When model Ellie G. graced a Gucci beauty campaign last fall, it felt groundbreaking. Diversity in fashion has been a long, bitter struggle between consumers and the fashion industry — even more so in high fashion. So to see Ellie, a woman with Down syndrome, in a luxury fashion advertisement was, at the very least, a step in the right direction.
TCM Models & Talent has been part of the Seattle fashion fold for 41 years, with owner Terri Morgan at the helm. Having witnessed the ebbs and flows of Seattle fashion herself, Morgan said, “It is about time,” in regard to the widening representation of men and women in media. TCM currently has around 250 models and 200 people in its talent division. We wanted to know more about her thoughts on diversity in fashion and how she’s approaching it within her own agency.
When you launched TCM Models & Talent in 1979, what did the fashion scene look like in Seattle?
It was wonderful; most all the photo shoots and fashion shows were done locally, and we had top fashion designers coming to town to show their collections. I modeled for Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, and many more when they came to town. The downtown stores were busy, and it was so much fun. A lot of the denim companies were blowing up: Union Bay, Generra, Brittania, etc. There was a lot of fashion work.
How has TCM evolved over the years?
We have definitely grown. We added the kids division and the talent division. We don’t rely on fashion solely; we have a lot of commercial clients now, like Amazon, Microsoft, Nintendo, etc. The way we do business is so different, too; we used to talk on the phone! Now everything is done electronically, and we send out packages via email of the talent.
The desire for consumers to see diverse representation in media feels more relevant than ever — including differently-abled bodies, and a wider range of ages, sizes, races, and backgrounds. What is TCM doing on this front?
Diversity is everything. We are constantly scouting for wider ranges of models, sizes, looks, and ethnicities. We honestly can’t find enough people to fill the requests that we have for diverse models. I think that the stereotypical model still has a place, but they aren’t the ones right now getting the most work. It is exciting to see how much the fashion industry is adapting to the demand. It is about time.
In Seattle, does there seem to be a demand for wider representation?
Yes, but Seattle has always been ahead of the curve, in my opinion — looking for and wanting more diversity.
Are there any demographics you’re seeking to widen TCM’s talent offerings — whether it be race/ethnicity, age, or people with disabilities?
We are looking for all types on a constant basis; right now we are accepting online submissions, as we are not doing in-office open calls. It is also very tough to do scouting when everyone is wearing a mask. It is hard to tell what anyone looks like. So, we are encouraging prospective new talent to go to our website to submit: tcmmodels.com. What role do you think talent agencies have in shaping the dialogue around the people that are “seen” in all the different forms of media? Our role is to provide the people that the clients are looking for. We really don’t have the opportunity to shape the dialogue very often. We do our best to represent all types to fulfill the requests that we receive.