Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Pierre Wardini

Owner of Models Inc. through which he represents prestigious models in Lebanon, Pierre Wardini crafted the firm he founded in 1991 into Lebanon’s leading agency with over 50 female models. In this interview, we asked him to give us the inside on his profession and what clients look for in a model. He talks about business, egos, photography, social media and of course, supermodels.

How many years have you been working in the industry and how did you start out?
I started back in 1991, my mother was a model and I was enchanted by the world of fashion. Moreover, as a businessman I could see the financial possibilities that could be achieved if I were to fully focus and dedicate myself to the business. So in 1999 I decided to dedicate myself fully to this business and discovered even more that my passion was to create a revolution in this industry.

What do you most enjoy about your work?
Mostly I enjoy the contact with people and the beauty of images: two things I deal with on a daily basis.

Ah yes, the photography. Who are your favorite fashion photographers?
Peter Lindbergh, Enrique Badulescu, Mario Testino and Mikael Jansson.


What about what you most dislike about your work?
Most people would probably think it is the often-mentioned superficiality of the business – but it isn’t! I don´t find this business superficial at all. Once you are in it you realize it is exactly that – a business – one that requires a lot of creativity, which is a privilege. What I really dislike are the big egos of some of the people in this business.

True that! Is there competition between different offices within the same modeling agency?
Models Inc. represents the most prestigious models in the region. I would say it has more to do with responsibility than competition. At the end of the day we want our clients to be happy and with clients I mean both models and clients – because we serve both of them.

How do you renew talent in such a fast-paced and competitive industry?
We have a division run by our two young bookers, who also take care of the scouting. Apart from this, thanks to our presence in the market for over 20 years, we have a great working relationship with agencies all over the world, who give us their talents for representation.

How do you decide whether a young candidate has potential?
Of course, height, face and measurements play a role. You asked me earlier what I like about this business. Well it is the factor of unpredictability. Sometimes you can have a “not 100% perfect model” that has it all due to her personality. So besides the mentioned facts, personality does matter. Our motto is: “ The secret to modeling is not being perfect” – by Karl Lagerfeld.

Who are your most successful models and why are they so sought after?
Apart from our Top Models, those that have an open smile, healthy look and a friendly image are the most successful. Clients look for classical beauty with lots of personality.

The dreaded question…Agencies are often criticized for promoting extreme thinness and taking on girls at a very young age. What is your opinion on this?
In my agency I do not allow any girls under 16 to work. A scout can discover a 14-year-old girl, but at that age she shouldn’t be working in what is at the end of the day, a very tough profession.
Regarding thinness…Look, I think it’s still a problem. It’s true that for pret-a-porter shows, models have to be thin. There have been attempts at governmental regulation requiring a minimum Body Mass Index of 18. Often it is designers who are blamed as those wanting size 0, and this is partly true. But lately there really is a growing demand for healthy girls. Slim, but healthy. I always give the same example: They pay elite football players to stay in perfect shape, to be healthy and strong—not obese. In the same way, a model must have certain measurements, eat healthy and exercise. A model that does not exercise and is overweight will not find work. It’s the harsh reality…for models just as it is for sports players.

Does their presence and influence on social media networks have a significant effect on the success of a campaign?
Absolutely! Social media has become a main asset. A model that has many followers on Facebook and Instagram is more public and therefore known to more people. So the advertising value and effect is multiplied.
Social media also has become very important for us as agents. People not only want to engage with the models, but with the activities of the agencies as well.

Is there a specific formula to finding the right model for a specific campaign?
I don´t think so. I guess it lies mostly in listening to the client’s needs and putting your personal tastes aside.

Tell us something that most people don’t know about your work/modeling/fashion industry.
People tend to think models are not very bright and just beautiful. I can only say…this is not true at all. Models who travel alone at a very young age, adjust and adapt to new photography teams every day, deal with adult professionals in the business and still give everything that is asked from them in front of a camera in order to keep the client satisfied are anything but not bright. They make relatively large amounts of money per day and have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. They have to play their role in an adult business world and do a great job of it. Personally, I have a lot of respect for these young girls who are thrown into the business world unprepared and who manage to pull it off so well.

What about your best clients—those who you enjoy working with the most?
All of my clients…that is why I love my job!

Thank you Pierre!

Pierre Wardini

Pierre Wardini is the President and Founder of ‘Models Inc.”, a licensed model and talent agency located in Beirut, Lebanon.
It is a full service model and talent agency that covers all forms of film, television, and fashion modeling.
Pierre Wardini’s work is really two fold: there is the client end which includes consistently networking to expand his client base and add more clients to his agency in order to bring in additional projects and work for his talent. Then there is the talent side of his work which entails scouting talent and always being on the look out to search and bring on the best quality talent who are able to book the projects for the agency.
In the fashion industry, there is never a ‘typical’ work week!! If you like change and ‘going with the flow’ and you crave jobs with variety where every day is different, you’ll likely love the entertainment industry!  Jobs often pop up at the last minute and many of his talent work flexible job schedules in order to accommodate being available to attend auditions, callbacks and shoots.
As a man who holds a Bachelor in Business Administration from the prestigious HEC, and a Masters in Visual Communication from the Royal College of Art in London, UK, Pierre Wardini has always done a lot of networking with every job that he had. He had NO experience in the fashion business other than observing his mother, a former model, and her exuberant fashionista lifestyle.

It is very clear that Pierre loves what he does. He mentions in one of his interviews that  ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life?’ That is ‘my’ mantra!!!  When he started working in this industry, he ‘knew’ this was it!  HE LIVES, EATS and SLEEPS this job!!! Pierre mentions that “ That’s how you know that you like what you do!!!  When you don’t keep track of how many hours you work… you just do it!  You are doing it for the love of it:)”
However it seems that Pierre Wardini, the man who has “made it” in the fashion industry has a constant challenge to deal with and that is dealing with people… People of all backgrounds, all types, all ages.  He mentions that “You never know who or what you will find in a person and you need to treat people fairly and well- basically treat people the way you want to be treated. I try to never forget that, no matter how challenging a person may be (and there are always challenging people in any business).”

However triumph is his only acceptable outcome and Pierre surly enjoys reaping his rewards. The most rewarding thing about his business is when someone simply says, ‘Thank you’ to him. That’s it… just a thank you. Period. Thank you for doing a good job or when one of his models says “Thank you Paul for supporting me and helping me through this process. I’m glad you were my agent’. That really makes his day!
Pierre seems to be as determined and committed as they get. He advises the young and hopeful to not do it unless they plan on working nights, weekends, possibly holidays and having an EXTREMELY flexible schedule. Yes, it is most exciting and it can be glamorous (depending upon the area of the country where you live- you may be able to work occasionally with celebrities)… but don’t do it for that! Do it for the love of the industry! And most importantly expect little time off!
Though people might believe that it is always glamorous, some of the jobs are simply not. Sometimes he encounters unprofessionalism or promotional gigs like contests and give aways at discount stores, etc… Not all jobs are glamorous and they don’t all pay a ton of money. Extra work also pays very little.
Nevertheless he has big dreams and ambitions to expand into the GCC market and reach out to bigger European networks.

Pierre Wardini is a relentlessly hopeful man with big dreams and is surely on the way to making them a reality.