There’s a new kind of modeling agency opening its doors in New York City, and this one is looking to be a pioneer in the size wars of the catwalk. Jag, founded by veterans of plus-sized model management, wants to break down the separation between typical rail-thin models and plus-size ones. Instead, the brand represents women across the size spectrum, without focusing on the numbers on the models’ clothing tags.
“The average size of the girls [we represent] is a 14/16 but there are 10s and there are 18s and if there’s a size 8 or a size 6 that we fall in love with we’ll take them on,” co-founder Gary Dakin told Fashionista. “We’re not going to limit ourselves, because the industry shouldn’t be limiting to anybody.”
Dakin and Jaclyn Sarka, his co-founder, headed up Ford Models‘ plus-size board, a division of the big-name modeling agency that represented women ranging from size 8-18. The Ford+ models have gained a lot of national attention, especially this May, when H&M flaunted plus-sized Jennie Runk in a swimsuit collection campaign that quickly went viral because of the retailer’s choice to use a “normal” sized figure.
The New York division of Ford Models was shut down at the end of June, in what Dakin described to Fashionista as an effort to “slim down and focus on their core business.” That change was Dakin and Sarka’s opportunity to start something of their own, Jag. So far, the agency represents Runk, along with about 30 other models including Miss Teen USA 2010 Kamie Crawford and Kaela Humphries.
Though plus-sized models seem to be on the rise, there is still a degree of otherness that separates them from the “straight models” who wear sizes 0-2. Until the H&M spread, the plus-sized nature of the models often overshadowed the clothes they modeled. Many high-profile plus-sized shoots have highlighted the weight of the models, such as a June 2011 Vogue Italia cover that placed plus-sized women in seductive poses around generous plates of pasta.
A 2011 American Apparel contest in search of new plus-sized models was similarly obvious. Coined the “Next BIG Thing,” the contest said it wanted a “bootylicious photo shoot.” The contestant who garnered the most votes online, actress Nancy Upton, parodied the heavy-handed wording by submitting pictures of herself gorging on chicken, bathing in ranch, and other gag-inducing stunts. Though she was the winner by popular vote, American Apparel disqualified Upton for not taking the contest seriously. In an interview with Today, Upton complained that plus-sized models were not considered part of the mainstream modeling industry. “You don’t need to market to women individually or differently just because they’re a little bit bigger,” Upton said.
That’s an idea that Jag seems to be embracing as well—and the new agency may just be that step toward closing the modeling industry’s gap between plus-sized and straight models.