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If there’s one upside to New York Fashion Week’s schedule being very stripped down this season, it’s that smaller-scale, up-and-coming brands get a chance to shine. Of all the seasons, then, this one couldn’t be better for what is arguably the creator least likely to join the fray: under its relatively new CEO, Julia Haart, Elite World Group, the international modeling agency which represents Kendall Jenner, Adriana Lima and Irina Shayk – now has its own fashion label, known as e1972.

When Haart was named head of Elite in March 2019, she promised to grow the business even further – quite an ambitious goal, given that it was already the largest modeling agency network in the world. world. (Elite Model World, Women Model Management, The Society Management and Women 360 are just a few of the powerhouse agencies overseen by Elite.) Haart, who was previously creative director at La Perla, swore she would create new growth avenues for the business. Last year, she mentioned that a fashion brand called e1972 – a nod to the year the agency was founded – would be part of it all, but kept it cryptic.

Unsurprisingly, then, before the lights went down on the first parade of e1972 on Saturday night, no one seemed to know what to expect. “I was really interested and intrigued,” Cody Simpson said backstage. “I mean, everyone was kind of intrigued to see what it was.” “Everyone” included front-row guests Tommy Dorfman, Ashley Benson, and CFDA chief Steven Kolb (who chose e1972 over the CFDA-supported Laquan Smith show a few blocks away).

Here’s what they found: Adut Akech leading a fashion show of models down a concrete runway, against the backdrop of vibrant walls freshly graffitied with inspirational phrases such as “MORE OF A WAY TO SUCCEED”, “WORK IT” and “BE YOUR OWN ICON”. “Established models like Isabeli Fontana, Lais Ribiero and Cindy Bruna soon followed, as did Lindsey Wixson – a rare sight on the runway, given that the beloved model “retired” at 23 in 2017 – has followed suit. Even rarer was the occasional applause from the audience, but who couldn’t, in the presence of the runway’s most energetic model, Miss Fame? The same goes for Bebe Rexha, who made a surprise appearance and strutted down the runway in glee. “Thank you to this sexy lady,” she said, holding Haart’s hand and twirling it, whose elaborate skin-tight sequin bodysuit was a perfect match for the show’s high production value. (While the rest of fashion is in a “sustainability” frenzy, Haart’s show showcased the “go big or go home” mentality, despite the brand’s message pointing to an effort for a lower carbon footprint. )

“It’s very nice to own a modeling agency,” Haart said of the cast with a laugh. “It makes the track very easy.” She didn’t just want to find models in general, but models she felt best encapsulated the brand, which initially blossomed out of her frustrations with the fashion industry. She wanted to eradicate body-shaming, which she had seen a lot of, working in the modeling industry.

The brand offers clothes without any size. Shoppers use an app on their phone to scan their body, which gives e1972 a 3D readout of every curve and detail. The consumer can then shop on the site with their exact body characteristics, each piece being made to measure. E1972 uses small New York-based workshops to create the garments, with small batches of ready-to-wear basics like sweatpants and pre-made sweatshirts.

“The whole collection is about uniqueness and individuality — your clothes, your way, your size,” Haart said. All products can be purchased through e1972 online store, and e-comm is definitely the main platform for consumers. But if the shopper wants to shop at a higher level, there is a VIP aspect to e1972.

“I have 32 agencies around the world,” Haart added, speaking quickly. “Pretty much in every major city. In the 32 branches, I have now put a room reserved for the workshop. If you order a piece over $10,000 from the site, if you wish, we’ll invite you to one of my 32 workshops around the world. We’ll make you wine, we’ll offer you champagne, you’ll meet someone from the design team, we’ll take your measurements, you’ll be in an agency, you’ll see models parade. And how did you gain this experience? Not by spending 2 million at Chanel in three years. You ordered it from your computer in your room.

This idea: “your clothes, your size, your way,” is one that Haart repeatedly emphasized during our conversation, repeating it over and over like a mantra. And it’s one that Miss Fame, who is one of the spokespersons for e1972, was more than happy to support; she even scheduled her entire fashion week in New York around the show. “It’s a really beautiful celebration of individuality and a way to showcase your own version of existing on this planet,” she said. She first met Haart through her work with Supreme, and now considers her part of her “family in the industry”: “I think her whole approach is to feel celebrated and uplifted. It’s rare in modeling and fashion, so having someone truly welcome you with open arms means the world to me.

For a track vet like Fontana, who worked with Elite’s general manager while she was at La Perla, Haart’s “be yourself” approach to the track was unprecedented. “We always have to do what they tell us,” she said of the instructions models typically receive backstage. Especially now that she’s a health coach, she wants to put her decades of experience to good use. “We can help each other to be stronger. That’s why I’m here, I guess – I think people need to see more light and believe more in themselves, and I think I can help them. Not just in terms of confidence, but also just having fun, even when it comes to non-models. (She enthusiastically offered this reporter a bite of her favorite Häagen-Dazs ice cream backstage.)

Of course, the fashion industry isn’t just fun and playful; there’s always the question of why a billion dollar company like Elite World needs to build a brand in an industry that is full of labels and trash. With businesses under the Elite umbrella generating revenue, why bother? According to Haart, Elite’s existence is exactly the point.

“I don’t think I could do it without the agency,” she said. “That means having 32 agencies helps me not have physical stores. Having constant contact with talent around the world allows me to see what people need, what they want, what inspires them and what makes them unique. So that gives me a real insight into the psyches of people all over the world. We’re kind of like a UN here. We have people from all over the world. And I like the idea of ​​”being your own icon”. [high-low] model lifestyle – if you see models on days off, they wear sweatpants and sweatshirts. Or they’re at the Grammys or the Oscars. I wanted to give that feeling to people who are not models. There is no one who can do it better than us. »

Isabeli Fontana, Joaquim Arnell, Julia Bergshoeff, Lais Ribeiro