Founder Gabriel Ruas Santos-Rocha explained in an email that “the modeling industry is undergoing massive changes” and that he felt the time was right to execute his vision for a new firm. “I want my models to be nurtured and treated fairly and that their talents are utilized as part of their career.”
As for the exodus from Trump Models, he said, “I did not start an agency with the intent of taking someone out of business. Outside of that I have no comments.”
Defections from Trump Models began last year as Trump’s political rhetoric became ever more heated. About six months ago, another one of the agency’s top bookers, Patty Sicular, left. She had worked with the models in the agency’s “legends” division — older, high-profile women with established reputations in the industry — and several of them joined her at the new company she founded, Iconic Focus. They include former Halston model Karen Bjornson and Beverly Johnson, who in 1974 was the first African American model to appear on the cover of American Vogue. Sicular declined to comment on her departure.
Just before the November election, veteran model Maggie Rizer announced her departure from the agency in an Instagram post, directly linking her exit to concerns about Trump’s politics.
“As a woman, a mother, an American and a human being,” she wrote, “I cannot wake up Wednesday morning being the least bit related to the Trump brand.”
Trump Models was created in 1999. From the beginning, it was often overshadowed by the real estate mogul’s tabloid-fueled, larger-than-life image, noted James Scully, a veteran runway casting director. At one point, the company simply called itself T Models.
Trump Models never launched a new model into stardom, industry observers say. But its legends division — which once included Jerry Hall, Veronica Webb and Karen Alexander — was well respected, said longtime stylist Freddie Leiba, who often worked with Sicular.
Early this year, as designers turned their runway shows into political protests, shoppers boycotted the Ivanka Trump brand, and Seventh Avenue debated whether it would work with the new first lady, some in the fashion industry also discussed a snubbing of Trump Models.
Yet Trump Models still was able to boast that several models on its roster walked in high-profile runway shows during New York Fashion Week, according to its website and social media accounts, including the fall 2017 collections of Marc Jacobs and Thom Browne. (Amelia Rami, who was in Jacobs’ show and appears on the Trump Models website, was actually booked through her European agency, MP Management, according to a booker there.)
Exactly how many models have left Trump Models, and how many remain, is unclear. Santos-Rocha would not specify how many he had taken with him. But industry insiders say the hemorrhaging is substantial. While the Trump Models website remains active, a number of the models still listed on it are known to have jumped ship.
On Monday morning, the main telephone numbers for Trump Models were not accepting calls.