Fashion: Model ambition in Montpelier
Clare Wilson was a top model with Models 1 in the 90s. She founded model agency Gingersnap in Bristol 10 years ago and is scouting for new models
She talks about her days within the whirlwind of 90s modelling, telling tales with laughs and dramatic pauses of modelling with Terri Seymour and Tess Daly, Davina McCall on reception at her modelling agency; up and coming talent bubbling away everywhere you looked.
“There was so much going on, the music and fashion scene was amazing, loads of clubbing and loads of money,” Clare says.
“I had a brilliant time. I took three weeks off from university for a modelling job in Arizona to do the Grattan catalogue. There was a blonde model who didn’t turn up at the airport, so they had to fly a model out from LA. It ended up being Cameron Diaz, working as a model. A wild girl! She had the script for the film Little Women, and had just done The Mask. Somewhere there’s a catalogue with me and her in.”
Now at the helm of Montpelier-based Gingersnap, Clare started her path into modelling when she was discovered aged 16 in Taunton.
She went on to enjoy a thoroughly successful modelling career.
“I used to do everything,” she remembers. “I went to Australia for about a year and with a model agency there. It really just took off. I did Vogue, Elle and Cosmopolitan. Then I did well in London.”
Clare found herself both inhabiting and creating the world seen in the media, on billboards and catwalks. “I look back on it as a training ground. When you are in it, you don’t necessarily appreciate it at the time. It’s very busy and quite solitary travelling abroad. To Paris, Milan.”
Towards the end of the 90s, Clare and her husband Damion were spending a weekend away in Bristol, having some respite from fast-paced London, when she had what she calls her “Avon Gorge Moment”, finding herself sat on the terrace overlooking the Suspension Bridge, completely relaxed. They decided to move to the city and went on to have a family.
Clare continued to model occasionally, but her focus had changed and she got a part-time job as an estate agent.
“I needed a Saturday job, I didn’t even know how an office worked. I worked for Andrews and loved it, going out in my car and showing people houses. I still love property today.
“I knew I had to do something though, to start something before my youngest went to school. So I took on about six model friends, called it an agency and got on the phone.”
Gingersnap has now grown enormously, from humble beginnings in Clare’s front room to offices on Colston Street and now on Station Road in Montpelier, counting brands such as Toast, Superdry and Dyson as clients. The agency also owns White Space Studios in Kingsdown, which can be rented out or Gingersnap can produce shoots for clients.
What does Clare look for in a model? “We represent people from babies up to classic models. A massive part of it is personality, someone that is up for anything and fine with an element of surprise. Literally, it’s ‘can you do this casting tomorrow?’ It’s hard to find those just willing to go with it.
“We are a big agency now, the biggest in the South West and yes, I am proud of what we do. I also have amazing staff who are loyal and really good at what they do. They help make it what it is.”
Clare is thriving being sat in a different seat, behind the camera’s lens. She knows the business of fashion and the way she likes her business to work, and she’s passionate about the people involved in every step.
“In Bristol, people are very relaxed and friendly. It’s easy to forge relations and it’s just so diverse and exciting. The 90s were wonderful, but I’m enjoying my time now.”
Gingersnap are on the search for their next top model
Aged 14 to 35, height 170cm / 5ft 7in – 182cm / 6ft 0in
Aged 14 to 35, height: 177 cm / 5ft 10in – 190 cm / 6ft 3in
Email one head shot and one profile picture of yourself with no make up on to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘Bristol24/7 model scout’. Pictures should be no bigger than 1MB. You must include a phone number in your email.
The winning male and female will get a year contract with Gingersnap.