“The more controversial our catalogue and pictures are the more free press we get, and that leads to more people coming into our stores buying our clothes.” – Stylist @Abercrombie & Fitch
At 15 years old I was flown out to Lake Placid, New York along with 50 other models form all around the world to shoot for the winter catalogue for Abercrombie & Fitch. In the five days that I was there, I learned and observed more about the modelling and advertising industry than during all my experiences up until that point. It was clear to me the second that I stepped off that private jet and into the limo service that I was in the real thing.
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $14
Prices start at $12
We met with the other 40 models at a private ranch back in the Adirondack Mountains to be sized for our clothes, and as I found out later, to be sized up by the staff working the job. I feel my view of the job was completely different than that of other models there. I was there for fun, to make some money. I did not really care about the exposure or the thought of hitting it big. To me $1500 a day for 3 days was more than anyone could ask for.
It felt like I was in a sort of utopia, 49 of the most gorgeous men, women, girls and boys I have ever seen all in one place. Every one of the models hoping that they have that one thing that will catch the photographer’s eye and send them to the cover of the next catalogue, and possibly to the “top”. We stayed in a huge hotel with a private gym and swimming pool that was only for the models of A&F. This is where their psychology began.
They set us up all in a private, elegant hotel, and had every meal fully catered to us. They made us feel like we were getting the best deal possible when I thought all they were asking in return was for us to model and smile for the camera. Little did I know that the work went a little deeper than that.
The photographer was taking people aside often to do nude shoots and other things that I only heard bit and pieces about. They asked me to ride on a horse with a naked guy and have my hair flowing back on him. I said ummmmmm… no. That was the last time I got asked to do anything like that.
I noticed that something was wrong every night one or two of the male models would be missing from the bunch and as I found out later they were staying alone with the photographer at his private cabin up in the mountains. The photographer was known for having boys up to his cabin for the night and then shooting them excessively the next day telling them that they WILL ”make the cover” or constantly telling them “you look amazing!” We all knew what was going on but no one seemed to think anything wrong of it. Despite how I felt I kept my mouth shut and kept working.
At least 5 or 6 times a day the photographer would do nude shots of anyone that was willing 18 or not. At the end of the 5 days we all knew that only 15 models would remain in New York to shoot the rest of the catalogue. The staff (all of which were homosexual) gathered us up and talked to us telling us how great we were and then announced the 15 that would stay behind. Sure Enough, it was only Bruce’s bed buddies and the girls that were willing to get in front of the camera nude that stayed behind. I was relieved to get out of there and get home.
This is one of the many examples of what I have experienced while working part-time as a model, this experience I feel shows the way that things really happen in the advertising industry when you get up into the higher realms of it. There are no friends and everything is done in a strictly business setting, except of course when it comes to doing a little favour or two to reach the top.
Companies like Abercrombie & Fitch feel like they have you the consumer totally figured out. They make the headlines with controversial topics and we go out and buy the catalogue to make sure it is true and pick out a pair of pants on the way. They are playing their psychology to appeal to our curiosity. And the sad part is that it is working. Every company has a different way of getting the consumer to buy their product. It may be to make it seem like if you get the product you are going to instantly as beautiful and as perfect as the ones shown on the ad in seventeen.
Or the product that is being advertised is the hip and in thing and in order to be up with fashion you have to have this product. It may sound like a lot to do but it works every time, advertising managers are constantly asking me on jobs all about what I like, what the girls are wearing at my school and what type of things that they buy from stores. All of this info he gets he channels together to make the next ad for Gap or Old Navy.
I have worked closely with the company Quiksliver for about 5 years now. I know most of the top executives very well and travel with them and their families often. I have worked at Quiksilver longer than most of the people working there now. I have seen the changes that they have had to make and the selfish deals they have cut in order to save a few extra dollars. My job is to be the polished all American surfer girl everywhere I go to represent Roxy.
They give me all the free clothes I want for my family, and myself and any surf equipment I need is only a phone call away. At first, being 13 years old and new in the industry I thought that Quiksilver was the best, most caring and thoughtful company ever. But now looking back I see that they did all of this because it is free advertising. Having me dressed head to toe in Roxy clothes with my Roxy board and Roxy everything else makes them money. They look at everything they do as either a tax right off or a way to get some free advertising.
This type of advertising without fail works, the company wins both ways they get free advertising and the person doing it believes that they are getting clothes because the company wants to help them out. For many years I believed that Quiksilver just wanted to hook me up with free stuff because they liked me; they got me to think what they wanted me to think and left it at that. It did not dawn on me until I found a website with pictures of myself and other Roxy girls showing the clothes that we were wearing and where the consumer could go buy them. I had no idea where I was when these pictures were being all I know is that Quiksilver knew what they were doing and had accomplished it through me.
From the strategic placement of phone booth ads all along with the Beach Cities to buses totally painted from bottom to top with Roxy pictures the advertising market know where Roxy sells best and they are there on top of it. We have focus groups about once every 3 months with the advertising agents trying to pry as much info as they can out of us to pour into their Champaign. I can clearly see the psychology of what has been happening to me these past years, they have been using me as a key to get to their target market, teen-age, athletic, and the stereotypical “California girls”.
I travel with sales reps all over the country to trade shows to meet and model the new clothes and accessories for clients. By the end of the trade shows that I attend I have not only tried on about 500 different outfits but have also witnessed some of the hardest core brown-nosing and kiss asses that I have ever seen. The sales reps will literally do anything to get a big sale to a client with money. They do what needs to be done whether it takes the client to dinner or have one of us young models promise to make an appearance with them at a trade show after-party.
Though Roxy is a pretty durable brand and has cute clothes, people buy it for the logo that is on every item at least 3 times if not more. We always joke about some of the clothes that the designers put out because like one of the sales reps told me- “who in their right mind would ever want this piece of junk?” Then promptly she turns around convincing the client that they need to have this item, “because it is the new hot thing”.
Every company I have worked for has a Target Group. Usually, they target people through the categories of Age and Social Status. When I arrive at a job I am always informed of the Target Group so I know my role in the picture, film or commercial. Going into jobs I am positive that the company has done extensive research on what sells, what does not sell, who they are going to sell to, where they are going to sell and most important to me what EXACTLY they want the girl in their ad to look like. Companies have a long thought out “mold” of what they want the hired model to look like.
They may make a few changes on me in order for me to fit that “mold”, whether it is more makeup or tighter clothes, they fix me up so they can sell to their Target Group and make money off my image. For example, if I were to get a job for a teen magazine I would be one of 4 girls on the job. This is how every magazine fashion story is always set up. The magazine is obligated to make their contents equally appealing to everyone. They have one Blonde (that’s me), one dark-haired girl, always a dark-skinned girl either African American or Indian etc… and one Asian looking girl. They always cover all of the bases to get as many different people to read their magazine as possible. For a teen magazine job, I would be very natural and usually always smiling and doing some fun activity. The pictures have to be faultless so that all those mothers who see their 12-year-old daughters reading the magazine won’t send the magazine masses of hate mail.
On the other hand, when I am working for a company’s ad campaign I am either the only girl on the job or am with another guy. I am hired because the client thinks I have the look to sell their product to their Target Group. I worked for an ad campaign for perfume and it was a high fashion job, lots of makeup and lots of money (picture enclosed). The target market was young women in the upper class of society. It. was black and white, very serious and seductive ads. Even though I have worked many different jobs I feel I as a person have no effect on the picture that is put out on the market, it is nothing more than the image that the client wants me to present to the specific people and that’s my job.
Every company has to watch the ground their treading, so as to not offend any race or social group. This job is not easy considering the anal world that we live in. For every different market companies put out a different ad or the same ad but with a black girl instead have a white girl, or maybe a Latin girl instead of an Asian girl. The class of the clothing or companies goes down with the class of the people.
This type of trend goes along with every advertising company, they will only put their ads out where it will be useful to them and make them money. The key in every move that companies make is always geared toward Money, behind every ad magazine or commercial the motive is always in prospects of making money.
The bottom line is companies and magazines know the buyer. They know where you buy their product, where you do most of your shopping and what you pay with. They know how much you will spend on clothes and how much they can rip you off. Companies know how to bend rules to get you into their store.
They know what you want to see on an ad and what will make you buy their product whether it be Michael Jordan or me (in one form or another). They have been watching you from a young child predicting what you will wear and how you will wear it.
It is a cycle, we market new ideas and while the buyer eats it up we are preparing for the next. No matter how ridiculous something maybe if Vogue puts it on their “hot list” people will be wearing it and paying through the nose for it. That’s the way of the advertising market they know you and they build everything they do around what they think they know of you. Because of this you will continue to pay $400 for a Gucci skirt or $14 for a Roxy toothbrush because that’s what we (media) have told you is hot and you have and always will believe all we say.
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