Ivan Bart Wants to Let Go Of the Fashion Double-Kiss

When we spoke over the summer, Ivan Bart, the President of IMG Models & Fashion, was keeping busy celebrating his love of food with his ‘Model and a Meal’, IMG’s Instagram Live series during which he’s interviewed talent like Maria Borges and Alton Mason while cooking. Below as part of ELLE’s look at the future of fashion, Bart talks about how models are using this time to explore new facets of their personalities, how agencies can help elevate and support Black talent, and why he doesn’t think fashion shows will go away permanently.

How is modeling evolving in this time? Are models having to become more creative or develop new skills to adapt?

We’re all trying to learn new skill sets right now. There are new platforms, so for models too, there’s more opportunity. I’ve said this before, but now people’s social platforms are really the magazine of their lives. What you’re communicating is really being looked at. You have the ability to be a publisher, basically, publishing your own content. The fact that shoots had to cease for health reasons, it gave models more of an opportunity to learn new skill sets and be really creative. Elsa Hosk is painting; Grace Mahary has been doing a cooking series, The Impeccable Taste. And Karen Elson has been doing [her song series] Radio Redhead; I live for it.

We’re seeing virtual modes of showing spring up for Fashion Week. How do you envision shows changing in this time, and how will that affect models and agencies?

There are interesting opportunities for our models as avatars, and maybe utilizing them too as live models in virtual spaces. The interesting thing about being in fashion, I always think, is everything happens at the last minute. Suddenly a new face appears and it’s elevated, or a new conversation and a new way of doing things. I think we’re just in this very exciting, charged time, to live in the possibilities.

And then to speak about the digitalization of fashion shows: We all knew it was moving here and knew that people are being diverted to the digital space and reading more online. What happened with COVID is that it just accelerated the movement to the 21st century. It’s almost silly, in a way, that we’re trying to figure it out when the world was telling us, this should’ve been a plan in any case. The way we were doing things, with regular shows and live events. We now know that it’s not 100 percent – you’ve got to have a backup plan, and everybody knew that the digital space was coming. But that being said, I think this is the moment in time that people are conversing and talking and doing and figuring it out. And there are several possibilities. There are socially distanced opportunities for seeing fashion. And again, there’s digital opportunity. And there’s also photo shoots. Instead of doing a live event, it’s about doing something that people can consume. This is a wonderful time for the consumer, because the consumer is dictating exactly what they want from brands. That gives an opportunity for collections to be happening all through the year, too. But I do think – and I’m going to say, also, on the side of fashion events and fashion shows – you know what, it’s exciting. “The show’s about to start!” We all want to get back there. Everybody does. The idea of the live event and the excitement of seeing live models, walking in the clothes, seeing how the clothes actually move….that’s not going to go away.

What can the modeling agencies do to push for diversity and inclusion and to help models who are already in the industry?

I think the key is visibility. The key is to sign Black talent. The key is to elevate Black managers and creatives in the industry, because it’s not just the talent themselves, but it’s the people behind the camera. When a model is on set, I think it’s important for them to see people with shared experiences, to see themselves. That’s a big part of a narrative that I’ve been trying to say for many, many years now. It says it on my Instagram [bio], which by the way has been there since the day I started Instagram, “Through fashion imagery we can effect social change.” If you’re not seen in a campaign; if you’re not seen on the runway, you’re not seen. Our part is to sign Black talent, visibility, and absolutely focus on equity in pay. In the meantime, I want to wrap my arms around the industry and help foster any conversation, and again, enlist Black creatives themselves. I want to hear their stories.

This is a moment that – my job is to shut up [laughs.] That’s my job, actually. We should amplify and help support, the Black creatives in the industry. That’s an actionable thing we can do.

There have been a few open letters talking about how we can use this moment to transform the industry, to address the questions of sustainability that we’ve already been talking about for years, and to make the industry more sustainable from a human perspective. Do you think the need for change has become more urgent, and how will this propel things forward?

Sustainability is urgent. I mean, we were given notice that, what, we had 12 years. And also, climate change is a racial issue. It’s going to affect people around the world. And so we need to figure out ways in terms of how we consume clothes and how we design clothes. Amber Valletta is far better at discussing this than I am; I’m learning. Especially with what’s going on in the world right now, I’m learning. This is a wonderful moment to sit back and listen. And I really do believe that time is of the essence for a lot of things. There is a great sense of urgency where the environment is concerned. I am very well aware of the ticking clock and that we have to do our part as an industry to help roll back the clock.

When you’re home, you become introspective, you look inward – you look at the things that matter the most. The fact that we’re spending so much more time with our families, and we’re really focusing on what matters most to us and what is most important, I think, has also accelerated what people really want. It’s really pushed consumers, what they want in a brand and what they’re looking for. And I think most people now are looking to live peacefully, harmoniously, and in order to do so, we have to use things that are environmentally friendly, and things that also promote equality and humanity.

Are there industry-standard ways of doing that we need to leave behind post-COVID, if we can imagine a post-COVID world?

I’ll tell you one thing that I would like to let go of and that is, kissing, and handshaking [at shows.] I’m done with that, and I’m into bowing. I want to make bowing cool. I would like everybody to accept the fact from here on in, we’re going to socially distantly greet each other in a very beautiful manner.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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