followers view all
following view all
|graciedyer is not in any groups|
The Man Who Would Make the World a Prettier Place
Matthew Moneypenny (his real name) is Hollywood handsome, with a dressed-down wardrobe of Saint Laurent and an easy patter somewhere between pitchman and showman.
He laughs loudly and has a favorite table at Sant Ambroeus in the West Village, as well as a preferred room at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, Calif. He looks like what industry types call “talent,” but Mr. Moneypenny, 46, isn’t talent (though talented). In the congested little world of fashion image-making, he is talent’s agent, the bargaining power behind the throne.
Mr. Moneypenny’s job is to secure high-revenue deals for top-tier images and image-makers. In effect, he said with a practiced twinkle over cookies at a Sant Ambroeus corner table, “to make the world a prettier place.”
Mr. Moneypenny is the president and chief executive of Trunk Archive, a photography licensing agency, whose back catalog of images run in magazines and product packaging, are loaded as smartphone backdrops and hang on hotel walls. In Trunk’s trunk are images by hundreds of photographers, including many of fashion’s marquee names: Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Weber, Arthur Elgort and Patrick Demarchelier.
Mr. Moneypenny has built Trunk into a digital, long-tail boutique of stylish imagery, making the photographers (and the company) significant amounts of money in the process. They are high-end images for high-end prices.
“If Corbis and Getty are Kmart and Walmart,” Mr. Moneypenny said, ticking off two of the larger stock-photo agencies, “we’re Bergdorf Goodman.”
Having made a success of reselling existing images, Mr. Moneypenny is now getting into the business of creating new ones.
Fueled by investment capital from Waddell & Reed, which has taken positions in companies like Richemont and LVMH, Mr. Moneypenny has spent the last two years quietly buying creative agencies. The result is Great Bowery, a group that will include Trunk Archive and 11 other assignment and licensing agencies under its umbrella.
Great Bowery is a mega-agency, one whose ambition is to rebalance the scales, empowering those who make fashion’s imagery — photographers, fashion stylists, hair and makeup artists and set designers — and checking, implicitly, the powerful and increasingly integrated luxury companies and media conglomerates that have traditionally commissioned their work.
He sees it as nothing less than the fashion analogue of the rise of the agency system in Hollywood, which unseated the film studios as the sole kingmakers and deal-brokers.
“If one can say three pillars were originally music, television and film, I would argue that fashion is now the fourth pillar,” Mr. Moneypenny said. “Twenty years ago, it was the socialite on the Upper East Side or the resident of Mayfair or Beverly Hills that was aware of what was coming down the Chanel or Dior runway. There’s so much more interest about the creativity that comes out of this world.”
Mr. Moneypenny is far from the only observer to make this connection, but he is better positioned than most to connect the dots. He is, by his own estimation, the only fashion agent with a background in Hollywood representation and management. He began his career at ICM, the Hollywood agency, talking his way from the mailroom to the desk of Nancy Josephson, the co-president.
“He would call up Gucci at the time Tom Ford was designing and say, ‘My boss has no time to shop, send over the entire line,’” said Ms. Josephson, now a partner at WME. “I have a lot of chutzpah, but I would not have thought to do that. And he got me a discount!”
The Hollywood model was an explicit reference for Great Bowery. “So many of the systems I learned during my time at ICM, I still employ today,” Mr. Moneypenny said.
Fabien Baron, the editorial director of Interview Magazine, has seen what the corporatization of the industry has wrought: the move to be more things to more people, with static budgets and increased demands. Mr. Baron, who is considering a handful of projects with Mr. Moneypenny, expressed admiration for his strategy.
“The idea of turning this into the CAA of fashion is interesting,” he said, referring to the Hollywood agency. “It makes a lot of sense to me.”
Most of the agencies now under the aegis of Great Bowery, like CLM, M.A.P, Management & Artists and Streeters, are unfamiliar to the public. So, too, are many of the artists they represent.
Their work is not. You have seen it in the glossy spreads of fashion magazines, the ad campaigns that precede them, the billboards and bus shelters luxury companies commandeer and the videos that run on their Instagram accounts and websites.
If they are not, on the whole, household names the way CAA clients like Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Madonna are, Mr. Moneypenny is betting that they can be. Their rates can already run Hollywood stratospheric (“It’s not unusual for a highly talented artist in our world to generate a seven-figure annual income,” he said), and their visibility is rising to match. Is Pat McGrath, the most in-demand of the runway makeup artists, say, primed to become a name-brand megastar?
“Some designers are big famous stars,” Mr. Baron said. “Also photographers are, and stylists are, and models are. Everybody’s kind of important. It’s become popular culture.”
With importance comes opportunity. Mr. Moneypenny envisages product lines, brand extensions, exhibitions and endorsements even if the jobs these artists now do didn’t exist a generation or two earlier.
“Makeup artists and hairdressers who specialized in photo shoots were completely nonexistent,” Grace Coddington, the creative director of Vogue, wrote of her early modeling days in a 2012 memoir. “There was no such thing as a stylist, either, so the better your accessories, which you carried in your bag, too, the more jobs you were likely to get.”
As the professions developed and careers were made, agencies evolved to represent artists’ interests and handle their logistics, for a percentage. But the systems put in place, many involved agreed, had stagnated and failed to keep pace with the industry’s changes.
“As the companies we do business with became huge, it became more and more difficult to maintain what we believe to be fair terms and conditions for our talent,” Mr. Moneypenny said.
Fashion businesses developed into luxury groups and billion-dollar brands; magazines rolled together into media corporations like Condé Nast and Hearst. Arrangements had once been made over handshakes; today contracts can run to 20 pages or more, with byzantine rights agreements and complicated loopholes about usage. Even as the revenues top artists could earn grew, those of many others flat-lined.
At the same time, the expectations placed upon them grew. Artists are asked to shoot video in addition to photos, come with social media followings, stage exhibitions and publish books; agencies are expected to support them with departments on digital and technological fronts: “all these new areas,” said Camilla Lowther, a pioneering agent in London and the founder of CLM, which joined Great Bowery in 2014, “which none of us have any experience in. I’m an agent. And probably quite an old-fashioned agent, to be totally honest with you. I’ve been doing this for 35 years.”
Many of the changes Great Bowery hopes to affect are of the unsexy, business-efficiency type. By combining agencies into one organization — and, as of late March, one lavishly grafittied building, the 1898 former Germania Bank building on the Bowery — it hopes to consolidate back-end services like legal, accounting, human resources and operations and share them across the entire company. Mr. Moneypenny said that individual agencies would be left to conduct business as they see fit, and artists would not be asked to sign new contracts.
But even if Mr. Moneypenny does not aim to hijack the fashion world, as he told Fantastic Man magazine, he is looking to disrupt it. Great Bowery is making new hires who will focus on developing social media, branded content, endorsements and collaborations for artists companywide, and the agency plans to act as a producer of its artists’ projects, rather than merely a conduit to them.
“We would all like to see the agency operate as a studio,” Mr. Moneypenny said, “packaging” projects (in Hollywood parlance) and marketing them itself.
“That package doesn’t necessarily have to be fashion,” he added. “It could be a line of products for an electronics maker. It really could be almost anything.”
His hope is that every qualified artist in the stable can become a polymath.
He held up the photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, whose archive Trunk licenses, as an example: They are in-demand photographers, working for Vogue and W, Chloé and Calvin Klein. They also design jewelry and a collection of jeans, recently published a career-spanning retrospective with Taschen and shot a music video with Paul McCartney, Rihanna and Kanye West.
In his version of the future, deals similar to those might be worked through Great Bowery with a commission on each.
“We really are the only ones who are attempting to change the game,” he said.
Asked why, he shrugged: “Old dogs, no new tricks.”
As is to be expected, Mr. Moneypenny’s competitors dispute this.
Art & Commerce, where Mr. Moneypenny worked in licensing after ICM, is one of a handful of high-profile agencies that remains unaffiliated with Great Bowery. Along with the Wall Group, which represents primarily red-carpet stylists, it is owned by WME-IMG. Mark Shapiro, the chief content officer of WME-IMG, said that developing behind-the-scenes fashion talent into brands using all of the agencies’ channels, resources and relationships is top of mind. “Otherwise, frankly, we wouldn’t have bought the companies,” Mr. Shapiro said. “If someone wants to follow our model, all the merrier. We invite the competition.”
He added: “Matthew has had great success in terms of the archive business that he built. Trying to jump into these waters is an entirely different story.”
Another agency, the independent Art Partner, which represents some of the brightest stars in the fashion pantheon, including Mario Testino and Steven Klein, declined to comment.
“I think we make our competitors very nervous,” Mr. Moneypenny said. “I’m not terribly concerned about any of them.”
You should also see:
|share||like 1||report||49 views|