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No Agency x Marc Jacobs
KaiaCourtesy of No Agency

The modelling agency that cut ties with New York Fashion Week

No Agency has stopped accepting any payments for NYFW shows

When Alex Tsebelis founded No Agency in 2016, the landscape of New York fashion looked very different. The excitement surrounding brands like Hood by Air and Eckhaus Latta was just beginning to swell, as incubator schemes at MADE and VFILES cultivated a well-tended garden of newgen designers. “For young people in New York today, the institutions that existed when we first dreamt of working in fashion or working in the arts no longer exist,” Tsebelis says, which is why No Agency has come up with a radical plan of action: to quit New York Fashion Week for good. 

“Well, not exactly quitting but going forward we won’t be accepting any payment from NYFW shows,” he says. As a model booker, it may seem like a counterproductive scheme, but it’s all part of Tsebelis’ aspirations to disentangle fashion week from its commercial partners – he jokingly refers to the whole thing as “WME/IMG’s sportified BMW fashion week on Apple TV”. According to the founder, the models he works with share his ethos and needed little convincing to work for free. “They are all excited to work on their friends’ shows for trade, and pleased to not have to worry about shows, castings, and fittings for things that were less exciting”. 

Though Tsebelis is wary of its organisers, he is careful not to criticise anyone who is working “to keep NYFW vital,” adding that “more designers are showing in Europe over New York than ever, and Tom Ford, who is the chairman of the CFDA, is again not showing… which says a lot.” The founder’s decision to debut the news in The Drunken Canal, an independent New York newspaper, represents a wider initiative to “build our own infrastructure for representation”. He reiterates that by absconding (kind of) from the traditional running of fashion week, No Agency is underscoring its adoration for the city. “In order for New York Fashion Week to survive and grow we have to make the conscious choice not to see it as a commercial endeavour but instead a cultural endeavour, and something we have to shepherd.”

Of course, No Agency rarely plays by the book. It’s previous show packages have consisted of buck wild fashion films, DIY zines, and AR walk-through worlds. This year’s initiative continues in that tradition, railing against the break-neck industrialisation of the industry. “If a designer said that they were quitting New York Fashion Week, which they have said, and have been saying, like Marc Jacobs or Thom Browne or Rodarte, or Vaquera, no one would be surprised,“ he says. “In order to really revitalise NYFW, an organisation or network beyond the CFDA needs to exist that can truly support emerging designers and draw designers from fashion schools in Europe and help American designers reach a real audience,” he concludes. “It’s not about the hypothetical of ’What would you do if you were in charge.’ We are in charge. That’s why we’re doing this.”