Elite World Group CEO on Fashion Weeks, Diversity, Model Avatars – WWD
MILAN — Elite World Group has been in the spotlight since the divorce between owner Silvio Scaglia and Julia Haart of ‘My Unorthodox Life’ became public knowledge and made headlines. But chief executive Paolo Barbieri wants to divert attention from the juicy personal drama and get back to the agency’s business, including its successful run through fall fashion weeks.
“It’s been a solid season and fashion weeks have gone extremely well for our talent and our agencies,” Barbieri told WWD. “We’ve had over 350 models on the catwalks around the world, including over 120 at the Milan shows alone and 100 in Paris. We’ve seen a great comeback season for Women New York,” the agency under the aegis of ‘Elite World Group. “The business emerges from the pandemic.”
Vittoria Ceretti, Mariacarla Boscono, Kendall Jenner, Majesty Amare, Adut Akech, Isabeli Fontana, Pleun Keijers and Loli Bahia are just some of the models represented by Elite World Group agencies.
He was thrilled to see that casting a diverse group of models became a must on every level. “We’ve seen incredible demand for ethnic diversity and we’re thrilled to see stars like Yumi Nu having a stellar season, walking for Altuzarra and appearing on the cover of Vogue Japan as the premier Asian curve model. América González and Caren Jepkemei, from Venezuela and Kenya respectively, were two of the best walkers of the season, on more than 30 tracks each.
Barbieri cited Anyier Anei, from Sudan, who made his exclusive debut with Versace and Chu Wong, “one of our most prolific appearances”, walking Loewe, Balmain, Isabel Marant, Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, among others . Avanti Nagrath, originally from India, got her start opening Versace and walking for Bottega Veneta. Mamuor Majeng from South Sudan, who signed with Elite Worldwide, became the season’s top male model, with 25 shows.
Inclusive sizing, however, is in most cases still superficial and urged to be addressed, Barbieri admitted this remains “a technical issue for many brands” due to the cost of prototypes and samples that need to be created specifically, which is expensive.
Under the umbrella of the Elite World Group, which has 4,000 talents under contract, are the following agencies: in Milan, Elite Milano and Women Management Milano; in Paris, Elite Paris, Women Management Paris and PGM Fashion and Brands; At New York, The Society Management, Women Management NY and EWG Management; in Los Angeles, Women Management LA and EWG Management. In Europe, besides Elite Milano, there are Elite agencies in London, Madrid, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Prague and Bratislava. In Paris and New York, there are also the Supreme and Women 360 agencies.
The minimum age limit set for models is 16 years old.
The group has many Russian and Ukrainian models and, when asked about the measures taken in the aftermath of the war, Barbieri said the agency supports them individually on a personal level, “given the strong relationships that develop with the agents”. and other key team members and by donating to specific charities.
Barbieri himself has developed a strong relationship with the Elite World Group over the years, first joining in 2013. As noted, when Haart was fired in February, he again assumed the role of CEO, qu he passed on to Haart in 2019 to become vice president. Haart transitioned from being CEO to being creative director of Elite.
During his career, Barbieri has held senior positions at Banca Akros, Pioneer Alternative Investments, MondoBiotech AG and Pacific Capital.
He was also a director of several fashion companies, including La Perla and the luxury shoe brand Giuseppe Zanotti.
Its aim is to return Elite World Group to profitability by the end of the year, after the bottom line was impacted by alleged “crazy personal spending by Haart in the millions”.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization fell from $6 million in 2018 to a loss of $6.1 million in 2019, the first year of Haart’s tenure as CEO and before the pandemic crisis; a loss of $20.5 million in 2020 and a loss of $10.4 million in 2021.
Barbieri expects revenue to total $200 million in 2022, “slightly more than before the pandemic,” he said.
A Delaware judge is expected to make a final ruling on Elite World Group’s ownership around April 20, and Barbieri expressed confidence in the outcome.
He recounted that on March 25, the Delaware State Court of Chancery issued a “stay quo order” affirming that Scaglia is the sole director of Freedom Holding Inc., owner of the international modeling agency and that Haart “does not hold a position at either Freedom or EWG.
Scaglia, which had donated some shares to Haart, continues to own more than 99% of the voting shares, and Haart less than 0.01%, Barbieri said. This contradicts a false claim made by Haart in a variety of public documents and media reports, he argued.
Haart was also expected to build a digital business during his tenure. However, digital revenue was zero in 2019, increased to $1.6 million in 2020 against a budget of $17.9 million, and $8.8 million in 2021 against a budget of $16.5 million. dollars, never breaking even, despite an exceptionally positive trend in digital marketing spending fueled by the pandemic crisis, he said. The digital division only accounted for 5% of the group’s revenue in 2021.
“Of course, I believe in digital, but it can’t kill our core business, and it has to be targeted, celebrity-focused, and we can tell you what talent fits your brand,” Barbieri said. “We rebrand with a mission, using our talents and adjoining sectors, not just devouring data.”
He is also “convinced of the power of the metaverse, the development of hyper-realistic 3D avatars. If I bring the models and talents of this world, we will always have an advantage. New trends are always risky, but to pretend they don’t exist is to die. We can be leaders if we use our competitive advantage.
Additionally, the E1972 fashion branding initiative launched by Haart was halted, producing no results, Barbieri claimed, while incurring costs of around $5 million a year.
The group is also revisiting the Elite Model Look contest, a key part of brand awareness, he said. The agency receives 40,000 entries for the competition each year.
“It needs to be revitalized and revolutionized, adding new brilliance to it,” he said. “We’re still thinking about the future of the contest, but I’m thinking more in terms of a container of creativity, dealing with aspiring stylists and photographers, educating about mental health, wellness, healthy eating habits.”
While nominations and casting will continue to be digital, if the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t worsen, the finale is expected to be IRL later this year.