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Nigel Barker is really, really handsome. We thought we knew that from watching him on The Face and 17 cycles of America's Next Top Model. But then we actually sat down with Barker to talk about his recent partnership with Joyus, the SF-based video-shopping platform. Suddenly, the years of Tyra Banks smizing through her introduction of the "sexy Nigel Barker" made sense. He's dashing. And charming. And firmly committed to theory that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. (Swoon.)
That commitment to inner beauty brought Barker to San Francisco for a Joyus contest that whisked one lucky fan to the company's Mission-based headquarters for a makeover and a photo shoot with Nigel. We chatted with Barker and Joyus CEO Sukinder Singh Cassidy about how the collaboration developed, how the fashion industry is evolving, and how The Face will change in Season 2.
Nigel, San Francisco is known for its incredible light. Are there any particular areas in the city where you like to shoot?
Nigel Barker: "I like shooting in the streets. For me, it's never really been about the place. And I don't mean San Francisco; I shoot all over the world. The most exotic and extraordinary locations. It's always been about people. That's really what drives me as a portrait photographer. It's the reaction and the chemistry I have with the individual that brings that portrait to life. The location is of secondary importance to me."
How did the Joyus collaboration happen?
Sukhinder Singh-Cassidy: "Nigel and I first met in New York in the spring, and we were talking about ways to collaborate. I wanted to do something that would bring Nigel to our women in a way that was really authentic. I was thinking about the right way to bring Nigel in. I thought, "Imagine a woman who gets to experience real beauty with him." So that's the concept we came to together. We had thousands of entrants. A woman from Canada won. She's just been popped out of her life for a day. She was a production manager at a lightbulb factory in Corningwall, Onatario. And she's like, "I really can't believe this happened to me." For us, it just feels like the right way to bring the brand to life. It is about making women feel beautiful and understood and special. And I think if Nigel can be a part of that, to bring that experience to somebody, that's what I've always wanted the brand to stand for."
NB: "It's been a lot of fun. And for me, from a personal perspective, I like to partner with brands that mirror my same philosophy. Real beauty and honesty and authenticity are key to me. What I was talking about earlier: it's about the person, less about the location for me. I think Joyus understands the marketplace. They understand women and what they want to see… What you're getting on Joyus are real people who work in the business or industry experts who have become very popular because of their honesty."
Nigel, you spoke with Racked a few years ago about the importance of more diversity in the fashion industry, both ethnically and size-wise. Is that an area where you've seen progress?
NB: "Yes, I have. I think it's a work in progress still… Fashion is for everyone. Designers shouldn't make stuff only for people who are 5'10", size 2, and only look one way. The reality of fashion is that it's there to be sold and bought and worn. I love the fashion industry, and I dare a designer to invest in a collection enough that they can actually make it wearable for all women and send it down the runway on women of all shapes and sizes. Even if it's just the one-off piece; to prove that they're not just good at designing clothes for size 2, but that they're good at designing clothes for all shapes and sizes and colors. That would be a first."
One of the things we've seen over the last decade is that fashion has experienced a democratization. Bloggers have become more powerful. How do you see that impacting the future of fashion?
NB: "Bloggers have huge power. You see it now. At fashion week, sitting next to Anna Wintour, are bloggers. That's a huge change in shape of the fashion business. That's because they speak to people. They understand what the people want. I think bloggers have been a big part of ... making everything accessible and being honest. It's no longer the sort of hyper-speak of a fashion editor where they use language and terminology that no one can really understand. Bloggers are like, 'What does that mean?' It's a reality of breaking stuff down and just being real. 'This looks beautiful. It's gorgeous. And it's nice because it fits the body really well. I love that color on her. It's white. It's grey. It's blue.' It's not some sort of odd term. Bloggers have been really brilliant about stripping away all the unnecessary bits and injecting some personality, some truth to it."
SSC: "I believe in the democratization of fashion, obviously. My experience prior to Joyus as the CEO of Polyvore bore truth to the influencers and the rise of influencers through the visual web. What I saw with Polyvore was bloggers move to the visual web: Pinterest, Polyvore. I feel like Instagram, Twitter, Vine, are showing us another way that women can express. What do I see coming in shopping? We've moved from text to images, and I think we're going to move from images to rich media. It's interesting that you see a cohort of vloggers. Look at Geri Hirsch. Obviously, I love Geri. Look at Dulce Candy. You start to see all of these interesting women who are starting to use video plus their own blogging site. If I had a message for bloggers, it's the next frontier for you is to find ways to express yourself and bring your voice to life visually and even more intimately and personally, and I think a video is a great medium for that. Obviously, we bet on it every day at Joyus."
Speaking of rich media… Nigel, The Face will return in 2014 with Anne V and Lydia Hearst joining Naomi Campbell on the model panel. We'll leave Naomi out of this question. Who would win in a walk-off: Anne V or Lydia Hearst?
NB: "In a walk off? Wow. Both have got very different kinds of walks. That's the thing about The Face: You bring models together who have different talents. Both can walk, but Anne V is a Victoria's Secret style sort of walker. She's 5'11", curvaceous and has that whole sexy attitude going on, and Lydia is 5'6", but very striking and very editorial. For the right person, for the right client, she could be perfect. For example, if you're in Japan and you're Yohji Yamamoto, he likes a very sterile sort of walking, staring straight ahead, small steps. Nothing over the top because he wants his pieces to shine. Compare that to a Victoria's Secret show: The girls are bouncing down, smiling, even winking at people. It's the attitude of "I"ve got it honey." So one person's walk wouldn't win over another. That's my answer there. No one's going to win. Everyone has something to offer."
That was very diplomatic.
NB: "It's the truth. There's nothing diplomatic about it."
So what can viewers expect on the next season of The Face?
NB: "More crazy. More unbelievable contests… I can't tell you who they are, but I can tell you that the people who we've partnered with this season are even bigger and better than who we partnered with last season… And listen, you've got Naomi Campbell, Anne V, Lydia Hearst. All three extraordinary supermodels. Naomi's been working at this over 27 years in the business. Over 500 magazine covers. To have her, and then someone like Lydia Hearst; her whole way that she's approached the business is very different from someone like Naomi. And then Anne V has got another career trajectory, which is different again. There's no right way to do it; there's just different ways to do it. I think one of the reasons why The Face is so interesting for people is that it's about success. Regardless of whether you're interested in fashion on not, we're all interested in how to get to a successful position in life... It's a very exciting show, and I think it's the new shape of these sorts of competitions in reality shows."
Any potential for a Joyus partnership with The Face?
NB: "Season 3? Who knows? Why not?"
SSC: ""Why not? Exactly. We hope that Nigel's being here is the start of things to come.
So there you have it, folks. Nigel Barker won't take sides when it comes to battles between gorgeous women, and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy thinks you need to get on board with video. Oh, and if you want to see the adorable Joyus contest winner? Check out the video above.
· Joyus [Official Site]
· The Secret to a Successful Selfie, Unearthed by Nigel Barker [Racked]
· The Face [Oxygen]