Madeleine Østile has a lot to say when it comes to the trajectory of the fashion industry. The young stylist and casting director has become something of an industry wünderkind, specifically in London, where she and friend Adwoa Aboah were first tapped to cast a story for Katie Grand in LOVE by Mert & Marcus. Since then, the duo known as AAMO Casting have cast shows and campaigns for cool British newcomers like Charles Jeffrey and Ryan Lo, as well as giants like Burberry and Marni, all the while championing quirky, often street cast, up and coming new faces (check out @kinoshitmanami and @mvxxx).
Leading the charge for a modelling industry that looks more diverse (in every sense of the word), Madeleine runs AAMO with vision and a determination to make the fashion industry a better place. In between pilates classes, client meetings, and prepping for a work trip, Madeleine caught up with Couturesque over e-mail to discuss her approach to casting, as well as the industry's changing perspective on diversity and model rights.
Hey Madeleine, how are you and what are you working on currently?
I'm just in the process of working on a couple big commercial jobs - thankfully at the moment it's a quiet time. In the best possible way - I can catch up with agents at lunch and learn about developments on their board, I can go to pilates and yoga everyday!! I go to LA on Saturday so I'm really trying to physically prepare myself this week so I feel a bit more 'LA' when I get there 😉
What does AAMO look for in models or potential models? How do you balance your vision and look with the criteria of the client?
It always varies from job to job and client to client, but obviously people come to me for a point of difference. I also believe that I have a responsibility to push diversity [and] newness; I try and stay away from the 'usual suspects' - popular models earning lots of money as it is! I love putting forward a brand new streetcast [and] I always champion the underdog.
How do you consider diversity in your casting process? Is this something that you ever have to stick your neck out for and how do you handle that?
It really varies - I think [when] we have a big job and it's an all Caucasian lineup, I flag it to the client. Even if it's a commercial money job and it's their call, it's important to me to make my voice heard and let them know I think it's not only important, but relevant and more in keeping with the times to ensure that casting is diverse and fresh. I might not always win, but I try. At the end of the day it's their money. Thankfully there has been a lot of progression here though, and even some old fashioned clients are realising that people are not just interested in commercial[ly] pretty/handsome Caucasian models.
The F/W18 catwalk season was the most “diverse” in recorded history; why do you think that designers, brands, and publications are finally taking diversity on board?
Because it's about time they did!
Do you think that the modelling industry still struggles with tokenizing and fetishizing difference? How do you draw that line when you are casting?
I think it's important to have a balance, and it's hard because it's really so subjective but I would rather have one black boy on a job requiring 4 male models, than none. I think casting used to have more tokenism - in terms of clients feeling that by including 'one black character' they kind of had diversity covered off. Now we all [know] that's not true.
Likewise, since #metoo and #myjobshouldnotincludeabuse, the treatment of models has been a popular topic. What role should casting agents play in making the industry safer and what are some ways that you personally try to make those who you work with feel safe and accepted?
We should all endeavour to be kind and respectful to all those we work with in every job, at every level, in every part of our lives. Even when we take public transport, to cab drivers, to waiters, to our parents. We must be kind and respectful to everyone and I think honesty and kindness is something that extends to my role as a casting director, but my role within society as a whole.
What ultimate impact would you like to have on the fashion/modelling world?
Make it a better place and make people happier and encourage others that you don't have to be mean and shout to do this job. Kill them with kindness!
Follow @aamo_casting and @maddeostile on Instagram.