My Brother Got Model-Scouted on the Subway

Photo: Catwalking/Getty Images

Last week, my younger brother Mark was just a tall, skinny dude getting on the subway at 14th Street. He’d swiped his MetroCard when a trio of Japanese men appeared. They asked if he’d come to a casting call for a fashion show. “Nope,” he said. He might get to be in Fashion Week. “No, thanks,” he said. They would pay in clothes or cash. “Sorry,” he said. The leader of the trio followed him onto the R train, pressed a business card into his hand, and jumped out just before the doors closed. “It just kinda sounded like a scam,” Mark said. Later, he looked up the name on the card, N.Hoolywood, and found it was a Japanese menswear line known for street-casting its models. He chucked the card in the trash.

It seemed like another New York subway story until he was eating in the New School’s cafeteria the next day. Someone tapped him on the shoulder. “Remember me?” asked the man from the day before. They shared a laugh, and after a bit more convincing, Mark agreed to go to the casting.

A tiny Chihuahua in human clothes sat next to N.Hoolywood designer Daisuke Obana and the casting director, Tsuyoshi Nimura. Mark stripped to his underwear and four minions began dressing him. Mark’s only exposure to modeling was Zoolander, so he made a serious face and walked back and forth. After a few outfits, Nimura told him his arms were getting too robotic and to just tuck them in his pockets. “That was a really confusing directive,” Mark said, “‘cause my outfit had at least six pockets.”

I wrangled myself a ticket to see Mark’s big debut and dutifully wore heels through the icy streets. I was placed in the front row, next to a very suave-looking man with a chiseled jaw and a deep-blue velvet suit. We both seemed equally unsure about what was going on, but he had a way bigger cell phone and kept getting approached by photographers. He introduced himself, and I excitedly confessed that my brother was walking. Then the lights flickered dramatically and trip-hop started blaring.

A bunch of weird-looking boys in good-looking clothes clomped around. The show had a futuristic snowflake motif, with lots of chunky knits with funnel collars and a sufficient number of layers for subzero temperatures. When a rather Nordic-looking guy with hair both longer and blonder than mine came out, my seatmate leaned over to whisper, “Is that your brother?” He was not. But after a guy with a bright-orange parka and hair in his face, Mark appeared. He was wearing cuffed pants in a color between cobalt and navy, a black sweatshirt with chest pockets, and a scarf-type thing. His hands, of course, were in his pockets. “That’s my brother,” I stage-whispered. He looked skinny and peeved, just like a real model.

Mark Ronan, looking the part. Photo: Catwalking/Getty Images

I’d call the collection art-school après-ski with a hint of dystopian chic. After the lights came back up and the crowd dispersed a bit, a show coordinator swooped over in a black V-neck and a headset. “You got to sit next to Lewis!” he said. “I know!” I said, but I didn’t know who on Earth he was talking about. As it turns out, my seatmate in the blue velvet was the newly single Lewis Hamilton, a Formula One world champion. He had very good manners.

I milled around until Mark came out, wearing black Levi’s skinny jeans and an unremarkable T-shirt. He had been worried that he was shaking so much they wouldn’t be able to get a clear picture when he stopped to pose. “The cameras have very high shutter speed,” I said. “I think you’re fine.” We buttoned and zipped, donned hats, and headed for the subway.

My Brother Got Model-Scouted on the Subway