How a Richmond-based modeling agency is turning Virginians into supermodels.
The shrieking rose to a crescendo as Julia Rabin scanned the email. “Confirmed,” she shouted, clapping.
Olivia Jones, sitting across the table, had just landed a huge job – an exclusive spread with a major fashion magazine. “Really?” she said, looking stunned, then shy, then delighted. She joined Rabin in a victory dance, complete with walking like an Egyptian, before she paused.
“Wait, when do I leave?”
Almost immediately. Tomorrow the 17-year-old would be back home in Charlottesville. Two days later she’d be in Paris.
This dreamlike scene is a reality that plays out more and more in Richmond. Modelogic, a talent agency with offices in Richmond and Chicago, has in recent years enjoyed an impressive string of successes, elevating Virginia fashion models to international status.
The agency has placed five in three years with IMG Models, the world’s leading management and talent discovery agency, whose roster includes Gisele, Kate Moss, Karlie Kloss and Ashley Graham.
Modelogic has for 20 years consistently booked models from the mid-Atlantic states into lucrative jobs. Its client list includes publications and catalogs for big names like Nordstrom, Virginia Lottery, Saks Fifth Avenue, UPS, Kate Spade, Bloomingdale’s and South Moon Under. It also places models in television and movies.
Most of its work long centered on building a solid foundation of local and regional business. That goal expanded after the agency hired Rabin, a former model herself. Her passion for scouting and investing in high-fashion talent has paid off.
“It’s become a huge focus with the agency,” said Stacie Vanchieri, Modelogic’s president.
The trek from scouting locally to modeling internationally can take two to four years. Unlike some agencies, the Modelogic agents don’t just snap photos and hire out their clients. They work to develop their models locally first and take time to train them in fashion posing, walking the catwalk and – extremely important – walking in the sky-high heels worn in fashion shows. When the models arrive on the set, they’re ready to work with whatever comes their way: 6-inch heels two sizes too big? Not a problem. Modelogic girls have the tools and know-how to make it work, even if it requires tape, glue or cotton balls.
Modelogic also cultivates ongoing relationships with local photographers, so as the models’ talent develops, they’re ready to go with look books, portfolios, experience.
Nora Workman said her contract with Industry Model Management in Los Angeles is thanks to Modelogic’s investment in her fashion-focused look book. The 16-year-old Charlottesville native found Modelogic online last year and talked to her mom about submitting photos. Together the two visited the office, where Rabin took Workman under her wing. Workman went through Modelogic’s development program and modeled for Need Supply and bridal clients before signing with IMM.
“There’s no way I could have gotten there if I’d just submitted my photos to them like I did to Modelogic,” Workman says. “I don’t know of any other companies in the mid-Atlantic that are as amazing.”
It’s a process that worked for Olivia. Her modeling career started with a trip to a strawberry patch. As she and her older sister plucked ripe fruit, her sister wanted to know if Olivia would ever consider modeling. At 15, she was already a stunning, 5-foot-11 blonde. Olivia demurred. She wasn’t comfortable promoting herself, she said; she’d have to be approached by a scout to even consider it. About 10 minutes later Rabin – who had noticed Olivia while picking berries nearby – introduced herself.
A year after Olivia signed with Modelogic, she booked a contract with IMG Models. That’s when she first knew her career was on the cusp of taking off. Sure enough, in February 2016 Olivia was booked as the Calvin Klein exclusive for New York Fashion Week. Out of thousands of models, four are chosen each season. A month later she found herself opening the Erdem show, one of six fashion shows she worked during five days in London, followed by five shows in Milan and three in Paris, where she was a semi-exclusive for Givenchy.
“If you’re going to do a show in Paris, that’s the one to do,” Vanchieri says. “Everybody will see it. That’s what you hope – the show leads to the campaign.”
And it did. Late April saw Olivia back in New York to book the Givenchy campaign – and get a customized birthday present from designer Riccardo Tisci himself. Not bad for a 17-year-old. And now her younger sister, Tatum Jones, 15, is also represented by Modelogic.
But the trick to a supermodel career isn’t getting the first job – it’s getting booked a second time. In her first season of fashion shows, Olivia did two bookings for Valentino, plus the show and campaign for Givenchy.
“It’s really fun to see what can happen,” Rabin says. “It’s so amazing to see a girl transform from a teenager from Virginia into a supermodel. Olivia will be a supermodel.”
But it’s not all lipstick and parties. Sometimes it means being away during holidays, or learning on the fly how to cope alone when traveling – sometimes keys don’t work, passports get lost, phones get stolen.
“It’s really fast-paced,” Olivia says. “It’s so much more work than I thought it was. After Paris, I came home for about a month. That was nice: to put my sweats on, take the heels off, and hang out with my cat for a little bit.”
But soon she was back at it, and her hard work continues to pay off. She flashes an easy smile. “I’ve been so many places I never thought I’d go.”