now the Dutch models. Why do you think these trends happen?
A lot of the trends in the industry are tied to the economy and the mood of the people. Right now, there is less of a focus on extravagance and more emphasis on contained beauty. The designers are influenced by everything around them — music, films, popular culture …

In a constantly shifting industry, some believe that models are becoming increasingly “disposable.” Do you agree?
A lot of models have been coming from Eastern Europe lately, and there is a lot more similarity in how these models look. As a result, their careers can be shorter. The key is to develop careers so that the models are perhaps the muse of a designer or the favorite model of an important photographer or casting director rather than just a pretty face.

Silent Models Founder Eric DuBois on the Idea of ‘Disposable’ Models