The modeling industry in the 1960s

The 1960s were a time of great changes and revolutions in the world of fashion; Modeling agencies began to appear. Initially, secretarial agencies offered their services to models to secure contracts, charging weekly booking commission fees. The models were alone in choosing brands and clients and in maintaining their contracts and billing accounts. Payment was usually made in cash, and therefore cat-and-mouse games between models and customs officers seeking cash from people were always at odds. As such, their work was confined to their own areas or cities and they rarely traveled. Most of the modeling contracts were focused on single markets due to the incomplete and unclear labor laws that existed in different countries regarding modeling. If a model traveled to say France or Germany, where fashion magazines and houses were already well established, they were at the mercy of agencies who exploited them by withholding their pay and forcing them to return for more work, sometimes even without proper work visas. Competing agencies often tipped off police officers to raid hotels housing models staying without work visas.

In the late 1960s, London, with its more organized and streamlined approach to modeling, became the center of the industry. It was time for the models to hit the jackpot; they became known outside of their circles and became fashion icons. The models who ruled the London scene were Celia Hammond, Jean Shrimpton, Joanna Lumley, Penelope Tree, Pauline Stone and Tania Mallet were household names. The only significant person in the whole scene was Twiggy, just 16 years old, who despite her young age and inexperience became ‘The Face of ’66’ inspiring many young women with her striking personality and fashion sense. In many ways, she was different from many other models with an average height, petite frame, and short, almost boyish haircut, similar to the taller and curvier models that were the choice of many agencies. She even earned more than the others; at £80 an hour against weekly averages of £25, she was the highest paid and very popular.

The formation of the London Association of Model Agents in 1967 revolutionized the modeling industry and brought about systematic changes and regulations so that the industry could operate in a more professional manner. Where previous models were expected to be responsible for their own makeup and hairstyling, modeling agencies assumed this responsibility based on client requirements and contracts. That year also saw the creation of the Wilhelmina Model Agency by Wilhelmina Cooper and her husband. This and other agencies that sprang up soon after, such as Models 1 and FM Agency, helped models by representing them before companies and helping them get better offers and work environments. The world’s first modeling agency, Ford Models, also encouraged teenage models to earn money and support their families; they often kept the young at home, this became the forerunner of ‘model housing’.

The year 1968 also saw the establishment of “supermodels”, color, ethnicity and race were not limiting factors; only models who held the world’s attention for a considerable time and made it to the cover of magazines like Glamour, Vogue, etc. were included in the list.

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