‘Model husbands’ are the fashion brand’s new secret weapon

When the U.K. brand Boden began working on its next lookbook, it was clear that getting models out to a studio for a photoshoot wouldn’t be possible. On the other hand, sending the product to models, with fingers crossed that they’d shoot images worth featuring, was high-risk. Instead, Boden sought out model Julia Vanos and her boyfriend, photographer Max Papendieck.

Papendeick shot the entirety of the company’s spring 2021 lookbook from the couple’s apartment in Brooklyn. In doing so, Boden cut down on the standard costs of a typical photo shoot, which can easily run into tens of thousands of dollars for shooting multiple models over several days. In the photos, Papendieck was shown in mirrors with his camera, which made for a playful acknowledgment of the fact that everyone is working from home, said Johnnie Boden, CEO of Boden.

“We have had to find models and photographers who live together in order to do any model photography at the moment,” said Johnnie Boden, CEO of Boden, who was introduced to Vanos through discussions with her agency IMG Models, which did not respond to requests for comment on this story. “And also, they need to live in a big and nice enough flat or house. It’s quite a tall order. Fortunately, we have some lovely girls who have photographer boyfriends or husbands.”

The rise of the so-called “model husband” is pushing both brands and models into territory they haven’t explored before, with brands relinquishing some creative control over content and models and their significant others picking up the slack.

Candice Huffine, model and founder of the brand Day Won, said she’s seen a lot more interest from brands who want models who can produce content themselves. Her husband, Matt Powers, has been assisting her in photoshoots for brands like 11 Honoré and Express.

fashion brand’s new secret weapon

“From a business perspective, I got quarantined with the best possible person for this,” Huffine said. “He did film editing for a long time and he’s been doing photography for years. We have sound equipment, photography equipment, videography equipment. We can make basically anything the clients need. And I think the clients have been really happy with the outcome so far. It’s nice to know that, as an industry, we can pivot like this.”

“Her strengths are not my strengths, and mine are not hers, so together we can make something that would normally take three or four people,” Powers said. “We’re putting together the concept, doing the hair, makeup, styling and shooting, and putting together a really thoughtful presentation for the client, all with relative ease and with just two people.”

Brands are not only looking for models-photographer duos who can produce their own content, but they want the fact that these images are being made informally and at home to be highlighted, said Molly Shephard, a fashion and lifestyle influencer who has worked with Mejuri, Arq and Daniel Wellington.

fashion brand’s new secret weapon

“Any sponsored campaign I’m doing, Kevin [Akhlaghi, her fiancé] takes the photos,” she said. “He’s already worked into my rates; he takes 10% for doing photography. A lot of the brands I’ve worked with recently, like Daniel Wellington, want more ‘at-home’ content. They don’t want any photos that aren’t at home.”

The extent of brands’ control is limited, but they are providing some guidance.

“Our creative director, Jon [Wetherill,] does a Zoom call with the pair to walk through all the outfits [they need to shoot], but the duo styles it themselves and do their own hair and makeup,” said Boden. “We haven’t been nearly as prescriptive as usual.”

And on the model side, Huffine said she’s had to do things she’s never done before. To date, all of Huffine and Powers’ work has been with brands she had worked within the past. But, she said, she and Powers put together a portfolio of all the types of work they’re able to do — from informal snaps in bed to high-quality product imagery in their home studio — and sent it to her agent as an example of what she can do for brands right now. Her agency, IMG Models, has been sending it out to brands to advertise her ability to shoot from home. For Huffine, this is a new territory compared to how typical brand-model relationships work.

“Sending in a portfolio of what we can make is not something I’ve ever done before,” Huffine said. “Typically, your portfolio is just pictures of you, and your agency handles the traditional booking. This is much more akin to what happens in the influencer world. It’s new for me personally and it’s been a joy to see what we’re capable of in a situation like this. If we get back to normal, and I don’t think ‘normal’ will be quite the same, I can see this having an impact on how models work, for good.”

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