Desi brands go for ‘phoren’ models to sell wares

28 Oct,2013

By Shramana Ganguly


Louis de Beer is a very long way from home. In his native South Africa, the 29-year-old worked at construction sites as an engineer, clouded all around in the heat and dust. It is a humble profession, without any frills and fancies.


But in India, Mr de Beer exudes charm and (some level of) class as he preens at us from hoardings, catalogues and in-flight magazines. It is an intent stare – Mr de Beer wants you to check out his striped shirt, the finely cut trousers and his coiffed hair while his employers Jade Blue, a multi-brand men’s apparel retailer, wants you to buy the items.


The engineer-cum-model is one in many foreigners who are being hired to sell clothing in India. And lesser-known brands in the country such as Jade Blue are giving a whole new meaning to ‘colour blocking’. There is only one colour that sells apparel (and allied products) these days – and it is white.


There has been an influx of international models to India since 2008. With the crisis deepening, there has been a rise in those seeking work in India, for opportunities that continue to stay afloat amid global economic turmoil.


“Financial risks are minimised in a market like India that continues to be secured and offers plenty of opportunities,” says Mr de Beer, who has taken to modelling full-time ever since Africa’s biggest economy took a stumble. He is on a roll in India, doing photo shoots for as many brands as possible until his stay ends in September.


Indian Market a Big Draw Now

“Almost every second billboard has a firang model,” notes Harshad Gadhvi, who runs a model co-ordinating agency.


A trend that began with national brands has over time caught on with smaller brands. Regional brands like Blue Buddha, Asopalav sarees, Lady Lyka, Uvaam Clothing or even an e-tailer like Utsav Fashion has embraced faces from Western Europe, Latin America and CIS countries.


Take, for instance, the modelling graph of a 26-year-old Spaniard, Javier Arrausi. He would go on tour in India until November, attempting to bag as many assignments as possible on the way. “Although not as remunerative as other countries, India gives you more work and hence, the earnings multiply. The market is not as crowded (with fair-skinned models) and hence, we have less competition for Indian brands,” says Mr Arrausi, who like Mr de Beer is a civil engineer.


With the Spanish economy in a slump, he sees no point in pursuing a career in engineering and would rather continue to earn a living through modelling. “Although in a market like Germany, the work is five times more. But in India, in one month, you may land 30 assignments and hence, you end up earning as much,” says Mr Arrausi.


Jade Blue promoter Bipin Chauhan explains the advantage of hiring international models for assignments. “Apart from adding to the charm of the brand, they deliver better results with minimum effort required from our end.”


Uvaam promoter Ashish Mehta seconds that opinion. “They are focused and work sincerely for eight hours, are not fussy like their Indian counterparts.”


Typically, an apparel brand gets 25 garments shot in a day, shooting as many as 20 frames with each garment. Model coordinating agencies based out of New Delhi or Mumbai get Rs 40,000-50,000 each day. The models get 70-80% of the payment, after paying 20-30% commission to the agencies on each such assignment.


Assignments in India do not pay as much as other Southeast Asian economies like China or Hong Kong – where models charge per costume, unlike in India where they are paid on number of days worked – but stability of the market and the brands that thrive here became a big draw for those seeking work in the world of fashion modeling, says Ahmedabad-based fashion photographer Manish Lakhubha.


With consolidation of Indian brands and those keen to project themselves as an international brand, it is now imperative to have models with a diverse look, says Ankit Mehta, who runs Inega Model Management in Mumbai. He explains: “We determine the potential of the model and identify brands that he or she ought to endorse. The hair, makeup and cosmetic category clients normally enforce upon a non-compete clause in the agreement, hence the model can sign only a single brand in this case. In other categories, models normally can work on multiple brands. The actual numbers are subjective to the market conditions at the time of the model’s visit and the receptiveness of the model.”


Apparel brand Blue Buddha shot with international models in 2011. Its summer 2014 campaign, due to be shot in January, is likely to have a foreign face. “That is a trend and it adds to the appeal of our brand,” reasons Sanjay Gohel, MD of Zedex Clothing that owns the brand.


Brands are attempting to up the style ante by cutting through the virtual geographical boundaries in the minds of consumers through fair-skinned models. Recently launched personal care brand Layer’r too features foreign models.


Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2013, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved

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