Modeling in Paris
In the mid summer of 1966 I was an art student, studying fashion illustration in New York City. Because I was so tall and thin, people were constantly encouraging me to try to be a model. I did not think I had a chance, but after a slow start I was accepted by the Ford agency and sent to Paris to pose for the magazines and walk the runway of Pierre Cardin and Jean Patou and others. I was under contract to Paris Planning.
The Paris Planning agency was on Rue Tronchet in Paris, near the Madelaine, a monumental church with columns. I remember going up an elevator into a beautiful, very Mod office, decorated in a very futuristic style with white walls, gleaming glass, plastic and chrome. They had an overhead slide show of all the models playing, projected on the wall, quite innovative at the time. Many of the top American models of the day were in the show. They had added my pictures from Mademoiselle.
Francois Lano, the owner was such a dear, so fastidious and good humored. He was dapper, elegant and well dressed with a little mustache, who treated the models as ladies. Maria was his partner. I remember they were measuring our hips. They were excited about sending me over to Pierre Cardin for a fitting. I would be modeling his spring 1967 Collection on the runway for private clients, exclusive buyers and the invited World Press. Diana Vreeland and all the top editors were going to be there, including my editor friends from Mademoiselle, Nonie Moore and Deborah Blackburn.
These pictures have resurfaced today in the book Cardin: 60 Years of Innovation.
With all the new media attention, Cardin needed girls that would look good in the glare of the flashbulbs at the end of the runway. He decided he would have the current crop of new young American cover girls and editorial models. So the opportunity was opening up for more American photo models to conquer the sacred runways of Paris. Forget about the fact that we had no idea how to walk properly. None of us ever did runway in New York. All that mattered is that we would look pretty on camera.
The regular house mannequins were still used for private showings to the actual clients, the aristocrats and movie stars that could afford these super expensive one of a kind fabrications. They hated us for taking their places at the main press show, and we really couldn’t blame them. In New York, we had to put up with the influx of Swedish, Danish, German, Dutch, Swiss, French and British models, being imported by the Ford Agency. It was the survival of the fittest. Models were sent to Europe to get tear sheets from European magazines.
There were no model scouts, no great chains of modeling schools, no Internet to post your pictures to. If you wanted to be a model you could find out who was the best agent and send your pictures in. Ford used to get 1000 pictures a week from would be models.
About this time I met my lifelong friend, the irrepressible Susan Brainard. She was the best friend of Wallis Franken, who stayed on in Paris for years.