Wayne Sterling

Interview
MAURITS DE BRUIJN

Wayne Sterling

The man behind Models.com

Wayne Sterling, the man who likes anything beautiful: “Beautiful rooms, beautiful clothes, beautiful cities, beautiful girls, beautiful boys, a beautiful knife, a beautiful diamond, a beautiful candle or meal or painting.” No wonder he became an influential figure in today’s fashion industry. Mr. Sterling is the founder of both The Imagist and Models.com, two websites that show the industry what’s in right now. Needless to say, he enjoys that his job involves looking at very beautiful people all day long.

“The goal for Models.com was to provide people who were intrigued by models with fast, accurate and comprehensive information about what was really happening in the industry. From the start we are deeply invested in treating the modeling industry as a real business and we respect the agencies and the models as hardworking professionals trying to build a stable business.” Models.com ranks the top 50 male and female models, the fashion icons, newcomers, sexiest models and top agencies. The rankings can be seen as ‘the NASDAQ of modeling’. Models.com is the fashion industry’s unofficial benchmark. The website also serves as a community used by models, photographers, agents and industry.“I think because we keep our eyes on that goal: the modeling industry as a real business, not as something emotional or fabulous or frivolous, a lot of the top managers at the agencies came to respect us and opted to work with us.”

Mr. Sterling doesn’t see a future for the supermodel. He thinks we’ve exhausted every trend in modeling you can possibly think of: ‘I think the trend is anti-trend, no trends. I don't see any uniformity of faces or bodies anymore and I think that is great. The closest thing I see to a ‘trend’ is the need on the part of top photographers and editors to work with girls with fun personalities and a strong presence.’ “A lot of the girls who are in right now like Lara Stone (no. 3) or Dree Hemmingway (no. 20) or Rose Cordero (no. 48) have nothing in common with each other except for the fact that they are very exciting to work with. All these girls have something about them. Lara is not typically skinny. Dree is not the tallest girl on the scene. Rose can be this goofy Dominican teenager off duty. Yet a lot of editors and photographers love the life force they bring to work. When you're on set with those girls you feel like you're at a show or a rock concert. They bring excitement to the page. That's what's in right now.Fashion is about your personality and expressing your personality completely. The people who achieve the most success in this business are the ones with the most courage when it comes to being exactly who they are. Because the majority of people in fashion are so insecure, a powerful minority tends to manipulate the whole machine to their profit.’When I ask Wayne if he thinks we will see less new, interesting faces coming seasons in these times of recession, he says: ‘In terms of campaigns it will be very conservative: girls like Kate, Natalia, Natasha will get all the best bookings. Ironically, in terms of runways and editorials the recession means more and more new faces. It is one of the strategies clients use to cut the rates on models. One girl says no to your booking, there's three others waiting to take the same job.”

How does he picture the future in an industry that has ‘exhausted every trend’?: “The only future I see, hope for and am interested in is one where the fashion world lives in the present moment and respects what's going on in the world now , not what went on ten, twenty or thirty years ago.  I'm dreaming of sittings where nobody pastes a single reference image on the wall as the ‘direction’ for the shoot. That's what I see developing in the future.”

For someone as influential as Mr. Sterling, it is important remain anonymous. Wannabe models would most likely follow him around town if they had a clue of who he is. On maintaining his anonymity: “I try to maintain anonymous by staying in the shadow. And only taking pictures in the shadow,” he laughs. “In a world of over-exposure I think doing your work quietly and privately can give you great peace of mind.” Besides his work for Models.com, Wayne keeps up a very successful blog: The Imagist. On the homepage we read: “The Imagist is a hydra. The Imagist is an omnivore. It travels the world's fashion weeks and art fairs, film festivals and award shows.” No surprise, Mr. Sterling shows us posts on new models, in addition to sharing new music, art and photography.“I don't think of it as quite the success it could be just yet but I'm happy that by doing The Imagist I've met so many talented and exciting new forces, globally. It was through the page that I made my first acquaintance with great people like Rad Hourani, Bryan Boy, Tommy Ton, Sonny Groo, Raihei Tetauira and Jean Paul Paula . That makes it very satisfying for me.” On blogging: “Because the traditional print magazines took their eyes off the reader and started servicing only the advertisers, bloggers gained popularity. As a result the editorial point of view became so sponsor driven it got boring. So bloggers started talking about fashion the way they want to hear fashion discussed. With brutal honesty, not constant press releases and puff pieces.” He doesn’t think blogs will ever replace magazines though. “Nothing replaces anything in media. The movies didn't kill radio and television didn't kill TV. Everything mutates and evolves and changes and co-exists. Fashion magazines will become more like blogs to survive. These editors are survivors. You wait and see.” And so is Mr. Sterling, a true survivor. His influence on today’s fashion industry will not decrease anytime soon, no matter what medium he uses.

Originally published in Mykromag

More Sterling:
Models.com
The Imagist

Text by Maurits de Bruijn
Photography by Minoru Kaburagi