Founder, Phoenix Models London
Lauren Wyper, is the founder of Phoenix Models London. Lauren started the agency a little over three years ago, and has used her knowledge of the industry to give her agency a fantastic start in a competitive world. I asked her a load of questions about her experiences of the fashion world, and also some more personal things. Here’s what she had to say...
Solstice: You’re originally from Scotland, moved to Australia and have been living in England for the past few years. Please tell us about what you did in all those countries and which one is your favourite.
Lauren: I left Scotland at 19 to travel after finishing school and went straight to Sydney, I happened to meet a model agent in Sydney who had just opened his own agency ‘The Agency Models’ and he trained me up over a number of years, it was right beside Bondi Beach and an amazing opening to my career as an agent - I then went on to co-found a boutique agency called ‘Fivetwenty Model Management’ which is now a very succesful agency in Sydney - our Male model Zac just signed with them actually - so its an exciting relationship between Phoenix and Fivetwenty and we look forward to bringing some amazing aussies over here. Upon returning to London I was a Model booker at ASOS which was an incredible experience to be on the client side then I went onto work at Leni’s models before going out as an independent mother agent.
Solstice: Is there any reason behind you naming your agency Phoenix?
Lauren: After leaving Australia it was very much a case of rebuilding my life in a new city and recarving my career in unknown territory - it was very much a case of ‘Phoenix from the ashes’ and it just felt very right.
Solstice: You previously worked at a model agency in London. How did that experience help you when setting up your own agency?
Lauren: That was a wonderful experience with a great team - working at any agency gives you different strengths and you always learn so much by the dynamic of who you are working with - my previous agency had a strong head booker and wonderful scout both of which I learned alot about the London market from. These experiences teach you what works and how to be better at your role as a booker but also what does not work and what to avoid from an outsiders perspective.
Solstice: Is being an agency founder a 24/7 job? If so, how do you cope with that?
Lauren: This is most definitely a 24/7 role - from 1am whatsapps from models to staying up all night to skype overseas agencies - it can be very demanding especially in a day and age were there are so many means of contact however I absolutely adore my job and as cliché as it sounds it honestly doesn’t feel like work most of the time, I do try and take time out and my phone goes off however for me I like the models I represent and clients I work with to feel as though there is extra care factor at Phoenix - it doesn’t just stop at 6pm. I find yoga and meditation is amazing for stress relief and allows me to have a clear head and focus for Phoenix.
Solstice: Do you enjoy going out and scouting models? What do you look for in a model?
Lauren: I try to scout most days - I actually really enjoy it. It is such a buzz to find the models you are looking for. This is a difficult question as there isn’t one single type of aesthetic which I look for - our client base is so varied so when out and about I may have several different briefs in my head - one running trait is models who have a presence and how they carry themselves I am more inclined to approach someone who walks with confidence and clearly has there own style. On a Monday I could be searching for a petite blonde for one of our online clients petite section but on a Tuesday I could be looking for a 5’11 androgynous brunette for up coming fashion week in September - It would be a successful day If I found both.
Solstice: Does your agency have a style of model you look for? Some agencies prefer alternative looking models, some like very young models etc.
Lauren: We are known for representing a variety of models and this works really well for us we want to represent models who are unique and interesting but professionally and personally - Looks vary however we do have an interview process as a ‘Phoenix Model’ generally is well rounded with there other life interests for example one of our models is an international DJ and Producer and one of our male models is a dancer at the renowned Royal Ballet School - for us its more of the complete package we go for as opposed to a specific look. We have models who are 5’4 and others who are 5’11 - some may be very sporty and lean and others slightly more curvy. We are aiming to achieve an aesthetic that is a true representative of society as lets face it we don’t live in a world were everyone is a size 6 and 5’11 - promoting healthy body image is important to us.
Solstice: A model’s social media following is becoming more and more important to casting agents. What is your opinion on this?
Lauren: I have seen such a change over the past 12 months - many clients ask for Instagram handles when requesting a specific model to check there following. We encourage our models to keep on top of social media of course however this isn’t a big priority for us - e develop our models so closely that we don’t want to cheapen them by saying she has 100k followers - we could be talking about a model who is about to travel the world doing the fashion circuit which is far more of an achievement than social media followers - we do have several models who have large followings and those girls are very good at using those platforms to have a voice for animal rights and human rights etc. which again goes back to a culture of well rounded models.
Solstice: What advice would you give to a model that is just starting out in the industry?
Lauren: I am always very transparent with any aspiring model - this is a tough industry and is of course so competitive - the first thing to do is research the market and try and figure out were you fit - are you a plus size model or a petite model, some agencies cater better for niche categories and others cater only for high fashion models - before applying to numerous agencies its so important that it will be the right fit for you. Your image is of course your business so it is important to eat well, exercise daily, invest in your skincare and hair regime. Movement is very important as no matter how new you are clients expect you to move with ease and confidence - my advice is to watch youtube videos of how models move and blast your favourite music whilst practicing in the mirror.
Solstice: How do you feel about the way celebrities are starting to replace actual models for campaigns, editorials etc.?
Lauren: As a long-timer in this industry I find it a bit frustrating - it takes a long time to development a successful models career and I feel with the larger clients and campaigns the opportunities have lessened - the girls work super hard and for someone who hasn’t dedicated there career aspirations to the goal of doing a Burberry campaign but lands it as they are successful in another sector feels pretty unfair - I am hoping this is a trend that wont last and they stick to the professionals.
Solstice: How do you feel about the industry focusing more on ‘real’ women rather than your typical high-end models?
Lauren: I absolutely love this hence why Phoenix is an agency of such variety - I am very proud that we are part of such a positive movement for our industry. There is a market for both now and it gives other an opportunity were there was not one before - high end models and your ‘real’ women are often working together now and that is something I didn’t think I would ever see in my time of being an agent. A time of great change is upon us in our industry and we will continue to encourage having models who are a true representation of society.
Solstice: What has been your biggest challenge so far in setting up and running your agency?
Lauren: In the inception phase you become a ‘Jack of all trades’ so from scouting to dealing with your own accounting to editing the models images yourself - It has taught me a lot but putting so many ‘different brains on’ in one day can be overwhelming, luckily we are moving out of that phase now however it is an invaluable experience and when you really love what you to any challenge is a worthy challenge. Having set up another agency previously a lot of the fundamentals come really easy.
Solstice: What’s the worst thing you’ve experienced/seen in the industry?
Lauren: To be honest we have moved out of the time were clients are aggressively demanding weight loss which in my early years of being an agent was sadly a common occurrence. However these days I must say on a whole this is a pretty nice industry to work in - their seems to be a common mutual respect even between agencies as ultimately we are all trying to achieve the same thing - the clients treat the models well and 9 times out of 10 its a positive experience for all involved.
Solstice: What is your favourite thing to do when you have some time to yourself?
Lauren: I am a bit of a Hippie so I am a huge advocate of wellness - meditation, yoga, healthy eating - I enjoy the occasional glass of wine also so exploring new wine bars and restaurants is right up my street. I practice photography also after many years of taking photos of my own models so I am currently trying to get back into this as I find it very enjoyable and is an amazing creative outlet for me.
Solstice: If you could move to anywhere in the world for the rest of your life, where would you go and why would you go there?
Lauren: I would like to live in Greece and island hop for the rest of my life - having lived beside a beach for 8 years I sometimes struggle with big city life and the dream is to eventually live by the ocean again. Greece is close enough to home as opposed to when I lived on the other side of the world - so would be the best of both worlds for me, I also could literary live of Greek salads for eternity so I would not be complaining!
Solstice: What is your single biggest aspiration?
Lauren: My single biggest aspiration is to reach a level of success that I can always support my friends and family and travel the world with them - My family are huge drive for me particularly my Mum who has supported my aspirations no matter how insane they sounded at the time since day one and luckily I listened to her as its all going swimmingly.
Interview conducted by James Joyce
Photographer: Sebastian Santa Maria
Make Up & Hair: Raquel Bester