Rhiannon D’Averc visited the home of The Model Workshops London to watch Maxine Griffiths leading the pre-LFW Runway Ready 101 workshop, and to attend a casting call for Ibiza Fashion Festival.
In an open space in a nondescript office building in Wood Green, a large group of models has gathered to receive instruction from a modelling coach. They are mostly tall, goodlooking, young, and slim, though there are a few exceptions – nods to the increasing diversity on LFW catwalks.
In front of a group waiting nervously in heels (for the women at least), Maxine Griffiths shouts for the music to be turned up. Hearing the beat of the song pumping through her speakers, she gives the models a count, letting them know the rhythm. Then she strides forward, pausing at the end of the long room in front of the imaginary cameras, and back again. She’s showing them how to walk a runway.
Over the next few hours, each of the models who attends the workshop is given personal oneon-one tuition. In small groups, they come to the front of the room, and demonstrate their walk. Maxine tells them what they’re doing wrong, and what they’re doing right. She corrects them in a quiet, personal voice, then shouts to the room at large to share general advice.
One by one, the models turn and walk again and again until Maxine is satisfied with their improvements. Those who mastered a certain walk last season, or already have a pre
conceived notion of their attitude and style, are coached in developing flexibility and adaptability so that they can suit a wider range of shows. Once Maxine is happy, they’re sent to practice in another room while the next batch of students steps up.
They range from first-time walkers – all of whom get a big round of applause on their first attempt – to experienced models, including a familiar face to our readers. Norman Busigu, winner of Fashion4Africa’s male model competition last year, is attending to sharpen up his walk. “I attended a casting for Fashion Week,” he tells us. “I got cast! But I’m away and I can’t make the show.”
Others are more hopeful about attending catwalk castings for the first time in their modelling careers. Some are just here to see if they have any potential and find out whether they might be able to make it at smaller shows throughout the year. A few have already booked shows, and want to make sure they work it on the day.
They come from various walks of life and sources. A good few were sent through from their modelling agencies, who recognise the importance of training to ensure their models look good on the catwalks. They want to get them bookings for next season on the basis of this one. Others heard about the workshop on social media and were attracted by the fact that it was free to attend. The £5 booking fee, to ensure your place, is redeemable against future workshops to help school you in other areas of your modelling life.
Maxine is certainly an expert when it comes to what makes a catwalk work. That’s one of the reasons why she was also involved in the Ibiza Fashion Festival casting, taking place at the same venue. The faces at this event were rather more nervous, with group after group of women in bikinis and swimsuits (and even lingerie for those who came unprepared) walking in front of the casting panel.
The biggest takeaway any model could look for from the casting was to be prepared. To read details of the casting call seriously, and to take them into account. Those who arrived without their comp cards, without their contact details written down, or wearing the wrong shoes were quickly singled out.
While Maxine might be gentler in the workshops, the casting call is the reality of the industry. Not everyone will get through.
Those who don’t have the right experience or natural talent, those who have let their bodies go, or those who don’t prepare correctly are putting themselves at the bottom of the pile. But at least there’s a chance to learn what is expected from them at the free Runway Ready 101 workshop, a seasonal event designed to prepare models before each London Fashion Week begins. And there’s still another chance to get into the exclusive Ibiza Fashion Festival, with another casting call set to take place before the event.
Find details of upcoming casting calls and workshops on Instagram at @themodelworkshops. The next Ibiza Fashion Festival casting call is scheduled for Sunday 24th February between 12 noon and 3pm.