The Grey Model Disruptors

By Rebecca Valentine

Rebecca Valentine, now 50, first launched Grey Model Agency in March 2015 as an arts project. Seven years on, it is now a mature model agency working with major brands around the world. Rebecca shares her thoughts on what progress has been made with This Age Thing.

Grey Model Agency was always an art project. Our launch campaign “Am I Grey?” was disruptive; challenging the concepts of grey, age and identity. Models were chosen for their stories: decadent body art combined with a bald head and grey beard; long shocking white hair combined with a sleek toned extreme yoga body; black, gay, grey and proud. The campaign was fronted by my friend (and disruptive icon), Sara Stockbridge. 

Photography Paul Spencer

As a top music and advertising photographic agent,  I saw through the eyes of photographers, directors and creatives. I saw what advertising lacked. It lacked the art of lifestyle. The art of wisdom. The art of age. I was bored of vacant beauty. With fresh subversive photography showing ‘classic’ models in a new light, our first bookings were with Hunger Magazine, Youjai Jin at London Fashion Week and newspaper features across the world. 

Within the walls of Grey we continue to disrupt. In 2019 fashion, beauty, advertising and couture had reached a stalemate in diversity concepts, so I devised the alternative ‘Grey’ London Fashion Week GLFW.

Silver haired fashionistas in art T-shirts by Jamie Reid, Matt Carroll, Banksy and Joe Machine adorned with the IA London couture collection, mixed old and new subcultures, mixed fine art and fashion, mixed haute couture with urban wear, mixed static exhibition with performance. 

The GLFW Hologram runway showed off emerging talent, and focussed on sustainable materials. It gave a nod to the diverse ghosts of models unseen across international fashion weeks, as well as anticipating the death of the runway show. But it also invited the attending public to participate – the ultimate diversity show – breaking down pervasive ‘them-and-us’ barriers. 

Yet, diversity goes beyond the self. Next generation grey/fashion/beauty means diversity of ideas. If runways were dead then could/should computers offer an alternative? A meta changing room pod, 3 dimensional printed accessories, VR fashion installations? 

The Doctor Martens brand went a long way down the road with us in sponsoring the groundbreaking concept, but in the end advertising budgets couldn’t extend far enough and the idea was lost. 

Three years later on; post Brexit, post BLM, post lockdown, in 2022 the industry has been forced to change and adapt. This year the science fiction meta pods of 2019 are now being installed in retail outlets and online, with Grey models being booked to scan their bodies for the metaverse changing rooms. 

The beauty of ageing is the journey. We at Grey encourage a celebration and intertwining of youth and age. The #nextgenerationgrey embrace the #newgenerationgrey and together they create the magical blend of past and present into a diverse future. 

The art project that is Grey Model Agency turns out to be a social, psychological, political, economic and sustainability insight too! 

Not very grey at all 😉. 

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