Men need to see some “real life” inspiration, which is why we recently launched a nationwide search to find a new face for menswear brand Jacamo and an everyday guy to star in its autumn 17 campaign.
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Our business is based on a desire to make fashion accessible and relevant to people the fashion industry has perhaps alienated – often those with larger, more “challenging” body shapes. Realistically, there are not that many people who are super skinny or ripped, and we want to show it is OK to enjoy fashion and have fun with it, regardless of size.
Before we started the process, we commissioned some research, which revealed the rather scary statistic that one in five men admit taking slimming pills or embarking on crash diets as a result of pressure from “perfect-looking” models in the media. We thought it was time to offer something different, and Real Man Runway was born.
We weren’t sure what the reception would be like, but men of all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life and the length and breadth of the UK applied. We ended up with more than 450 entrants, which we then whittled down to 20. Finalists were invited down to London to be put through their paces by our judging panel, which included Jacamo brand ambassador Freddie Flintoff, Donna Green from Models 1 and GQ stylist Carlotta Constant.
Guys don’t often don’t get together and discuss fashion and what they’re wearing
One of the most important things I learned this process is the importance of fit. It’s something we focus on a lot, but it can’t be underestimated – it’s not just about waist size, but also about thighs, or the chest in relation to waist. Quite a few of our finalists are big, well-built sportsmen – we had a world class kung fu champion and a former basketball player, who struggled to get clothes to fit despite being perfectly honed.
Comfort is also really crucial. There were countless stories from guys who described wearing a blazer or a fitted shirt, and being conscious it was going to rip.
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We saw real diversity in regards to attitude to fashion, too. There was a lot of humour around it, but there were also some really touching stories. One of our finalists – a 6 ft 8 inch guy who had lost 13 stone – was really stepping out of his comfort zone by letting us take photos of his body. Another guy, a horticulturalist who goes under the moniker of Mr Plant Geek, said that what he wears really relates to what he’s actually doing. I think that’s an attitude a lot of guys share.
We had a real mix of people who either entered themselves and others who were entered by their wives, girlfriends or friends. Some wanted to have a go at modelling but weren’t a conventional size, while for others it was about stepping out of their comfort zone. Some were big believers in diversity and getting different looks into the spotlight. Our group of finalists covered all sorts of different ethnicities, heights, sizes and backgrounds, and they had varying levels of confidence.
We’re looking for someone who is aspirational and will help us to sell clothes
The process has been good for us – because we have found a great role model for the brand – but it was good for the guys, too. They have met new people and talked about fashion: guys don’t often don’t get together and discuss fashion and what they’re wearing in this way.
We’re not looking for coathangers. We’re looking for someone who is aspirational and will help us to sell clothes. We decided on Andy Caine, a 32-year-old civil engineering site manager from Leeds. He was born and raised on a farm and is also the owner of a milkshake shop, so this is completely different to his normal life.
There were some great personalities and we’ll probably call upon some of the other finalists for other upcoming projects. It’s an area we’ll continue to champion and promote.
Angela Spindler is chief executive of N Brown Group, which owns Jacamo