Fashion-savvy Bron Eichbaum, now 53, spent many years as a model agent in her model and talent agency, The Agencie. In earlier years she had tried a few different trades, including flight attendant, as well as modelling herself. But she always found she gravitated towards management.
“I didn’t have the X-factor that all model agents look for and I knew that, but I really enjoyed being backstage and putting shows together.”
That’s not to say she didn’t try the many different areas in the fashion industry first, covering aspects of fashion retail, fashion retail management, window dressing, sign writing, styling, show direction and show production. “Nearly all my career has been fashion,” she says.
After her stint as a model, Bron began booking models for Spotlight Model Agency with Maree Pannell in Christchurch. “I learnt on the job from watching, listening and working under her.”
During this time, both Maree and Kirsty Lay, the previous owner of Exposure Model Management, served as great role models and great mentors. Shortly after that, owning a model agency herself became a reality and she bought Wellington’s Lorraine Models and Talent, before rebranding it.
Always on the job
Sourcing models, handling bookings, networking, putting new people out there and, most importantly, being proactive is how she describes the daily duties of the job.
“The industry fluctuates. It can be very buoyant and full-on, to the point where you can’t take a breath. Other times it dies, so when you have those times you have to be really proactive.” When it did get busy, being efficient and having great communication skills was vital.
Standard office hours were from 9am until 5pm, but much of the time that wasn’t realistic. “I would be on holiday or at a dinner party with my list and a phone and I’d be receiving calls.” That was the reality of the job.
As well as being flexible, having a great personality was just as important. Dealing with people constantly, Bron always kept a smile on her face and recognised the need for sensitivity. She explained how “you become a sort of mum to the girls. It’s important that you’ve got that caring side to you too.”
Having 20 to 30 young men and women regularly on the books was standard for The Agencie. Back then, Wellington was a hard market when it came to fashion and there weren’t any magazines based there. Models constantly travelled up to Auckland, especially for the larger events such as New Zealand Fashion Week.
Ups and downs
National travel wasn’t the only opportunity for Bron’s models, however. Model scouts from Paris, London, Sydney, Germany and America visited regularly, looking for new faces to sign internationally. As the “mother agent”, Bron received a percentage of the model’s earnings while they were overseas. The downsides were that not all international agents were honest and reliable with their payments. “The Italians were notorious,” she says.
Models struggled internationally too. “Some found it tough and some would stick it out because it’s not easy out there in that market. You’re one of hundreds.”
Weight was one of the issues models faced when overseas. Despite not having problems in the national industry, “to go overseas you needed to be slightly underweight and that was shocking,” said Bron. “Some of the agents would say, ‘she’s great but she needs to lose an inch off her hips’, and it was like, ‘oh my gosh, she’s already a beautiful size 10’.”
This meant that eating disorders were some of the problems she had to deal with. “It’s like walking on egg shells when you’re dealing with that sort of stuff. You have to be very sensitive. I wouldn’t let a girl work, knowing she was too thin.”
Bron states that the New Zealand market was never interested in underweight models and she struggled to find them work. As a model, she herself was never ‘skinny enough’ and she knew what it was like to go to a casting and be told she was too big. “But I loved food too much to give it up!”
Dealing with unethical competitors was another unpalatable part of the job, but the good times definitely outweighed the bad. Finding a new star or seeing models recognise their success was “really great to see”.
A model’s character and personality was just as important as her look. “The girls all got along really well,” says Bron. “There was never any bitchiness.” Fun was encouraged in the agency. “We used to prank the models and actors sometimes! We had a lot of laughs in the office, sometimes so much that I could barely talk on the phone!”
Bron has moved on since those days. She sold the agency to her business partner and is now involved with Silverdale Knitwear in product design and development for the women’s fashion brand, Nineteen//46.
That’s not to say she doesn’t miss her time at the model agency. “I just loved my time as an agent – it was a great job and I loved the work that I did. No regrets at all!”