Read the Vogue.com feature on Faith Kates and Joel Wilkenfeld titled, “How Next Management’s Founders Are Changing the Business of Modeling,” which is below reprinted. Visit Vogue.com to read this story in full written by Janelle Okwodu.

When Next Management founder Faith Kates thinks back to the early-90s modeling industry, it isn’t with rose-tinted nostalgia. “There were only a couple agencies in the business, and models got booked by head shots. Obviously, we had no computers and no social media,” says Kates, whose pragmatic perspective speaks to her years as a fashion insider. “The models went on good ole castings and tried on clothes; if the clothes fit they got booked.”
 
It only takes one glance at New York Fashion Week to see much has changed since then, but Kates and her partner, Joel Wilkenfeld, remain key players in the world of talent management. With roughly three decades in the business, they’ve viewed the evolution of modeling from the inside out. On hand for everything from Brooke Shields’s Calvin Klein ads to the rise of the Instagirls, Kates and Wilkenfeld have helped build some of the biggest careers in recent memory—Alexa Chung, Rita Ora, Lucky Blue Smith, and Suki Waterhouse among them.
 
As one of the first agencies to embrace social media stars, represent behind-the-scenes talent and market itself online with a distinctive brand message, Next has continuously been at the forefront of developments that shape the profession as a whole, a fact Kates and Wilkenfeld are proud of. These days, we’re used to seeing online influencers on the runway or sitting front row, but it wasn’t too long ago they were considered outsiders. When they signed their first blogger in 2008, Kates and Wilkenfeld helped to change all that.
 
“It all started when this girl came into the office who wanted to model, but she was borderline—an almost model,” says Kates. “She had started this blog, so the agents thought why don’t we focus on that and let’s increase it, and it went from this little thing into a monster.” The girl in question was Rumi Neely, the street style star behind Fashiontoast, and her signing with Next led to the creation of the agency’s social-focused division, now home to Fashion Week regulars like Miroslava Duma, Sofía Sanchez de Betak, and Harley Viera-Newton.
 
Managing the Internet’s notables has proved lucrative, but the rules are changing for regular models as well. These days, with Instagram and Snapchat serving as marketing tools, branding collaborations becoming as sought-after as campaigns, and a host of non-traditional talent getting into the game, modeling encompasses far more than posing for the camera. The fresh set of options can be profitable, but they can also present an added challenge.
“If you are an actor, how does your agent curate what script you read and consider?” says Kates. “It’s sort of the same [with modeling work]. Of course, we get opportunities every single day for different people, but it’s about curating what is right for our talent. We go after and approach brands that we think we can match.” Seeking out mutually beneficial collaborations like Chung’s lines with Marks & Spencer or Ora’s ongoing Adidas Originals keeps them visible, but it also serves to push their reach further. “When the right opportunity comes, you have to be ready not only to grasp it,” says Wilkenfeld. “You have to also be able to take that opportunity and make it grow.”
 
Getting to the point where these game-changing jobs are even on the table is a process in and of itself. For all its bloggers, actors, and music stars, Next’s primary business is still focused on models of the runway and editorial variety. The progress of a catwalk star like Alanna Arrington or Nirvana Naves is as important as that of a household name like Chung. Taking the current generation of talent and getting them to that next level remains critical, particularly with the increasingly quick way models are cycled through the business.
 
“Some of these kids, they’ve never done anything, and all of a sudden, these casting directors find them, they put them in one show and they’re never to be seen again,” says Kates. “There’s always one who comes out and succeeds, but I’d rather have 10 [doing well] than just one.” Focusing on development has allowed many of the agency’s younger faces to rise to the top on their own terms. “When you’re launching a new face, they need to be ready—mentally, physically, in every which way,” says Wilkenfeld. “Fashion month can be grueling. I think what we see in this industry is that people come in and they’re just not prepared [by their agency] to be models for the long-term, and that’s why you see such high turnover.”
 
The focus on the end goal rather than short-term success has resulted in models who are equipped to go the distance, both within and outside of fashion. With Abbey Lee delving into acting roles, Binx Walton launching her own sneaker collaboration, and Lucky Blue Smith translating his heartthrob status into magazine covers and social takeovers, there’s no shortage of opportunities. Still, Wilkenfeld and Kates have their minds on what’s next. And that happens to include a stake in Métier Creative, the creative agency just launched by The Coveteur cofounder and creative director Erin Kleinberg and managing editor Stacie Brockman. It also includes Next Management’s own unlikely endeavor, representing celebrity chefs. “When we were growing up, a chef was the guy in a white uniform with a hat and he stood in the kitchen, and nobody knew who the chef was,” says Kates. “All of a sudden you have all these TV programs that have chefs as the stars and these guys, Geoffrey Zakarian, Tom Colicchio, they all have multiple shows on TV, so they’re no longer just a chef. They’ve become brands.” If the merger between high fashion and food seems unexpected, well, that suits Kates and Wilkenfeld just fine. “Within any business and any industry, you have to keep an open mind and you have to understand there are going to be changes,” says Wilkenfeld. “It’s when you try to deny those changes that you lose.”
Next News: How Next Management's Founders Are Changing the Business of Modeling via Vogue.com

Next News: How Next Management’s Founders Are Changing the Business of Modeling via Vogue.com