introducing brother: the modeling agency representing the underrepresented
Eschewing the traditional formula of capital city-centric agencies to cast boys straight off the streets of Manchester, Brother is the latest agency championing diversity and democratizing the modeling industry.
Brother, the brainchild of photographer Michael Mayren, is the casting agency for male models born in Salford. It's hot-footing its way to the capital city at such a pace that even Usain Bolt would need to catch a bus to keep up with. Looking to inject more Northern soul and diversity into the fashion industry, Michael explains to stylist and i-D family member Elgar Johnson what led him to bring his casting vision to the creative industry, and why brothers always work it out.
Finish this sentence "he ain't heavy..."
He's my Brother! [laughs]
Perfect, where did the name Brother come from?
I wanted a name that would say it's an all male agency. I like the word "brother," it represents togetherness and family.
When did you decide to create your own agency and why?
It developed naturally because casting is something I have always done for my work. I've always street cast and found my own guys. I moved back to Manchester from London just before Christmas and had been casting a lot for my own shoots. I got 10 guys together who I thought looked great, so I thought I might as well do something with it.
How do you feel about casting at the moment? What changes would you like to see?
For Brother, the actual scouting has been the easiest bit. It's the other elements of starting a business that has been a challenge, because it's new to me. I agree that there should definitely be more diversity -- not for it to be a statement, for it to be the norm. I'd love to see more races, ages, and different body types within the industry. It's really important to show a true representation of the country we live in.
On that true representation point, was it important to locate Brother in Manchester? Is there a different type of 'guy' up there, as opposed to the one in London?
I think overall there definitely is.
Is that look or mainly attitude?
Look, in the sense that in London boys are a lot more aware of brands and hype stuff. There are some kids like that here, but generally everyone in London is into the Supreme and Palace, whereas up here they're much less aware. They can look cool, but they're not necessarily aware of it and I think that's a really nice quality, especially when you are photographing someone.
How has social networking helped you? Because that must have been very useful for scouting and casting.
Yeah, I found a few guys through Instagram, but for me it's about personality and someone's presence. That's just as important as what they look like. I prefer to cast on the street and in shopping centers. I'd say that social media helps more as a platform for people to see the boys that I've cast.
So for any boys out there wanting to become a part of Brother, what are the key things that you would look out for? Because you know how modeling agencies always have a thing like: "I like that person because he has a weird nose, or a weird shaped head"...
Maybe, with me it's kind of a subconscious thing, I'm looking for people that I'd love to photograph and if that works for other people as well, which I think it will, then that's great. But yeah, looks-wise I'm kind of just drawn to people that I think look a little bit different, people with a strong presence who have passion and interest in things outside of fashion.
Where do the boys end up? Would Brother exclusively look after them?
Yeah. In the UK. I have built up a client base through my photography, a lot of which is in London, so I'm happy to look after their work in London as well.
Do you feel responsible all of a sudden for these guys? It's a really big thing isn't it? You're selecting guys that, like most models, might have different jobs, they might be in school and all of a sudden it's all change.
Yeah, I think I feel responsible in the sense that I want to really look after the boys, I want them to do well. I've started to get to know the guys now and they're all keen to do this so I want to make sure their expectations are fulfilled. At the same time, a lot of them have got other commitments, a lot of them are boxing or fighting, they're in bands, they do music. It's kind of a case of working around that as well. I am not going to be particularly pushy with the guys that have other commitments; if they have their own thing as well it's important I consider that.
The less pressure the better.
Are you going to do a Sister?
It's definitely a thought. I probably wouldn't on my own because I've never worked with girls so I'd team up with someone with more experience.
Do you think you'll always be based in Manchester?
The whole Northern aesthetic is what makes the agency unique, so I do want to keep it a Northern thing. I do have a few guys in London because it's important to have some people more readily available.
Is it fair to say that Brother is probably the most un-fashion agency you can get?
I don't think it is because fashion is moving this way anyway. Well, it's always been around in contemporary fashion but people are casting a lot more interesting and real looking models for more commercial stuff now as well.
Where do you see Brother in five years time? Well, they'll all be a bit older so you can just call them, DAD!
[Laughs] Yeah, I mean I kind of don't know, I'm very much focused on the present and getting the agency exactly where I want it to be aesthetically. Now it's just a case of waiting to see how people react to it.
Text Elgar Johnson