Jeff and Mary Clarke at Mother Model Management from St Louis have an astounding 25 years of experience as a mother agents behind them and it shows. They found supermodels Karlie Kloss and Grace Hartzel to name but a few. With experience comes knowledge which they now apply to their 25 models and 15-20 new faces, as well as exploring their passion projects, Tribute Fashion Fest and Seek Find You events.
How the model industry has changed since your beginning?
There are way more models and agencies. Social media has changed accessibility.
What are the skills that you must have to run the agency?
We believe you must maintain a love for models, to believe in them, support them, and challenge them to keep growing. It’s also important in todays world, to stay plugged in to the international industry and the changes and trends the casting directors are looking for.
Caitie Greene photographed by Steven Meisel & styled by Olivier Rizzo for VOGUE Italia May '16
Nowadays, do exist any boundaries when we talk about scouting?
We scout everywhere we go and also on social media. We are always respectful and when speaking with anyone under 18, the conversations are with their parents first.
You usually work with models in their very early stages. How is all the process from the scout to introduce the models to Fashion Week / Editorials?
We always tell our models we never rush the process. We arrange tests, new face weekends, occasional local bookings, and our annual Tribute fashion show. We work to develop their confidence, communication skills, and knowledge of the fashion industry. We are never in a hurry. We would rather do it right with the goal of building longevity. Too many aspiring models get lost in the shuffle because their agencies are in too big of a hurry.
What are the basics and requirements that you need to work with them before meet the important clients?
Obviously its important that they are physically ready, but equally important that they have the ability to communicate with confidence and to not be overwhelmed with the casting process and rigorous schedule. We build a close relationship with our models so we can really assess that they are ready for everything this business takes.
How is the communication between you and the agencies that represent your models abroad?
We stay connected with the agencies who represent our models worldwide. We speak regarding long term and short term goals, as well as weekly bookings, etc.And how is the process to introduce to models to them? We have models in our incubator, based on age. As our models mature, we begin the process of planning travel around their schedules. We submit with strong digitals and walking video. We make certain our submissions are presented when the model is ready physically and emotionally.
Mother Agencies have a closer relationship with their models. What kind of issues and situations do you need to solve when your models start working abroad and on a bigger scale?
We always say it takes one thing to get a model traveling and working, and an entire different skill set to help them maintain a successful professional career. It’s our job to make sure they are taking care of themselves and keeping the daily grind in perspective. Mindset is everything.
Do you think is necessary -like some publications and agencies are already doing- start launching models careers after they are +18 years old?
We believe the development process can and should happen before they are 18. We utilize smaller markets to better prepare them for the time they can model full time. We believe in moving slowly as we think in the long run it creates longevity.
What's your position about this matter?
We support the 18 and over idea when it comes to New York in particular.
Grace Hartzel by Inez & Vinoodh for Tom Ford Eyewear Campaign Fall Winter 2016.
Which risks do exist by introducing girls -under 18 y.o.- so early in the industry?
The vast majority of the time they are not equipped emotionally for the ups and downs of long days of castings, shows, etc. The reality is that models need to be able to navigate professionally with creative teams, casting agents, etc... that takes maturity. It takes time.
I didn't learn until I was in my twenties the importance of a good diet and sleeping when your travelling so much-modelling is quite a high demand on your body. Is this something you instil in them from a young age?
We stay plugged into our models ad are always making sure they are taking care of themselves. Our name, Mother, says it all...
How do you protect the girls when they go on set?
We are available 24-7. We tell them at any given time they can call or FaceTime us. Communication is key.
Do you give them the confidence to say no?
Absolutely, positively yes.
What would you change of the industry if it would be in your hands?
We would slow down the high demand for constant new faces. allowing for more models to build careers with longevity.
Alanna Arrington by Michelangelo di Battista for Harper's Bazaar UK, May 2018.
Which are the good/bad consequences of so much exposure for the models?
The great thing about social media is that a model can use their voice for positive change. The down side...we think sometimes too much exposure can end up looking like an over saturation of selfies. Not inspiring whatsoever.
Obviously modelling can't really be a long term career (unless you make it to supermodel status.) How do you equip the girls to prepare for life after modelling?
I think its important for everyone to always be seeking other interests. Looking at opportunities that can be pursued simultaneously.
Do you think agencies could do more in that respect?
Honestly, we believe we all should be focused on personal development and seeking outside interests.
There are many of them, but, what it would be your most remarkable success in the industry so far?
I think what we are most proud of is our consistent track record, multiple success stories. They are all valuable and equally important to us.
Is there a case that you remember as the most special?
There have been so many. I honestly couldn’t choose. Really thankful for that.
What do you think the next biggest change will be for the modelling industry?
I’m hopeful that with the expanding range of diversity in the modeling world, it would be wonderful to see models in the middle considered for high fashion, Not traditional straight size, or plus size, but the models who fall in between.
Myla Dalbesio by Silja Magg for the Cover of Glamour Magazine Iceland.
What do you consider is the best part of your work?
Being a part of transformation in a models life. Being there from the beginning, working with them on their mindset, and being with them with each passing milestone.
Any pieces of advices to those agents that want to turn independent and to start running an agency from scratch?
Well, I would never want to talk someone out of their dream. That being said, this industry becomes more and more competitive everyday. I think its harder to compete with the big agencies in todays world.
And to finish, what is the advice you always say to your newbies?
Work to be your personal best and don’t overthink.
Read the full Jeff and Mary Clarke's interview in the Mother Agencies featured at Spring Summer 2019 - Issue 2. Get your copy here.
Words by Charlie Newman.
Grace Hartzel photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for VOGUE Russia February 2018