Bring Your Questions for the President of Ford Models

In honor of New York Fashion Week, which begins today, our new Q&A subject is John Caplan, the president of Ford Models. In the comments section below, feel free to ask him anything you like, except for personal phone numbers. (See here, here, and here for earlier reader-generated Q&A’s.)

Ford is one of the largest modeling agencies in the world, and the only one that includes divisions for men, women, children, plus sizes, fit models, runway, and parts models. Its supermodels include Christie Brinkley, Rachel Hunter, and Elaine Irwin.

Caplan joined Ford in 2002, since which time the company has seen enormous growth, accomplished in part through the development of Ford Media, an online video service that produces Web videos on topics like fashion, beauty, and fitness. It is currently one of the top ten destinations on Youtube. Ford also uses the web to scout models, partnering with MySpace to offer a Supermodel of the World site which lets would-be models apply online for representation by the agency. The site receives more than 1,000 applications a day; so far since its launch, Ford has signed up 47 of the applicants.

Addendum: You can read the answers to these questions here.


My question:
If the following list was selection criteria for a runway model how would you rank them regardless of designer:
- facial features
- body shape
- poise
- hair
- skin quality
- intelligence

Doug Nelson

I run, the largest online community for working and aspiring retouchers. One of my hardest tasks is coming up with rights-cleared and model-released unretouched model images for our aspiring retouchers to learn and practice on. We also have contests, etc., where these would be very useful.

This might be useful for some of your new or aspiring models. They need retouching, we need models to retouch. Is there any way we can get together on this?

Freelance designer

As a freelance web designer/developer, I'm curious what role personal websites play in the careers of upcoming models and actors. Would you say such sites are necessary for an aspiring/budding model/actor? Do they make things easier for industry professionals such yourself, and how would you advise models asking you about the value of a personal site? And within the industry, are most of these sites created by established and networked agencies, or is there room for the occasional freelancer?

Thanks in advance!


Can a moderately fit, six-foot-tall economist with slightly above average looks and slightly above average body hair make it as a model? Just curious.


Concerning the image of models, I always notice there is a stark difference between what a model will aspire to(ex Kate Moss) and what a celebrity that relies heavily on their looks will aspire to(ex Jessica Alba). It seems as though the typical skinny model look is very frowned upon when someone heavily in the media begins to look this way, like the Olson twins or Nicole Richie. Why does this body difference exist when it appears as though the consumer prefers the look of a full bodied celebrity more?


Do you have any Asian American models?

I was just being curious cuz I barely see one on the runway.


has the recent surge in reality shows about modeling and the fashion industry(i.e. ANTM, project runway, the one about the Wilhelmina agency, even janice dickinson's show) affected the quality or quantity of your models or applicants?

i imagine it may have created an increase in the supply of girls who apply because they are exposed to an industry they might not otherwise have pursued.


This might be a silly question, but why don't runway models ever smile? Why do people who's job it is to look attractive make an effort on the runway to appear less so? It's not like it's rocket-science out there - look good and make the clothes look good, make people aspire to be you or have your clothing, and represent the brand. It's not like they're ring-card girls at a funeral - why so serious? Would featuring models who smile result in lower sales for the designers? Would models who smile not make them appear more attractive, thus making them more appealing as marketing tools? Is this just a case of the fashion industry taking themselves too seriously?

I've always wondered why models, despite their iconic status and obvious dedication to aesthetics, always try so hard to look as miserable as possible.

ils vont...

what is the most legit modeling reality show? The one with Petra seemed pretty right on.

don preston

We know that standards of beauty change. How has the supermodel aesthetic changed over the past two decades, since the "supermodel" was first invented?

How has the Internet and multimedia changed the modeling industry? Do models need to develop any markedly different looks or skills than they did before everything was digital and online?

I saw an article in the Times saying that fashion designers were upset because their designs appear in online photos right after they're shown, and are thus really easy to copy. Do you think these copies of designs are ethical? Is it good (in that more people can access/afford the latest fashions) or bad (designers don't get credit for their work) for the industry as a whole?


Can modeling agencies survive in the internet age without changing their business model? If your customers (magazines, photographers, directors, etc) can scroll through facebook or mySpace looking for models, why pay a middleman? Also, are there any economic barriers to models entering the field? Do they have to pay for head shots and the like first? What encourages them to shell out that money if they can just throw a digital picture up on the web?


Ford is clearly a leader in the modeling industry. In your opinion, how did your firm rise to the top (and stay there), despite the heavy competition and fast-paced industry trends?


What is the office Christmas party like?


Hi John:
Do you have any theories about the phases that the fashion world seems to go through regarding models that is based largely upon country of origin and perhaps some associated physical qualities? I know that some successful models will always be in demand regardless of their place of birth and corresponding looks, but there seem to be trends, such as the English models in the 1990's, Brazilians in the 2000's, the Dutch for a moment there, too, and then the women from the former Soviet satellite states and Russia. Do you think that the trends mirror societal interest, or are they purely the result of fashion industry preferences, and end up driving societal interest? Do some countries get 'disovered' as hotbeds of new talent? Or is it simply based on the qualities of newness and change that drive new seasons? Do these new models with some common feature (the doll-faced look right now, for instance, which I know has model representatives from many countries) serve to flesh out and define a budding fashion ethos? And why have there been so few new American girls modeling for large campaigns in the past years? Are we too sturdy? Do we play too much field hockey? :)



What percent of non-models in the modelling industry (management, etc.) used to be models themselves? A related question: what do models usually do when they retire?

Would you encourage your own daughter (or son) to become a model?

jonathan Kurtzman

I can understand why runway models are tall but why print models? Is it that the clothes for models are always made for height?


There is a branch in psychology that studies the appreciation of beauty. Researchers there have developed quantitative measures, such as length of nose relative to width of chin. My question is twofold: a) Does your agency systematically follow that research? b) Do you use such measurements to estimate an applicants potential in the market or do you rely on your feelings and experience?


Whose talent is more important, the model's or the photographer's? Obviously they both play their part, but if you had to choose between having an excellent photographer shoot a mediocre model or a mediocre photographer shoot an excellent model, which would you opt for and why?


Why aren't you helping middle age women have more positive and realistic role models?

Can't we skip the fantasty for the ready to wear shows and start creating things that are realistic for real women?


how do you avoid the appearance of a casting couch? Eileen Ford always made the models stay in her home which may have been a temptation for husband Jerry. Has that been a problem?