Fahad Ali is a Canadian talent manager and model agent who has been working in the industry for the last 15 years. He first started his career as a graphic T-shirt designer in order to pay for school while studying political science at Concordia University.
Fahad comes from a political background with many of his family members working in the Canadian government. His cousin Afshan Khan is UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia (ECA), and the Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe. She was an inspiration to Fahad in his educational path. Another familial inspiration, his great grandfather Maharaja Krishen Pershad was the prime minister of India.
He joined Next Canada in 2006 as a scout and in 2008 joined a boutique agency called Belle Mundo Models where he was able to teach himself the business trade. He soon became an experienced booking agent with a passion for developing new talent.
He then took that experience to Dulcedo Model Management in 2009 and helped build the foundation of the agency.
In 2011 he decided to start his own boutique agency and launched Book Management in 2014 as a scouting and development agency. The agency has put an emphasis on the personal to assure a healthy transition for talent into the business and give them the opportunity to travel across top fashion and entertainment markets worldwide. In 2018, the agency became a full-service agency.
Can you tell me about how you got started in the business?
I started my career in the industry by accident. I was a university student looking for a way to pay for school. I was good at art but didn’t have supportive parents who encouraged a career in art.
I used to design graphics on T-shirts. It was a fun way for me to express art while trying to pursue my education. I was a bit lost and didn’t really know what I wanted to do in life. I studied science, then commerce and then got lost and decided to get into politics. while in school I started a small t-shirt company and used that to help pay for my tuition. I sold out the first few and it wasn’t easy and required more attention than I anticipated however it led me to this industry.
As I was producing T-shirts, I needed a website to build my ecommerce platform and scouted my own models. I then decided to start scouting models which led me to work with my first agency.
What has changed since you started in the industry, and why do you think these changes have happened?
The Major change we see today is that of how social media has influenced the industry. Fashion brands use social media for advertising and to engage their target market. Social media has enabled consumers to feel more “connected” to fashion companies. It has also proven to give more exposure to individual brands. Everything is more accessible now and it has gained so much importance. In the fashion world, social media has brought connectedness, innovation, and diversity to the industry. Instagram technically functions as a live magazine, always updating itself with the best, most current trends while allowing users to participate in fashion rather than just watch from afar. Top models in the industry, and celebrities in general, are often approached by companies to market their products through social media now. Modelling agencies have had to create special divisions for unconventional models with high followings to diversify themselves and cater to the demand of clients. The downside for the talent however would be the excessive criticism they have to face from the online community and their body image which is a continuous and complex issue.
What has your experience been like working with celebrity models in the industry?
I started my career being very passionate about developing talent and creating a foundation for their success in the industry. I’ve also revamped the careers of talent who were mismanaged and got lost within the industry, or who simply needed a fresh start.
I love working with people and their image. I’ve had the opportunity of working with countless celebrities, artists and talent and love exploring different parts of the industry as a manager/agent and working with diverse creative teams.
Presently, I do A&R for music artists, develop talent for commercial and print work, and also work on press/editorial work with celebrities. I also do occasionally play the role of casting director or production manager for some of my clients.
I work with many managers and agents and love connecting people within the industry.
Have you seen major changes in the amount that models are being paid?
I think there are clients who try and approach mediocre talent directly and kill the industry by offering reduced rates for unlimited usage and this is because everyone is so much more accessible through social media.
It is important for freelance talent to understand that these rates are killing not only their image but their overall value.
Since social media makes everyone so accessible, this is a challenging issue for agents. In the last 15 years I do see that rates have reduced immensely; it has become a lot more challenging because now there is a lot more to compete with.
What is your perspective on new models trying to break into the industry? Are their expectations valid?
I think newbies try to rush and seize any opportunity that comes their way without thinking sometimes.
Due to social media, it is also challenging to get them to understand things are not what they always seem to be and that they need to trust the process.
It is important to have a game plan and plan things accordingly and usually anything that sounds too good to be true probably is.
There are no shortcuts and anyone who is making ‘big promises” to you is probably a con artist.
There are simply too many factors that go into decision making therefore no one can “guarantee” anything. Creating short term goals, being proactive and trusting the process is important.
The other big question is how do you forecast the industry?
The global modelling industry is creaking back into motion after months of lockdowns due to covid 19. Due to the pandemic we are all facing slashed advertising budgets, cancelled fashion shows and digital disruption.
As things improve hopefully, we will get back to some kind of normal, however I do believe brands will be extra cautious and teams will stay reduced to smaller sizes then their usual and this will help keep rates more regulated.When it comes to social media and its influence on the industry, I do believe that won’t change anytime soon.
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