NYFW SS24 CASTING: Xavier Walker talks about stilettos, tattoos, and why you shouldn’t wear baggy pants

Fashion & Style Money & Career

With fashion week approaching if you pay attention you can see models zipping around town on their way to runway show casting calls. For designers, and booking agents it can be grueling. Casting calls can average 3-4 hours, and in that time they may see over 100 models. They are a mix of signed and unsigned models. There are also varying degrees of awareness among models as to what casting agents are looking for.  On August 26th, a casting was held for two upcoming fashion week runway shows. An open call on social media for Designers Travis Hamilton of Negris Lebrum, and designer Dell Scott helped add to the large number of models that showed up for the casting call. The casting team consisted of; designer Dell Scott, stylist Darrell Belton, Cassie Aguila, model/runway coach Cyrene Renee, and casting Director Xavier Walker.

For three hours models came in six at a time to walk for the casting team. Each model confirmed their info and presented comp cards if they had them. The process isn’t long at all; the models walk up to the team and then walk back, and then they are done. Some models were asked to walk again. Their walk may have been a bit too fast, or slow,  After about three and a half hours all the models had been seen, and the casting was officially over.  The casting team had seen 106 models, a pile of comp cards, and notes. The next step will be to review all of that, and then make their choices. For a little more insight into the world of fashion week casting, we spoke to Jamaican-born model and casting director Xavier Walker.

Casting Director, Xavier Walker – photo credit: R. Anthony Morrison

POSH: Hi Xavier, tell us how you came to be involved in fashion.

XW: I was born in Jamaica. I know a lot of people like to say they are from Kingston. I grew up in Manchester, I’m a country boy. I got into modeling in high school. My English teacher told me to go to an audition in Kingston. I auditioned, and I got picked. Since I was in high school I didn’t do it that much.  I moved to New York in 2018, and I got signed with EMG Models in 2019, That’s when I started doing it professionally. From there I moved on to becoming a “booker”, and then becoming a casting director, and producer for a network called FOR US TV.

POSH:  When did you start working as a casting director?

XW:  I started doing casting a year, and a half ago when Travis asked me to help him out. I thought “Okay I like what I’m doing here.” I decided to work towards being a casting director.  He’s been helping me see not just the models’ perspective but the business side of the fashion industry.

POSH: What has your experience of being a casting director been like so far?

XW:  So far, as a casting agent I understand it’s not as easy as how the models think it is. You have some really stunning girls that can walk but they are super short. They may have a stunning face but they can’t walk.  Sometimes the designer doesn’t have their size. It’s a hit or a miss sometimes with casting. You want to get these girls in but you can’t because you’re not allowed to. We either can’t fit them or they’re too short.

POSH: What are some of the things aspiring models should do to increase their chances of being cast in runway shows?

XW: They should practice their walk. They should also get a good pair of four-inch stiletto heels. Wearing proper clothing is also important for casting. Wear skinny jeans and a tee shirt, no baggy pants. Wearing ripped jeans is okay if it’s skinny because we want to see your figure.  Wear light makeup, and less jewelry, less perfume.

POSH: You asked several of the girls about the number of tattoos they had.  Are tattoos an issue when it comes to casting?

XW: Tattoos are a problem for most designers.  If you’re wearing an evening dress, the audience is going to look at the tattoo more than the garment. So tattoos are a hit or a miss when it comes to fashion shows; it depends on the brand.

POSH: Are you seeing more Caribbeans in the fashion industry these days?

XW: Well I would say not just the Caribbean. I do see a lot more diversity in the fashion industry. I see petite, plus, size. Black, Latino, Caribbean, and Asian. I just love the mix of models that come in. There are so many models coming in, and the models have to go that much harder. That’s because they are competing with models from other countries.  It’s not just the regular New Yorker now, it’s very international so you have to come with your “A” game.

POSH: Not everyone is suited for the runway. Is there life beyond runway modeling?

XW: I tell models “Runway is not your life”.  Runway doesn’t pay that much money, to be honest with you. I always tell models, to know what their lane is, and try to push for success there. So if you know you’re 5’5″ and you see a fashion casting for girls who are 5’11” then that’s not for you. What is going to make you money is commercial, not the runway.