Lana Tomczak founded VNY Models in 2001 and has developed the company into one of the most respected agencies in the fashion industry, representing names like Sean O’pry, Wouter Peelen, and Finnlay Davis. As the city prepares for its third season of New York Fashion Week Men, we sit with the power agent to chat about the changes within the industry and preparing her boys for castings.

You’re a supermom, super-agent, what does a typical work day look like for you?

I am a morning person. I wake up early and will start checking emails. At that time, a lot of it is from Europe because of the time difference. Then I will prepare my kids for school, they are six and eight years and we’re out the door by 8am.

You started VNY in 2001. How have you seen the industry change since that time, especially the ways models are booked?

The look of the models has changed as well as the rates, which fluctuates. For me, I have always liked classically beautiful models. Also, social media now plays a big part in booking models; how many followers they have matter and can increase their chances of getting booked. Because everything is now digital, the process of booking models has also changed. Sometimes a model will ask how they booked a job because they didn’t attend a casting and it is because we sent out digital images and videos to the casting directors or editors. Personality is very important.

VNY is one of the most respected agencies in New York. What sets you apart from the others?

We are a boutique agency, probably the only in New York and we maintain a very small and tight board. Because of that, we are like a family and are close to all of our models. We know if one of them has a tummy ache.

 Lana Winters Tomczak_VNY_BONNE New York_BONNE NY_www.bonnenewyork.com

How do you scout talent and how do you know who will be successful?
I will do Skype interviews because I want to see their personality. We scout everywhere; in restaurants, Instagram, airports, and mother agencies.
Let’s talk about NYFW Men. We now have a dedicated show season like our European counterparts. What are your thoughts on this?
It’s great. It’s great for the menswear designers because the focus is on them and great for the models because they get a bit more exposure. Also, now there is some budget involved.
How do you prepare your models for fashion week?
The guys are easier than the girls because they don’t have to learn to walk in heels. We have them come in so we can check out their walks and explain to them how important personality is and taking care of themselves.
How do you ensure that your guys get booked for the shows?
For castings, I will only send the guys I think are right for a show. So instead of sending thirty models, I will only send ten. It’s quality over quantity.
What is the office environment like, is it crazy hours for everyone?
It changes but not overly crazy. There are some moments when it can get very busy, but not all the time.
How do you keep up the confidence of the models during that time? It’s such a high stress and emotional roller-coaster?
Fashion week is a very busy time in the industry and there’s a lot going on, like photo shoots. We try to keep the models busy during that time, so if they do not get a show, we try to get them booked for a good editorial shoot or something. That way, they’re not focused on the shows they’re not doing.
One thing I have noticed with the VNY models is how incredibly professional they all are. Is this part of their development process where you instill that quality in them?
Yes, they have to be professional at all times and to everyone they work with, whether it is the photographer, stylist, or assistant.

Lana Winters Tomczak_VNY_BONNE New York_BONNE NY_www.bonnenewyork.comHow do you decide which publications and jobs you allow your models to work with? Btw thanks for working with us from our very early days!

Of course! We look at the publication, who the photographer is, and the stylist or editor. If they have a good portfolio and reputation, we will work with them. Also where they model is in his career. There are also people who we do not work with, regardless of which publication or client they work with because of previous experiences or reputation.

You have a women’s board too! Is it more difficult to manage the career of a female model? In what ways?

It is more difficult to manage women because things change so quickly, like what look is in. Exclusives don’t mean anything anymore and a model who is an exclusive for a brand for one season may not even be booked the next. You have to be careful with the jobs you accept and how the model is marketed.

What is the secret to longevity in a models career?

Proper management and a classic look will always work because it is timeless.

Where do you see the industry headed, what can we expect?

The industry is very unpredictable and is becoming seasonless, but models are becoming increasingly replaceable. We have to try to change that.

Advise for aspiring models?

It is important to check industry requirements before investing money. Being beautiful doesn’t always mean that you can model. There are height and body requirements; proportions are important. Also, do not spend money on pictures, they do not have to be professional. Send the pictures to agencies and if they think they can work with you, they will contact you and go from there.