Sunday, November 12, 2006

Money or Name

He is running towards me with that big smile on his face. "I am never late! This is only the second time in 18 years." exclaims Zang Toi, fashion designer/owner of the House of Toi, a very successful design house in New York and owner of several stores and cafes in Malaysia.

We sit down for breakfast and we talk about the TV show I am creating, 'The Next Anna Bayle'. He is all for it and he does agree that there will be so many beautiful young women all over Asia to choose from. He is confident that I can teach them what I know and is really excited for me and my project.

"17 years", Zang says with pride, that he has kept his design house running. He says, he kept it small, despite the fact that he has had offers to be bought by Japanese and Italian companies. He claims that talks were going so well until towards the end, when these companies just wanted too much of his name. He has been reading about the demise of several designers who make deals and sell their names to big companies and he vows that "He must own his name".

I don't blame him. To work so hard, to give blood, sweat and tears - only for conglomerates to buy your name and hack it to pieces.

Trevor Rodriguez, a valued Singaporean friend, whose career in fashion included executive marketing positions in various Parisian design houses (Kenzo, YSL. Romeo Gigli, Marcel Mariongiu) and head buyer for Club 21, a string of 21 boutiques in Singapore, advised me once, when I first arrived in Paris,

"Anna, you may have all the money now, and no name after.
Go for your name first, then you will have all the money after."

Sound through out my changing careers, I lived by this principle.

I have been offered many jobs when I first started modeling in Paris, like doing the design fairs, however, I turned all those down. Even if I needed the money to survive, I knew that I wanted something more. I wanted to work for all the top designers names and the only way to do that is to be like a racehorse with blinders on the side.

During my modeling career, I would always choose what jobs I wanted to do despite my financial needs. For instance, my agent, Guy Heron of Cosa Nostra (who handled only stars: Jerry Hall, Mounia, Pat Cleveland, Alva Chin) called me to say that the prestigious house of Dior really loved me, and could I please do their cabine. I wanted this opportunity because it would be fabulous to work with the great Marc Bohan. However, I refused, even though Dior was a really big name. I did not want to be a cabine girl because that would mean I could not do all the press shows I wanted to do.

Cabine modeling for big couture houses, is about working for the house, several months before a press show. The collection will be designed and fitted on you; after the press show, you and the other cabine models were to show the collection at the house 2 or 3 times a day for their extremely wealthy clientele. Cabine models are sometimes muses for the designer, like Nicole for Yves Saint Laurent and Marie Selznick for Christian Lacroix.

My agent called again with a healthy increase in the compensation, and I still said no. Finally, he called to tell me that they would pay me 'show rates' every time I showed up and that I would be allowed to work for other design houses. Since they were making an exception in my case, and I was free to do other press shows - this time, I agreed.
Most of the people working in the house of Dior probably did not know it and I know it would not be in the interest of the decision makers to advertise the fact that I was treated specially. For all I know, my agent just made it up to convince me to do this job. Nevertheless, I got paid well and I reported everyday to the house of Dior. I just kept quiet and stayed in my corner, appeased with the thought (fallacy or not) that I am valued in this house.

In New York, I was asked by one of the biggest design houses to work for them exclusively. "The sky is the limit", was the come-on. I was tempted. I told my agent, Ellen Harth of Elite Runway. A resounding "No" was her answer, as she feels it would nix me with all the other big New York designers.

Some people just want to buy you. And I agree that everyone has a price. But for me, it's not the's the name.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi anna,

so glad to know that you were filipina....ive seen you in ads and runways
with style elsa klensch before on cnn and didnt even know you are a
pinay....was so surprise to find out now...i always thought you were maganda
and the way you walked on the runway, im sure naomi campbell got lessons
from you or copied your way of walking.

you uplift the filipina name by being the only asian supermodel before and
since. i have a suggestion. i think you should put out a book with your
pictures like you have on your website. ill be the first to buy it.
similiar to the pictorial book that naomi came out with. .. you have so many
good pictures , some ive seen in other european magazines that were not even
on your website.

anyways more power and salamat for gracing us with your beauty. ang ganda
mo...go pinay.

fellow pinoy here in la, ca usa ricky

1:11 AM  
Blogger Gautam said...

i am with you always supporting your ideals,

10:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home