Güerxs is the modelling agency changing the face of fashion in Mexico
María Osado reflects on her new website and five years challenging the status quo.
Photography courtesy of Guerxs.
When María Osado started her modelling agency, Güerxs (pronounced Werks), she didn’t have much of a plan -- maybe to get some of her friends into editorials. Instead, over five years, Güerxs has challenged the very white world of Mexican advertising, launched a diverse squad of models, and become synonymous with the fashion scene in Mexico City.
Osado’s circle has since expanded far beyond the group of friends she first scouted, even if approaching strangers on the street is difficult in a country where it’s not the norm (when we speak she’s in New York, where everyone and their sister seems to be a model). Her models have even appeared in the pages of i-D, for The Sounding Off Issue in 2017.
Today, she’s launching her new website, which celebrates both how far Güerxs has come, and the many creatives who have worked with her.
To celebrate, Osado told i-D about her unconventional choice of name, the changing Mexican fashion scene, and how to street cast when people run in the other direction.
Could you tell me first about the name of your agency and how it came to be?
The name for me had to be in Spanish. Other agencies had names in English, like, Look, or Wanted. I don't know why but for me, if it was a whole new idea, I had to come with a name that was a little bit away from those words, from those concepts. So Güero means someone with European features mostly, it's very ambiguous when you look up in the ... If you try to figure it out by experience in Mexico City, literally anyone can be called Güero]. I have been called Güero and that is so far away from what the dictionary says. So I guess that ambiguity.
So the name of the agency is Güerxs -- it comes with an X, so you can pronounce it Güerxs but actually, the X is just to avoid any gender. So when I decided to name it, I was not thinking about the pronunciation, that came after.
Then I was like, "Well, I guess it's Güerxs," or you can call it Güeras or you can call it Güeros. That was pretty much what it was in my mind.
At the end of the day, it’s really ambiguous. So I liked that and I thought that was pretty ironic for what I was proposing, [because] at the beginning because I was definitely talking about race and colour specifically in Mexico. I was definitely trying to bring awareness and I represent people who has darker skin and obviously outside of the stereotype.
And all the advertising in Mexico is super light skinned.
It is, it is, it's everywhere and I guess that's the scariest part. That is so far away from what you see in the streets, it's so edited, I guess. You see the adverts and you take a walk, a casual walk and there's a whole gap in between. So I think that's pretty crazy. It's still going on, now I think diversity is quite “cool,” but brands don't take it really seriously.
How do you scout people? Have the models you work with ever been with an agency before?
None of them have ever been in agency and none of them have ever thought about being models, so the first three years, I did these projects called “Generation.” Basically I would make groups of 10 people each year and find these people either on Instagram or they were friends of friends. The first Generation was really close to me, and more biographic, like people I grew up with, people I grew up looking at. It's funny, but one of the girls who I first signed was the ex girlfriend of my first boyfriend. I remember when I figured it out, I was like, “you know what, she's beautiful. I get it.” Then I signed her.
The following one, I made a really big casting, like a public casting. Basically, I did a birthday party with a quinceanera cake. I had everyone come and take pictures. Also, I wanted to get to know these people rather than just take photos of them. So I feel like that that was a very important thing.
Is street casting possible in Mexico city?
I have found people in the street as well, but it's very different here because I guess the context doesn't allow you to be as confident in the streets specifically a woman. I've seen amazing girls that I want to cast but they're alone and I've been there and I know what it's like being alone and someone talking to you. It's not as common. I see a lot of people doing it here in New York, for example, just talking and you don't feel a threat. I get Mexico, there's still this, you grow up knowing that you must not talk to strangers.
So I made these cards because at the beginning I just wanted to reach out. I have on my side that I was a woman as well. I just bring a little bit more confidence, especially for girls, but I still would ... It's kind of weird and how many model scams are out there So I made these casting cards. I don't know if I have one right here but basically it just has my email, the Instagram and it says, "If you have this in your hands, we want to work with you. I'm a model blah, blah, blah." and that was easier because I could just give them, but probably one out of 30 people would come back to me.
What are some of the challenges in trying to find models?
It’s been a big challenge while trying to work with people that are under represented in Mexico, because they don't even think they can do it because they've been told all their lives they're not beautiful or they just don't fit.
All these people I have worked with, the newest ones have a year [working with the agency] now but I have people working four years and they pretty much starting now what a conventional career would look like.
How did you go about finding clients at first?
Anyways, we did our first feature with i-D in 2016 and a lot of people reached out. I was expecting maybe a client or two but it was all people that wanted to be part of the agency and it was on my side but not necessarily clients so that was a good beginning because that created a community. People recognizing they share a point of view.
I guess the clients, they just came because they couldn't find what we were offering anywhere else. Most of my first clients were non-Mexicans. It was people coming from the US, Europe to do jobs here.
How do you think Guerxs might grow?
I think at the moment I'm still trying to figure out the best strategies to stay true to the values of the agency and the reasons why I started it and continue to make a career, make a business.
I guess when I first started I didn't think it was going to happen. It was more like okay, this is an opportunity to see new faces and new people. You have to play a little bit by the rules and I’m still trying to figure out what's the best way.
Website graphic design Mauro Bonilla.
Website developer Federico Salort .
Thanks to Adrian and Josué who have been key collaborators in general.