Cyril Brulé: “Being a model is more than a job”

Cyril Brule, founder of Viva Model Management, Paris. Photo by Bruno Barbazan
Cyril Brulé, founder of Viva Model Management, Paris. Photo by Bruno Barbazan

When you enter VIVA agency in Paris you immediately get a comfortable feeling, even when you are in Paris during busy Fashion Week. Cyril Brulé, CEO and founder of VIVA Model Management as well as president of the Réunion Mannequin in France, welcomes me in a very relaxed way and when entering his office you are not only surrounded by beautiful framed cover shots but a rather zen-like atmosphere, which perfectly matches his vision of what modeling is all about today: It is about more than just beauty.

We got curious and wanted to know what is behind this job.

IRMA: Regarding model scouting, where do you look for models nowadays? No longer on the streets but rather on Instagram?
CYRIL BRULÉ: Most of the agency’s recruiting is done by agencies around the world with which we have a long working relationship. These agencies respond mostly to spontaneous applications and sometimes search on Facebook and Instagram. Occasionally we can have independent scouts looking for potential talent in the streets.

IRMA: What are the main criteria you are looking for today?
CYRIL BRULÉ: We are always looking for classical beauty: 5’11“ or 6’, beautiful skin, great hair, amazing body and stunning face because that kind of beauty always works. But at the same time the market has allowed us to look for girls who have an unusual physique. This means that today a model can be 5’6“ or 5’7“, have a body with good proportions and a stunning beauty or a very strong face with a matching personality.

IRMA: Besides beauty and a sense of fashion, what is important to establish a successful modelling career?
CYRIL BRULÉ: The most important thing is to be very well structured in order to be able to face the difficulties of this job because it is more than a job: It is a lifestyle which can be very lonely and very disturbing due to the pressure of the business. For such young adults it can be fast and easy money and it is therefore extremely important to have a strong family background, a good education as studies are very important for them in order to establish a successful career which will last.

IRMA: How much is a good agency involved in steering the career of a talent? Who decides if a model is on the runway or sits in the first row watching the show?
CYRIL BRULÉ: The business has become very political and the designers all want to have their own muse. Therefore we have to be careful with whom we decide to launch a model’s career. More than ever the agency needs to work very hard to make a model’s career last because the industry is known to use and throw away models just like a Kleenex. The decision to sit or not in a front row is very much up to the talent, the agency and the clients to decide.

IRMA: What do you mean when you say that the business has become very political? Could you explain this in more detail?
CYRIL BRULÉ: The business has become political because each fashion house has its own „clan“ of casting director, photographer, stylist depending on the fashion houses. Some of them really want to use the models they contract and therefore they push them via the casting director and the stylist to work for magazines or other brands. For example, if a model is working for Louis Vuitton’s show and campaign, Ashley Brokow (casting director) or Marie Amelie Sauvé (stylist) will push the model to work for other people throughout the year. On the other hand, when a model has worked for any major fashion house (such as Chanel, Dior, Givenchy and so on), the others could be reluctant to work with her. However, many other brands like H&M, Zara, Uniqlo etc. are on the contrary very attracted to these models who have worked for major fashion houses. Therefore the agent needs to think carefully in order to have a long-term vision and choose who will be right for the model.

IRMA: Is there more stress for models today because of social media? You not only have to look good but need to live/create a visually interesting life / feed.
CYRIL BRULÉ: Yes, there is more pressure for the models due to social media. Not only do they have to be beautiful, in good shape, with perfect hair and skin, they also need to have a lot of followers on Instagram as clients nowadays base their choice of models on these numbers too.

IRMA: Do you help them to get these numbers? Do they get digital advice from your agency?
CYRIL BRULÉ: We are also advising our models on how to make their Instagram account coherent with the image which the fashion industry has of her and also to not publish any pictures which could be misinterpreted. We are also seeking professional advice for VIVA’s accounts on all social media channels.

IRMA: It seems that nowadays a personality / character is more important than stunning looks? Is that true?
CYRIL BRULÉ: Personality has always been an important factor whether we refer to the 80s, 90s or today. If we look at iconic models such as Stella Tennant, Inès de la Fressange, Naomi Campbell etc. they have gone through all these years because they each had very strong personalities. The iconic models of tomorrow will be the ones who have a strong personality today.


IRMA: How do you define beauty today?
CYRIL BRULÉ: The classical canons of beauty have totally changed in the last couple of years due to the fact that globalization has forced brands to open up to ethnic groups they would never have considered in the past but which are omnipresent today. The marketing teams’ aim is to reach out to as many socio-professional categories as possible through the choice of totally diversified styles of beauty.

IRMA: Looks and the definition of beauty change so quickly. Do you have to be able to reinvent yourself all the time?
CYRIL BRULE: Classical beauty has always worked and what is interesting with fashion is that from hairstyle to make-up and styling, we can almost make anyone right for the trend of the moment. But besides that, we still need to search for the trendy look of the moment which of course changes all the time.

IRMA: How much does a successful model influence a designer’s collection and how does she do it?
CYRIL BRULÉ: Rather than influence, I believe that a successful model will inspire a designer’s collection by her look and her personality. However, there are a few exceptions of models who had a certain influence on the designer but when they decided to stop modeling, it was to actually to join the fashion house on a full-time basis and so they continued to participate in the collection.

IRMA: Like Inès de la Fressange?
CYRIL BRULE: Yes, Inès de la Fressange worked some time for Karl Lagerfeld and now has her own brand.

IRMA: What has changed in your business since you founded VIVA Model Management?
CYRIL BRULÉ: Everything has changed in this industry, but I think the most relevant things which have totally disappeared are the casualness and the enthusiasm. Today, economical issues have become a major concern and have totally transformed the industry. It has become a real business where innocence was lost on the way.

IRMA: Do you see that as a positive development or did it also take away the magic and creative freedom of this profession?

CYRIL BRULÉ: There is always a negative and a positive side to everything. The negative side is that, yes, we have lost a bit of the magic because before the digital era, during the shootings everyone was concentrated on the model, talking to her but nowadays everyone is looking at the monitor and sees the results right away. When a team went to shoot on location, they could be gone for a week, whereas today they will be gone for two days; everything is rush, rush, rush!

Today the marketing teams are the key people of any company, whereas before it was the creative team who had the power but this is no longer the case. Meanwhile, the world of art, cinema and fashion are now closely interconnected which has democratized fashion. Indeed it has created a movement which has decompartmentalized these sectors which, up until recently, were estranged from each other. For example, in the past an actress would never have shot a fashion or fragrance campaign just as a model would never have access to a role in a movie, whereas today it is possible: one feeds from the other and reciprocally.

From a more personal point of view as far as modeling agencies are concerned, the internet and all the new social media have enabled the models to make inquiries on the business in general and in particular. In more general terms, they can obtain information on the model agencies and their reputation, thus avoiding all the traps regarding fake castings organized by people with bad intentions; in this context, the internet has helped models to protect themselves better. Before the internet it was difficult to control this and the surveillance today is much easier. The rules are much stricter, making the models more aware of the mishaps which could occur.
In the more particular situations, a model can go on the internet to check a photographer’s site to see his work and to prepare herself for a future shooting. In the past, the model would go to meet the photographer and he would show her his book. This loss of contact is also visible in the e-mail exchanges the agents have with their clients as opposed to discussions over the phone or even meetings in person. New technologies have brought new means of communications which have led to a loss of humanity in this business. The relationships and the contacts have become more impersonal.

IRMA: Your daughter wants to be a model. Would you agree?
CYRIL BRULÉ: Yes, I would have no objection if she decided to do it with the right people and provided she is doing something else on the side such as studying or living a passion and that modeling was a means to support her choices.