Anna Peggion: My Spotlight of the Backstage

Forging ties with some of the greatest international fashion icons of our time, Italian beauty expert Anna Peggion speaks of the art of modelling… and growing up

With her recent foray into the world of celebrity modelling and her daringly defiant vision the business, Anna Peggion transformed a childhood love affair with glamour and aesthetics into a lifetime career – opening the first European John Casablancas Center in Italy and bagging the La Kore Fashion Oscar in 2005.

“This passion is what probably pulled me towards the modelling industry in the first place, but I always knew I wanted more than just that, because the idea of being a model was not enough for me,” she explained.

“I am a very creative person and once I got into the business I started developing new ideas and putting my head into innovative projects, convincing myself to move towards a more entrepreneurial position – I wanted to discover the backstage part of the job and develop on that.”

Anna now works at modelling agency WhyNot Models in Milan, for which she is Head of the Celebrity department since 2008.

Being able to tie the knot with success, however, required a great deal of persistence, a touch of good luck and – as is often the case in life – a second pair of steady hands to carry her through.

For Anna, these came in the form of a photographer and close friend she was working with at the time: “My initial passion also exploded thanks to him; he pushed me and gave me the motivation to move into the business of launching my own modelling school in Milan.”

Yet it was not until her decision to pack up and take off to the buzzing glitz and glamour of New York City in 1987, two years after opening her school, that change truly hit her.

“I travelled to the US for research because I wanted to see a lot more of what the modelling field was made up of"

This time the steady hands belonged to the world’s leading entrepreneur in modelling and talent development; the man who discovered and cultivated the flair of some of the most memorable models to ever grace our catwalks – a list including, among many others, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell.

Anna said: “I travelled to the US for research because I wanted to see a lot more of what the modelling field was made up of. I met a lot of interesting and stimulating people but John Casablancas was definitely the one who gave me the most strength; he is a very energetic and positive person and he filled me with the determination to believe in what it was I was doing and to proceed in the business with enthusiasm for the following years.”

To Anna, the business of modelling extends far beyond the simple realms of having a beautiful body or appearing on TV – it involves plenty of personal growth and development, as well as the ability to understand and express talent through elements such as photography, styling and communication.

“Like everything else, modelling needs talent to back it up,” Anna stated firmly. “It is definitely an artistic expression of talent, and it is not as superficial as a lot of people might think. Our John Casablancas School was primarily a self-improvement modelling and careers center, where we taught models to walk, pose, gain more confidence in their work and learn to express the talent that sometimes they themselves didn’t even know they had.”

Anna’s sensitive approach to the business, combined with her playfully creative yet solidly defined vision of the fashion and beauty worlds, places her at the forefront of a rapidly expanding industry in need of women who can bring a human element to both the catwalk and backstage.

The result – years of triumphantly shaping and re-inventing the modelling business to reflect her image of the profession as both an educational and artistic platform for growth; a journey that led her to discover some of Italy’s most successful models, become a television figure and receive the prestigious Fashion Oscar (“Oscar della Moda”) at the Italian yearly La Kore Fashion Show in 2005. Anna went on to explain that most young men and women who start out in the business are, more than anything else, terrified.

“Those who do want to become top models must be very determined, however we find that most boys and girls are initially terrified that they won’t be able to make it, that they aren’t beautiful or perfect enough - this is where our work begins.”

"Luck and beauty helps as they can create the base to your career, but remember that not all models are actually beautiful"

Anna further highlighted that in the modelling business, being beautiful alone as opposed to having the right charisma and grace for the spotlight will not get aspiring models very far.

She said: “Of course, luck and beauty helps as they can create the base to your career, but remember that not all models are actually beautiful – peculiarity can be an interesting breaking point. Apart from the physical part, you must be persistent and must be able to prove strong even when you are not immediately successful, because you never know when an opportunity could present itself; most top models became famous through the help of someone who spotted and liked them – a stylist or photographer for example – but before this they were ignored by so many others.”

With years of experience working in an industry still prone to the sweltering heat of the media’s conspicuous limelight, Anna believes a lot of the controversy linked to the development of anorexia and distorted body image in young models is raised by those who don’t really know how the business actually works.“

"There have been many wrong ideas influencing girls in the past, but generally fashion is made up of people who love working in it and who treat the business with respect,” she pointed out.

“It is medically proven that problems such as anorexia are linked to much deeper personal issues within the girls and their environments; most of us love our models and do not push them to being extremely skinny or to not eat – this is only said by those who don’t really know the business and who miss the point that young girls must first be taken care of by their families and close relatives before anyone else.”

Never one to shirk a challenge, Anna embarked on a project four years ago that separated her from John Casablancas after more than 20 years at the centre; she was now to handle the Celebrities department at a well-known Italian modelling agency in Milan.

Her role at WhyNot Models involves representing celebrity talent within the fashion, advertisement and events industries – a position that enables her to play on her passion for discovering new talent and creating solid, innovative projects for high-profile clients.

“The best part of my job now is when we get a request in from a client and have to think of which one of our models would best suit the proposed project; this involves putting together the values represented by the brand with a face, a person – essentially there has to be a common sharing of identity between the two and it is my responsibility to find it.”

No two days are the same for Anna, although a great chunk of her work revolves around meeting clients and developing the creative process of evaluating which one of her celebrity models would best represent the brand at hand.

Although she describes her new position as “absolutely stimulating and challenging”, having to give up on John Casablancas meant having to give up on a lot of security and stability in her life.

She described this as the biggest challenge of her career as of yet: “I was going to start working on a project I had never worked on before and had no experience of but which I strongly believed in. Nevertheless, it meant abandoning the job I had done for a lifetime and that I knew how to do and knew I was good at, for something completely uncertain.”

Without doubt, anything Anna may have lost in the swift transition from John Casablancas to WhyNot Models, she has certainly recovered with her tireless dedication to novelty and self-reliance. They say big personalities always seek out larger things in life, but it seems as though only a profound yet humble passion for your work will fad the sparks that shatter even the toughest tides of our generations.

For Anna Peggion, whose name will remain as timeless as her influence on the fashion world, an indomitable childhood dream was all it took to come ashore.

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Anna-Maria
09 Jul, 2012 Anna-Maria
interesting piece
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Eurelia
03 Jun, 2012 Eurelia
it's great to see people working in fashion who see the inside and outside of things ... the writing of this piece is great. and well done anna.
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