Midway through an interview a few weeks ago, IMG's heads of development said something that immediately struck me as big. In their time scouting models — more than 40 years combined at this point — nothing has changed how they do business so dramatically as Instagram. While the photo-sharing app has become a key tool for discovering new faces anywhere around the world, at any time, it's also proven useful for casting those already active in the business. And the more followers a model has, the better her odds of getting the big jobs. Just look at the Gigis and Caras of the world.
Of course, Instagram wasn't built as an app for the modeling business. So what if one was?
That's the thinking behind Swipecast, the brainchild of Peter Fitzpatrick, who owns five-year-old modeling agency Silent Models. Although the app is very much born of his experience in the industry, it operates as an entirely separate company from Silent.
Swipecast was built for male and female models, stylists, photographers, retailers and designers — anyone, essentially, who is in regular need of modeling talent. Among its various uses, clients can search for models, post jobs and make in-app payments; there's also in-app messaging and masked emailing (a la Craigslist) for both parties, who can rate each other after working together. Because the potential for improper or exploitative behavior is high on this sort of marketplace, not just anyone is allowed on it. Fitzpatrick describes the client credentialing process as "rigorous," noting that at this point it will take about 48 hours for users to get approved. Inappropriate behavior on set can get someone kicked off the app entirely.
"They need to not just work at Ralph Lauren [for example], but they need to be in casting or advertising or an art director there. They can't just be someone in the finance department," Fitzpatrick says.
As for the models, Swipecast is most clearly useful for unsigned faces or for those who have an agency in, say, Europe but not New York — those who don't have someone helping them lock down jobs. The financials are straightforward, too. They book a job and get paid. Models who do have agencies in New York are, however, required by the service's terms and conditions to run any jobs through their agents. They can do that by hooking up their agent's email address to their profile on the app. "I own a modeling agency, so I'm very pro agency," Fitzpatrick says.
"It would be similar to if you're on Craigslist, you can get a no-fee apartment or one that has a broker attached to it," he explains.
So who's going to be using Swipecast? Fitzpatrick says he can immediately see the appeal to up-and-coming designers, stylists and photographers, who may not have existing relationships with agencies. And, ideally, it will cater to anyone who just wants to work with a broader range of models — emerging talents and big names alike.