Are Australian Modelling Agencies Finally Becoming More Diverse?

Instagram / @brooklyn.mgmt

The Australian fashion industry is certainly changing. To think that only a few years ago agencies had height and weight restrictions on their applications is wild.

I got signed to an agency last year. As a size 14, I’m considered a ‘curve’ or ‘plus-sized’ model, which, up until last year, were not a prominent part of the fashion industry.

Lots has changed in the last 12 months and, honestly, it was about time. We’ve been seeing mainstream fashion brands like Cotton On, Just Jeans and Myer use more diverse body types, ethnicities and genders in their campaigns. We’ve also been seeing heaps of younger brands really celebrate “imperfections,” like Frank Bod and Showpo, that show their products proudly on different body types without heavy editing.

This progression is great, but we still have a way to go. There are still so many brands that look for that ‘generic’ model type—skinny and white—and with them, many Australian modelling agencies that still cast within a strict set of restrictions.

Brooklyn Edwards, Founding Director of Brooklyn MGMT (formerly Brazen Models) has completely re-branded her agency, with a focus on a future of diversity.

“The agency has grown so much in it’s 15 years, as has the industry,” she tells POPSUGAR AU.

“Brazen Models no longer reflected who we are. We’re a progressive agency and we wanted a name that reflects who we are today.”

Brooklyn started Brazen Models when she was just 21 years old, back in 2006.

“When I started the agency, it was really all about thin, white, young models. I’ve watched it change and evolve and honestly, I’m really excited about it.

“We’ve seen the boom of the curve industry, which is amazing. Curve models were only really seen occasionally, like the token curvy girl in some campaigns, but now I actually think they’re getting the majority of the work.

“But it’s also really amazing to see lots of diversity in ethnicity and gender too. With the direction that we’re going, it makes sense for us to refresh.”

The re-brand from Brazen Models to Brooklyn MGMT sees some key changes at the agency.

On their website, under the category of ‘Women’ are all the female models together, regardless of age and size. They’ve updated their website to have no exclusion, so that everyone can be viewed in the same place.

There are also no restrictions in place for their application process, meaning that if you want to become a model, you don’t have to be a specific height, weight or dress size.

I mean this alone is pretty incredible. Having personally experienced being separated on an agency website in the past, as well as meeting countless application roadblocks where my weight or size didn’t meet the requirements, it may seem only small, but it makes a difference.

Thoughts like “I wish I was skinnier, then they’d accept me” or “I’ll never be a model unless I go down a dress size” are the kind of thoughts that these experiences encourage, and can result in some pretty unhealthy habits and bad mental health.

As well as these changes, Brooklyn MGMT have opened up their agency to other types of talent, such as actors, content creators, families, photographers, make up artists and stylists.

“Clients want models with a story,” Brooklyn says.

“The industry is really starting to value to person as a whole, rather than just a model; they’re being humanised which is so important… because we’re all humans.

“I think it’s so important that we see models as more than just an unrealistic body type and thankfully, that’s where we’re heading.”

It’s amazing to see agencies like Brooklyn MGMT move with the times like this. I am definitely aware of many agencies in Australia that still restrict themselves to one type of look and one body type, which, as well as being outdated, is really quite foolish.

The truth is, over half of the Australian population is between a size 12-14, so if brands aren’t appealing to those women, then who are they appealing to? Consumers no longer want to buy fashion that feels unrealistic to them, that they’d have to lose weight to feel comfortable in, they want to buy clothes that make them feel good.

What I—and so many others—love about fashion, is that it has the power to make you feel like a badass. So, if the clothes aren’t empowering us, then why would we buy them?

“The traditional idea of beauty is being challenged, and it’s great to see,” Brooklyn agrees.

“Not only when it comes to size and ethnicity, but also age too. We just signed a 65 year-old-woman who is absolutely killing it! She’s walking in Melbourne Fashion Week next month. I mean it’s incredible.”

“There’s also been such a huge change when it comes to editing photos. Back in the mid-2000s, editorial photos were highly edited, like everything was edited out so the models’ skin looked flawless. Now, what was previously considered to be a ‘flaw’, is being celebrated.

“I think this is so important. Especially when it comes to different body types as well as ages. We need to see realistic, inspiring people.”

Brooklyn hopes that this rebrand will make some noise and get the message across: that diversity is the way forward.

If more agencies in Australia got loud and proud about their beautiful, diverse models, and those that are still restricted opened out their arms to everyone, without the outdated requirements, the fashion industry would be a much more divine place.

But if we look at it as ‘one step at a time is a step forward’, and forward is where we need to be going, then this rebrand by an iconic Australian agency is a step in the right direction.

Keep your eyes peeled for Brooklyn MGMT’s inclusive model search, that will be dropping on November 1st.

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