But the March 2010 launch of her blog, Tales of Endearment, has made her star shine even brighter.
A mix of vintage shopping expeditions with fashion friends and sneak peeks inside industry heavyweight’s closets, Tales of Endearment has been a Fashionista favorite from the start. And it’s made Natalie a “fashion household” name.
We wanted to know more about Natalie’s day job, why she started the blog, and where she gets all those amazing vintage pieces, so we popped by her home office one Monday in November while she was doing a casting.
Her Williamsburg apartment was clean and cool, but not pretentious, kind of like Natalie! And her cats, Mohammed and Tyson, made the whole visit even better. Here’s what she had to say:
Fashionista: Hi! Thanks so much for doing this…I just saw somebody leaving. (It was model Anouk Lepere, which I knew, but was trying desperately to “play it cool.”)
Natalie: Oh no, that’s Anouk. She’s just my friend. Someone’s coming soon, though!
Amazing, so shall we chat for a while? (We sit down at Natalie’s large, but neat, work table.) Can we talk about how you got started in the business?
I’m from Ghent, Belgium, and I started out in London working for fashion designer Maria Chen after majoring in journalism at university. Then I moved to New York to work for her. Soon after moving here I was introduced to Glenn O’Brien, and I became his assistant.
Through Glenn I got to know Anne Kennedy, a partner at Art + Commerce, Craig McDean’s agency. Anne offered me a job with Craig to do production on a book, then I began doing more tasks in his office. First it was part time, then he got me my visa, and I was his studio manager. He came to New York [from London] around the same time I did so it worked out really well.
For six years, I did everything, including casting.
When you decided to break out on your own, why did you choose casting out of all the things you did for Craig?
I’ve always had a thing for it. I always liked to do the castings and meet the girls and place them in the right context…. My thesis at university was about the ideal standards of beauty in mass media, so I guess I was always interested in it. But I didn’t know such a job existed. I was always thinking about models, and why they looked the way they looked. It was an interest. And Craig said I was good at casting. [Laughs].
Out of all the casting you’ve done, from runway shows to commercials, what’s been the most exciting?
I did a big budget Rocawear shoots in Miami and Aspen. And a video with Jay Z. That was badass. [Smiles.] I don’t know how I cast all those people, but I did. I like doing things aren’t directly connected to fashion. I did one ad for chewing gum, and I would like to do other stuff. I don’t like to look at the same girls all the time. They’re often great models. But I don’t mind work with commercial girls, too. They’re also cool.
[Model Ashley Smith stops by and Natalie takes her downstairs for a quick shoot that will appear in a popular indie magazine next year. She's using a fancy Canon SLR--"It's the one Tommy Ton has, so I figured it's good!"]
You’re very friendly. I’ve seen you out at parties and you’re always so nice. How important is networking to your job as a casting director? The most important part was that by being at Craig McDean’s studio, I got to know all the modeling agents by booking one of their girls. When I went out on my own it helped me. They were so grateful that I had gotten their girls shot by Craig, that in the beginning I could book any girl I wanted. So those modeling agency contacts–those relationships are solid. I’ve also met a lot more people, and I deal with a lot of people. It’s important to keep in contact.
Do you have an agent? Do casting agents need an agent?
It’s unusual, but I had an agent a year after I went on my own. I started with See Management, then I just signed with De Facto at the beginning of the year. It’s a funny job. It’s a different way of booking–our job is finished before the shoot, when everyone else is just getting started.
Let’s talk about the blog. It’s become a huge hit very quickly. How’d you come up with it?
I started it because I had some downtime after the shows–there’s not much going on in the business for me right then–so thought I should occupy my time. First, I thought of the name, but I didn’t know what to write about. I was also on eBay a lot–browsing–and realized that I should just blog about vintage! And then I thought of these differnet formats, shopping trips, designers, models, socialites, closets….so I started doing that. And the rest is history!
Why do you love vintage so much, other than the fact that it’s often very beautiful? I don’t know if it’s being in the industry, but I just rarely find new pieces that I like. I have lots of designer shoes–I have some Ralph Lauren, Lanvin–but when I go to a department store I never want anything. With vintage, you know no-one else is going to have it.
I think the blog really compliments what you do as a casting director.
What it brought me was an outlet for my passion. And it happens to be something that people are actually interested in. I was really nervous in the beginning. I thought “what if nobody likes it or is it really stupid?” It was just nerves. It’s encouraging that really cool people want to collaborate. It definitely added an element to my life that was missing before. I have something on the side that I’m really passionate about and it’s not just for me, it’s for everybody. I meet so many people and have made so many friends doing it.
People are very grateful, flattered when you want to shoot them. And it’s not the same old people all time, which I think is good.
So what’s next for you?
For the blog, I would like to go outside of fashion–singers, actresses or men!–who are not necessarily involved in fashion, but who have great style. I’m also hoping to do something in television…more on that soon….
Click through for more images from Natalie’s latest shoot with model Angie Schmidt. And see her entire profile of Angie on Tales of Endearment!