Camilla Arthur: I coined the phrase ‘street casting’ in the nineties and now I’m using it with over-50s

Camilla Arthur has been in the fashion world since the eighties and coined the phrase ‘street casting’ in the early nineties. She is known worldwide for her exclusive database of talent found on the streets, in coffee shops, clubs and music festivals. I went to chat to her about her new agency ‘street casting’ men and women in their fifties.

With her flowing red hair and skull rings she is still as rock and roll as she was when she worked as a model booker at Models One back in 1982. She went on to start an agency representing photographers within the fashion industry and then started casting in the nineties. She also starred in the fly on the wall television series Paddington Green.

She has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry including Peter Lindbergh, Vogue, Selfridges, Nokia and Levis and her work has appeared in Vogue, VS, Port Magazine & Another Man, ID, Flaunt, Harper’s Bazaar, Wig, Arena, Elle, French Playboy, Harpers & Queen.

So hip in fact that Kate Moss lived with Camilla and her husband, the photographer Mark Lebon, at the very start of her career.

When did you start your new agency?

“I started my casting career in the nineties when it was very different to today. It was very staid and my competitors Nina Gold and Jina Jay were more film based.

“In 2000 I decided to leave London and move to Los Angeles where I worked as a club DJ but soon realized that I would be better as a radio DJ so my listeners couldn’t see how old I was.

“I then went back to casting while in LA but have recently returned after ten years reforming the agency here. I have had to start again from scratch in my fifties.

“I worked and worked and put everything into the jobs and then things started to fall into place.

“Fashion is so notoriously ageist it is lucky that they cast older models now.”

What does casting involve?

“My job as a casting director is to provide the cast in a commercial, the models in a photo, or even the crowd in a party scene in a movie or music video.

“The job takes on slightly different forms depending on the type of job we are casting for however. For example if we’re casting for a commercial, the first thing that happens is I am given a script and a brief. For a photo shoot I get a brief and perhaps a mood board. So then we discuss the best way of finding whatever is required… and off we go!”

What is the difference in street casting 50 year olds to 20 year olds?

“It all depends on the brief. What is different is that the people I spot in the street generally have other jobs but if they are interested I store their information. I call them Gen X which sounds nicer than really ancient. If they have a good look, a good personality and rock a good style I want them on my books. “

What sort of briefs do you get?

“It used to be just incontinence pads and stuff like that but now with older models being used in editorial, barriers have broken down and it is not all over.

“For example Rebecca who works for me has just started a modeling career at fifty. She got a couple of commercial jobs, which we thought were fluke, but then she got another one shot by the top photographer Mel Bles and has appeared in twelve pages of Pop.”

Which brands use over fifty models?

“Advertising is now using an older cast. M&S are bringing in all ages to model their clothes and Boots use older models to sell skin care for older skin.

“If you look in Love and Pop the rules are not in place like they used to be and it looks great having photographs of beautiful statuesque older women.

“People tend to stoop when they get older but I think lines look fantastic if they are in the right place.

“As Coco Chanel is credited with saying ‘Nature gives you the face you have at 20. Life shapes the face you have at 30, but at 50 you get the face you deserve.’”

Camilla’s top three tips for starting a business in your fifties.

  1. Be prepared to work really hard and you will get there.
  2. Embrace youth, it’s not your competitor. After all you are never going to be young again but you do have years of experience on your side. The far-sighted youngster will see the importance of talking to us just as I understand the importance of listening to them.
  3. Don’t think about your age it’s irrelevant. Just do what you want. Although Camilla does add ‘Maybe not in a short skirt with your bosoms out as it doesn’t look particularly good!’