brother is the male modelling agency pointing fashion's spotlight away from london
Photographer Michael Mayren’s new Manchester-based modelling agency is bringing boys from northern streets to the fashion world. As we contemplate this new breed of agency, get to know a few of the faces on Brother's books.
Kai wears Jumper Iceberg. Jeans Levi's.
Kai Crossman, 18, carpenter
What does brotherhood mean to you? A family like bond based on loyalty and respect. You know they have your back no matter what. Which fictional family do you feel you truly belong in? The one from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, because I've got a close relationship with my grandparents too. I don't share the same bed as them though! Why is creativity more important than ever? With so many talented individuals pushing the boundaries in various different disciplines, remaining innovative is vital to creating a personal identity that's valued by others.
Tobias Emare, 21, model
What does brotherhood mean to you? Brotherhood means always having each other's back, looking out for one another, family. What do you look for in a friend? Personality, respect and a positive vibe. Which fictional family do you feel you truly belong in? Would have to be the one in My Wife and Kids, me being the son, haha! Why is creativity more important than ever? In today's society it's actually recognised for what it is and for how important it is.
Abdul Sattar, 18, model
What does brotherhood mean to you? It is the relationship between yourself and another, or a group of people with whom you can truly express yourself, rely upon and place your trust in. What do you look for in a friend? A friend is someone at your side at all times, someone who you genuinely enjoy being around. Honesty and loyalty are the most important qualities. Which fictional family do you feel you truly belong in? The Corleone family because family is very important and nothing should break that bond. Why is creativity more important than ever? Being creative allows people to come up with ideas that can shape the future and it makes people original - if we weren't creative we would all be like machines.
Ike Nwachukwu, 19, actor
What does brotherhood mean to you? It means being able to trust someone regardless of the situation. What do you look for in a friend? Someone who can laugh. Which fictional family do you feel you truly belong in? I don't know, I guess I'd have to say the Banks' from Fresh Prince for the culture. Why is creativity more important than ever? To be honest, with the rise of social media I feel that there's more of a need to innovate in order to be original and avoid being like everyone else.
Max wears Jacket Dior Homme. T-shirt Calvin Klein.
Max Eshelby, 17, student
What does brotherhood mean to you? Brotherhood means a family away from home. What do you look for in a friend? Honesty and the ability to have fun. Which fictional family do you feel you truly belong in? The McKenzie family from The Inbetweeners. Why is creativity more important than ever? It gives a person individuality in an ever changing world.
Chunkit wears Top Oi Boy.
Chunkit Pang, 20, model
What does brotherhood mean to you? Brotherhood means family, people that you can trust and the ones that you help and cherish the most. What do you look for in a friend? Trust. Without trust there's no connection. Which fictional family do you feel you truly belong in? The Huang family from Fresh Off the Boat. I can relate a lot to the main character. Why is creativity more important than ever? Without it the world would be boring. Creativity also takes our minds off all the negative things in the world. It also allows us to express ourselves and creates happiness around the world.
Frankie wears jeans Levi's. Briefs Calvin Klein.
Frankie Chapman, 18, model
What does brotherhood mean to you? Brotherhood means loyalty and honesty, and that nothing can come between you. What do you look for in a friend? Someone who's got your back no matter what happens. Which fictional family do you feel you truly belong in? The Griffin family from Family Guy. Why is creativity more important than ever? Because creativity makes you stand out from everyone else.
If you've been looking to the catwalks of New York, London, Milan and Paris recently, you'll have noticed that the story of the last few seasons has been a casting that's rooted in reality. Wave bye bye to the 6'3" sculpted hunks built exclusively out of cheekbones and rippling muscle. Those statuesque fashion gods don't seem to make sense in the world we live in today. For a generation who've lived through austerity economics, it's not a vision of luxury that appeals. Because if luxury used to be about variations of glamorous escapism, most of the most forward thinking brands these days are more about a luxury that elevates the quotidian. To (mis)quote David Bowie, "We can (all) be heroes."
Busy pushing fashion's new realism forward have been a band of modelling agencies raising up the boys next door, the kids at the skatepark, and the youths on the street corners into fashion's new everyman heroes. There's Lumpen, from Russia, who've been instrumental in defining the attitude and aesthetic of post-soviet youth favoured by Gosha Rubchinskiy and Demna Gvasalia's Vetements. Or the just-launched Midland based in New York, run by Rachel Chandler and Walter Pearce, who are making progressive, political statements with an aesthetic that's antithetical to the traditional vision of NYC Sex and the City beauty. Then, of course, there's Tomorrow Is Another Day, Eva Godel's brilliant agency that started it all in 2010 subverting visions of hyper masculinity with their delicate, wispy waifs - some of menswear's most in-demand faces. So what runs through and joins the Berlin-Moscow-NYC axis of new beauty ideals? Well, character. The new male model is all about personality and individuality.
Joining these illustrious ranks is Brother, British photographer Michael Mayren's newly launched agency adding a bit of northern poetry into the mix. Not that Michael's too concerned for trends, they come and go after all. "I really don't watch what other people are doing too much," he states, as way of a mission statement. "I've been casting the same way and looking for the same things in models since I started. Brother works with the ways in which the industry has shifted and how people are casting, but that wasn't an intentional thing. When I'm casting, I don't think about beauty as such, I look for special people. I go with my heart rather than thinking if they'd fit into a trend."
Based in Michael's hometown of Manchester, Brother is the new face of the northern aesthetic that's been a dominant stylistic force in fashion, under the surface at least, since the glory days of The Haçienda. From Stephen Jones to Christopher Shannon, Christopher Bailey to Alasdair McLellan, there's a northern soul in the heart of the country's fashion scene that often references the glory days of the 90s, when Oasis and The Stone Roses were the coolest bands in the world. It's something Brother is tapping into. Only two hours away by train from London, the north can still feel a world away from the Capital's metro-bubble. It stands to reason that when it comes to casting, it's an untapped reservoir, offering a realness that fits with the times perfectly.
"I personally feel much more inspired and motivated back in Manchester than I did in London," Michael says. "When I'm shooting here my work feels more personal, and I prefer casting up here." The northern boys he finds are less self-conscious. If you're scouting, especially in London, the boys who are cool know they're cool, especially on Instagram, and while the social media platform has revolutionised the casting industry, it doesn't play too much into the way Brother operates.
"I'm really big on people's energy and charisma, so I much prefer to cast people in person," Michael says of what makes a Brother boy. "Saying that, I have found some great guys on Instagram so I'm open to it too. The only problem with social media is that all the Instagram kids are very aware of how cool they are. I'm drawn towards people who are more unaware. In London, even the really young boys are much more aware about brands, they know about the industry and how castings work. My initial plan wasn't really to build a fully working agency," he continues of Brother's beginnings. "It was to create a platform for some of the boys that I'd street cast who didn't quite have the correct criteria for existing agencies. Just to give them the chance to get a bit more work." Casting for his own work as a photographer since 2011, it's been "a gradual and organic process to starting the agency", but actually setting up the business happened really quickly, with Michael deciding to found the agency in March and launching it in June last year.
Luckily Michael's photographic work has such a strong aesthetic that it naturally informed the kind of boys he wanted to cast when he launched Brother. An avid capturer of diverse, real, gritty boys, Michael was chosen by Frank Ocean to bring his vision to Frank's magazine, Boys Don't Cry, contributing five spreads to the elusive singer's glossy publication. But as Brother's taking off, Michael's photography is taking a back seat. "Brother is my priority right now," he says. "I still shoot a little bit but I only cast Brother models so it works hand in hand. Being able to bring the aesthetic of my casting and photography to Brother really helped with the agency's identity and having support from people who I'd previously worked with helped get us moving and busy so quickly. There wouldn't be one without the other, but the first thing I ask myself when I'm scouting is if I would want to shoot this guy myself."
Text Felix Petty
Photography Michael Mayren
Styling Elgar Johnson
Grooming Kota Suizu at Caren using Oribe. Photography assistance Reuben Shelby. Styling assistance Oliver Sharpe. Models Kai, Tobias, Abdul, Ike, Chunkit, Max and Frankie at Brother.