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Alexia Collinson

POSITION
Social Media Manager
LOCATION
Paris

Alexia has a unique perspective on social media; she has seen Instagram evolve from merely a photo sharing platform to a one of such high importance where it dictates which models get booked. But she has embraced the changes that it presents in the modeling industry, as she believes it gives a chance to show off all of the various personalities behind the editorials.

This interview took place between Tate and Alexia at the George V Café in Paris
Editor: Christel Langue

TVPS: How did you get to where you are today?

AC: I accidentally got here, but I’m happy that I did. I was never interested in fashion; I don’t care about what I wear or what designers make my clothes. I didn't know anything. I was getting my master’s degree in communication with a focus in digital work. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I had to intern before I graduated. I sent out a lot of emails and when no one answered, I started to call the people I had already emailed.

One day, Premium Models Agency answered and said, "When can we meet?" It was like a dream. So I had the interview, and they told me, "Okay, you don't know anything about fashion, but we’re going to teach you.” I spent 6 months with Premium Models, and it turned out to be a really good internship, I loved what I did.

After that, I went back to school to finish my master’s degree, and I had to find another internship. I didn't know if I wanted to go back to a modeling agency or not. I was pretty open minded and was looking everywhere. Then Elite called. They wanted someone to work on their social media, so of course, I said yes. I stayed there as an intern for about 6 months.

One month before it ended, I went to the director’s office, and asked him, "Okay, my internship is ending, but I finished school, and I would love to stay here." He ended up offering me a full-time position as their social media manager, and I’m still there today.

So what does your role consist of?

I'm the Social Media Manager of Elite Paris. I don’t deal with London or Barcelona or Lisbon or even New York, just Paris. So a big part of my job is to follow the models around during fashion week and to create exclusive content for the Elite Paris Instagram. But no matter if it’s low or high season, I do my best to make sure that my day always starts the same way, I spend most of the morning looking for editorials, campaigns or anything that was published during the night. Then I send everything to the agents and schedule all of my posts for the day. I try to keep a routine, so I know what to do, and when to do it. What’s exciting to me is that I’ve been at my job for almost 2 years and although I know it really well, I'm still learning everyday because the digital landscape changes so often.

When I first started, it was all about posting to social media and making sure that everything flowed well and looked good. Then I said, "Okay, I want to do more." So I proposed a lot of things, and some worked, and some didn’t. I wanted to do projects that would show that a model isn’t just frozen in a picture. I wanted to show that a model has a personality. It's very, very important.

Why?

It changes your view of the models and let’s you see the differences between them. So to do that, I started working on videos with the models. Each video is about a model’s personality, her style, the places she loves in Paris. Everything like that. The thing is, before we did these videos, models sometimes weren’t booked because they didn’t look special in their pictures. But after showing the videos to our clients, those models would then get booked. Personality really changes things.

How do you know if one of your ideas is worth pursuing?

Since I'm the only social media manager and no one’s on top of me, I have to know if it's a good idea or not. Nobody is going to tell me not to do it, of course all of my ideas weren’t good at the beginning but the more that I work for the agency, the more I know what they expect from me. I also better understand the fashion industry, and can now learn from my mistakes. For example, the quality of my videos has definitely improved as you can really see a difference between my first one and my last one but I will always talk with bookers to get their opinions on it.

I also wrote this guide for Instagram, and I give it to the models before each fashion week. It’s all about finding the in-between of being professional with what you post but also having the freedom to show your personality.

Is it important for models to have a big following?

Yes because that's how it works now. A model can be so pretty, so in shape, and have interesting characteristics, but casting directors won't book them because they don’t have a large enough following. It’s definitely more prominent in the States, but those ideas are coming to France as well. So it’s important to educate the models on that, as social media is a part of their job now too. Having followers is definitely one of the keys to success, but being authentic is way more important. You can’t fake it on social media because when the casting director meets you, they’re going to be like where’s that girl I saw on Instagram.

What interests you about social media?

It’s the future. You can’t work without social media today. It’s so important because you can connect with people from all over the world. I'm posting something, and 2 hours later New York is posting something. It opens the world.

What are the challenges of signing a young model who's not yet aware of the industry and then throwing them into it?

The bookers are there for that. Evan is the executive agent, the director of the new faces. He takes on an older brother figure, but we are all a bit of a family for these girls. We know the fashion industry is crazy and these are young girls, so there’s always someone accompanying them. We’ll go to the parties or to shows with them to let them know that, "Okay. You're 16 years old, but we are here for you. Don't worry about it.” That's our main priority when a new face arrives at Elite, she doesn’t work for an entire year, and we use that time to get her ready for the industry. We're very protective of our girls.

What have you learned from your position so far?

I learned how to be organized because I am absolutely not organized. The other thing that I learned is that you can be yourself, even in fashion. And it’s so important for me to be myself and to not change because of the industry that I work in. I’m a simple person, and I don’t want that to fade.

The other thing is that I didn’t know a lot about the fashion industry when I first came to Elite, I got thrown right in. It was like, "Okay. I have to learn more than 700 models, designers, and publications in one week but I'm fine."

Photographed by Alexia Collinson for Elite Paris

How’s the company culture?

Strict. You have to be very put together and knowledgeable because it’s Elite. It’s also a real family and that means that we can count on each other no matter what. We’re the best agency in the world, and a big reason for that is because we treat our models for who they are.

Who else is on your team?

I'm the only one who works on social media. After that, we have bookers for the new faces, bookers for the main board, the art department, finance department, and we have a special department for the elite model look contest as well.

What’s one of your favorite aspects of your job?

My job is to create exclusive content for our social media, so I get to go wherever the models go, which is really fun because I’m not chained to my desk all day.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I do my job with so much pleasure. I love what I do and I don't want to do anything else. The best thing is when I work so hard on something, and at the end, someone comes up to me and says, "Okay. What you did looks amazing, congratulations." But the real thing that I work for are the models. There is nothing like being backstage at a show, waiting 5 hours with them and getting to know them. They all know that I’m there for them and that I do everything to make them feel good and safe. That's what I work for.

What’s your biggest accomplishment at Elite?

Being a real part of the team, and even if I work mostly on my own, people have started to acknowledge how important my job is.

You mentioned before that a big part of yourself is being simple, what do you mean by that?

It’s who I am. I think, "Okay. I appreciate the experience, I appreciate the amazing chance that I have, but if I have to go in a month because they don't need me anymore, it's not going to be the biggest deal.” Just keep it simple.

Has the influx of digital media changed the landscape of the modeling industry?

Yes. We do this thing called the Elite Model Look, and it’s the biggest model contest in the world. Thanks to digital, people hear about it, and everyone can send in their pictures. It’s about having the chance to become a model if that’s what you want, making it more accessible by taking out the location factor.

What is your biggest challenge?

Staying creative. Sometimes it can feel like you’ve already done everything possible, but no. Social media is getting more and more important in the fashion industry, and we’re definitely not the only modeling agency that wants to approach social media in a different way. So I have to stay creative to be competitive. I have to create content that you don’t see anywhere else and that is still interesting for our followers. Nothing lasts forever so I have to find new ideas all the time. So that is my biggest challenge!

What's the best part about working in Paris?

I love all of the opportunities that we have because we can do so many things in Paris that we can't do anywhere else. Paris is the city of fashion.

Where do you think the modeling industry is headed?

Personality. When we sign someone, it’s because we like their look and we’re confident that casting directors will as well. After we sign a new model, we used to just focus on teaching them how to walk and how to move with the camera. Now it’s all about giving them the confidence that brings out their personality because that’s what distinguishes them from everyone else.

What advice would you give to someone who looks up to you?

Work hard is the best advice that I can give. I don't count my hours of work. I work early mornings, late nights, on the weekends. It's 24 hours and 7 days a week. At any moment I can receive something that just happened, and I have to post about it. I didn’t get my job from luck; I got it because I worked harder than everyone else who wanted it.

Anything you’d like to add?

Don’t stop until you’re proud. The only limit is you.