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Hiring Models for African Fashion Shows: A Comprehensive Guide

Image Credit: South Africa Fashion Week

Within the African fashion industry, models act as living representations, illuminating the intricacies of designs. Their posture, stride, and overall demeanour are essential in encapsulating a designer's conceptual intent. Therefore, the choice of models is fundamental to the success of a fashion event. This article offers an in-depth exploration of the procedures and factors to consider when selecting models, aiming to guarantee that the runway accurately portrays the designer's envisioned style and philosophy. The collaboration between designers and models is symbiotic, complementing the other. As the African fashion industry continues to evolve, the criteria for model selection expand beyond mere aesthetics. A holistic understanding of this process can significantly enhance the overall impact and success of a fashion presentation.


Before diving into the model selection process, it's imperative to have a clear understanding of the show's aesthetic. Is it avant-garde, classical, street style, or something entirely different? The theme of the collection should guide the model selection. For instance, if the collection is inspired by vintage fashion, models that can evoke a nostalgic aura might be preferable.


Determining precise criteria tailored to the show's specifications is fundamental. To ensure the event's success, one should consider:

Physical Characteristics

Factors such as height, body type, hair length, or style are pivotal. Specific design choices or thematic considerations can necessitate particular physical attributes. For instance, a show centred around swimwear might prioritise models with particular physiques, while a haute couture presentation might have different criteria. Therefore, aligning these characteristics with the show's objectives ensures a coherent presentation.

Diverse Representation

In the contemporary fashion industry, including diverse models has become paramount. It not only underscores a commitment to social inclusivity but also aligns with global consumer expectations. Representing various backgrounds, ethnicities, and body types enhances the show's authenticity and relatability. Moreover, it projects a progressive image of the brand or designer, reinforcing their alignment with modern values.

Experience Levels

The show's magnitude and purpose can guide the selection between seasoned models, newcomers, or a combination of both. Established models can bring a certain prestige and professionalism, given their familiarity with runway dynamics. On the other hand, introducing fresh faces can infuse the show with novelty and unpredictability, appealing to a different audience segment. Balancing these factors can optimise the overall impact of the event.

Image Credit: Dakar Fashion Week (Reuters)


Model Agencies

Collaborating with esteemed modelling agencies can streamline the selection process. These agencies possess a curated roster of models, enabling event organisers to find candidates that fit specific criteria effortlessly. Moreover, working with agencies ensures a level of professionalism and reliability since models are often trained and prepared for various fashion events. Additionally, these agencies typically handle logistical details such as contracts, ensuring the process remains efficient and compliant with industry standards.

Open Casting Calls

Organising an open casting event offers the potential to discover unconventional talent. This approach facilitates direct interactions with potential candidates, providing insights into their personalities and how they may align with the show's ethos. While it requires more effort in terms of organisation and screening, the rewards can be significant, especially when the event aims to challenge traditional fashion norms or introduce fresh perspectives. Such calls can diversify the pool of models and bring unexpected dynamism to the runway.

Digital Platforms

Leveraging online platforms designed for modelling opportunities offers a modern approach to talent acquisition. These platforms often have advanced filters and search criteria, making searching for the perfect model more efficient. Beyond specialised websites, social media platforms, especially Instagram, have emerged as significant scouting arenas. Aspiring models frequently upload professional photographs, videos, and other content, allowing scouts and designers to gauge their potential. Given the global reach of these platforms, they offer access to a broader, more diverse talent pool, breaking geographical constraints.


Once the preliminary selection of potential models is completed, the audition phase becomes pivotal. During this stage, several vital factors demand attention:

Catwalk Skills

It is essential to assess the model's proficiency on the runway. This includes evaluating their walk, ensuring they maintain an upright posture, and gauging the level of confidence they exude. The manner in which a model carries themselves can significantly influence the audience's perception of the showcased attire.

Fit with the Collection

It's imperative to ascertain the synergy between the model and the clothing pieces they might be showcasing. Even if a model possesses outstanding catwalk skills, there should be a harmonious alignment with the specific themes, colours, and designs of the collection. This alignment ensures that the model complements the attire, enhancing the overall presentation.


A commendable model should exhibit flexibility in their approach. They must be receptive to feedback, making necessary adjustments to their walk, posture, or expressions. This ability to adapt on the spot not only demonstrates professionalism but also ensures that the designer's vision is accurately and effectively portrayed during the show.

Image Credit: New York Amsterdam News


For fashion shows operating with a limited budget, it is still feasible to secure dedicated and promising models without exhausting the budget. Here are some strategies:

Student or Amateur Models

There's an abundant pool of up-and-coming models seeking avenues to garner experience and refine their skills. By collaborating with these aspirants, organisers can offer a platform for them to enrich their portfolios. In many instances, these budding talents might be amenable to work at reduced fees, or they might consider compensation in the form of professional photographs from the event, which they can use for future opportunities.


Partnering with emerging models can be mutually beneficial. These models, in the nascent stages of their careers, often value exposure as much as financial remuneration. Thus, if a show is anticipated to draw media coverage or influential industry figures, it can be an enticing proposition for models. The association then becomes a reciprocal one – the show gets its models, and the models gain a platform and visibility.

Local Modeling Schools and Institutions

Engaging with local modelling academies or training institutes can be a pragmatic approach. These institutions often have students eager for real-world experience. By establishing a rapport with such schools, organisers can tap into a reservoir of fresh faces keen to demonstrate their skills professionally.


Ensuring that legal facets are addressed meticulously is paramount when collaborating with models for a fashion show. Here are some salient points to consider:


It's fundamental to have a written agreement in place with every model. This document should unequivocally outline the terms of payment, the duration of work, obligations of both parties, rights to photographs, and any stipulations regarding post-show promotions or advertisements. Additionally, it would be prudent to address contingencies such as cancellations, delays, or unforeseen circumstances that might affect the show or the model's participation.

Release Forms

If the fashion event will be documented through photographs, videos, or any other medium intended for commercial or promotional usage, models should sign a release form. This document grants permission to the organisers or their designated agents to use the captured content for specified purposes. It's crucial that models understand the extent to which their images or performances can be used and in what contexts.

Liability Waivers

Although safety should always be a priority, it's wise to have models sign a liability waiver, particularly if there are any elements of the show that might pose risks (e.g., elaborate stage setups and challenging wardrobe elements). This document would essentially protect the organisers from legal claims should any accidental injury occur.

Confidentiality Agreements

In certain high-profile events or debut collections, there might be elements that organisers wish to keep under wraps until the official unveiling. In such cases, it would be beneficial to have models sign confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements, ensuring that sensitive information is not prematurely disclosed.

Image Credit: Emmy Kasbit (Style Rave)


Lastly, fostering a healthy relationship with models is paramount. A model who feels valued and understood will invariably bring more passion and energy to the runway. Regular communication, ensuring their comfort, and addressing any concerns they might have all contribute to a more harmonious and productive environment.

Ultimately, hiring models for an African fashion show, while undoubtedly a meticulous endeavour, is also an art in itself. It's a dance between the aesthetic essence of the collection and the living, breathing beings that will present it. With careful planning, due diligence, and intuition, one can assemble a lineup of models that will elevate the fashion show, creating a memorable spectacle for all in attendance.


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