08 Jul 2020
“Kind of measured,. I’d say that I’m a routined person. I pray and I read to start the day. But there is also a lot of flexibility. Connecting with people, connecting with art. Putting my body and mind first. “A La” is French for “in the manner of,” so it’s really about a strong emphasis on what I love and being true to myself."
“It’s really just my happy color. It’s a color that pops, adds something to every situation or outfit. I had a natural gravitation towards it since five years ago, now it’s almost like a branding tool in the sense that people might think about me when they see orange.”
“Very, haha. Typically, I wear a lot of muted colors. But orange is the pop in my life. I like to think it’s my influence that he’s also starting to wear orange."
“I really would love to go to Amsterdam during Kingsday! I’ve been to Amsterdam once before, but I was only there for 8 hours because I was passing through from Paris. Amsterdam is great though, it really did something for me. I have a lot of Dutch friends, among whom Olaf Hussein and Hussein from Daily Paper.”
“Both cities are very creative, and a lot of people from Amsterdam come to New York. Brands like Olaf Hussein, Daily Paper, Patta, MENDO, those are internationally respected brands that reach far beyond the Dutch borders. The community is just amazing.”
“I was born in Brooklyn, but my family is from Haiti. Haitians are very resilient people. It was the first Black republic to gain independence in 1804. If you come across a Haitian, you’ll find someone who's very positive and resilient. People that have been through a lot historically, but are always able to persevere and appreciate the simple joys of life.”
“Exactly! I have lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I don’t really see myself anywhere else. I think I thrive off the madness. Everywhere else is too slow for me. New York brings that friction in your day-to-day. It’s a fast-paced environment, and there’s always a challenge.”
“Well, if you look at recent news, I think it’s kind of evident. I’m a strategist by trade, I went to business school and studied finance. Those are environments that have not been very open to black people. Through that path, I fell to consulting and strategy in different industries, and even the coolest brands in New York are not that diverse at senior levels. These industries have been closed off to other minds. And bringing in new perspectives, specifically from the black community, is needed.”
“Breaking the barrier of how you find these people. Devaluate formal education and look at interesting life paths. These are the people who should be getting the jobs. In America, people look at credentials made at high valued universities that are only available to the rich, while the majority of the consumers are not from that background. We should be breaking down the criteria. That’s how things will change. The pool of talent should be more colorful, in whatever way you want to interpret that.”
“Yes, that’s true. It goes from Africa to Asia, to Europe to Haiti. That’s the beauty of living in today’s world.”
“It comes down to having a good team. In the beginning, I was very involved with Port Tanger. My partner Bilal Fellah is really the driving force, and I pretty much came on board to formalize the idea that he had. I did my part to bring on some talented people, but the team now is so strong that I don’t need to be super involved. The balance is pretty smooth. At Daniel Arsham, I’m formally listed as the Managing Director for his editions practices. But I also oversee collaborations and future growth in China. The last year I’ve been mostly working on exploring and catering to the Chinese market.”
“It’s about telling stories. Many things lately have been so surface leveled. I think people are eager to dig a bit deeper. Extract something culturally interesting. That’s what we do with Daniel’s artworks, and with Port Tanger.”
“I’ve been in quarantine for over 12 weeks, so I’ve had the time to watch some movies. I recently saw that documentary about Miles Davis; Birth of the Cool (2019). I’m a big jazz fan, so it was an inspiring watch. The way he was able to evolve throughout his career and all the phases he’s been through was incredibly inspiring to see. He also really embraced the youth. Many jazz legends we know today were discovered by him. One part in particular that I liked about the movie was about his score for Ascenseur Pour L'échafaud (1958). He composed that score on the spot, reading off the emotion of the protagonist in the film, and translating that into music. I watched that right after I saw the documentary on Netflix. So if you have the chance, make it a double-feature.”
04 Jan 2021
“Yeah, honestly. When I was young my biggest dream was to make people feel and look beautiful. That’s what I always wanted. Growing up, I started to dress myself and realised clothing is something that I really like. So I started my clothing store. But at the end of the day, I thought clothing is not going to help people, they will just feel beautiful for a short period of time. They’re not going to be happy forever. So, based on my catwalk coaching and scouting skills, I decided to create a modeling agency. Now, I can give people a chance and help them achieve careers in fashion."
“I think 80 or 90 in total. Some of the models I find are really young, age 10 to 11. I have some that I discovered at 12 and now they are 18. I’ve been with them at birthdays, we’ve celebrated together, we’ve cried together, we’ve seen big shows together. I’m there for everything because I have been running the two companies by myself, no assistants, nothing. It’s quite intense."
“Honestly, really just the fact that I can make someone happy. I can make people feel worth it. I like when someone can look at themselves and say ‘I am somebody’. When you see it in someone’s eyes, that feeling is priceless. I will always aim for that, no matter what, that’s the goal."
“I know the faces that some clients want. That’s part of doing the job very well. But, I select the models that I have based on feeling. My heart has to say, ‘yes’. For me, it doesn’t matter if they’re handicapped, if they're trans, I don’t care what they look like. I have to feel something special. If they make me really emotional and have a big story, I know which clients and brands they can get. That's how I start to pick the models, when I speak to them and get a feeling, that’s when I know I can give them a career. If I don’t feel like I can be myself with them, if I get a bad vibe. I don’t pick them."
Ismael with Ilja van Vuuren.
30 years of ELLE.
“Yeah, if I can be myself around someone, or they can make me really happy, or their stories make me cry, I just know they’ll be a good model. That’s also why the name of the company is Known. I just know when I have someone in front of me. It’s not a coincidence. Every season I always deliver strong faces because I believe in them and I don’t give up. My models are special. I love my job, I love everyone I represent, and I think they know it."
“There are so many I could tell, we could talk all day. A nice story from last season is about this model I have, Delta. When he came to the agency for the first time, I saw him and said, ‘You're beautiful but you need to work on your body. You really need to listen and focus. I want you to put work in.’ Three times he came to the agency and I said, ‘No, come back when you’re ready. You didn’t practice enough.’ Then he called me and said, ‘I got scouted and they really want to work with me.’ I said, ‘Go ahead sign with them. That’s fine. You know what you’re going to get with me.’ He said, ‘Yes, that's why I want to work with you and I’m convinced that you’re the only one who can give me the career that I want.’ The last time he came in, he really worked on his body, he was in good shape, and he showed me that he learned. So I signed him. Then I brought him to Milan for fashion week. All the models I brought did well, except him. But I didn’t give up, I knew he was a star. So, I decided to go to the castings with him. Before each casting, I practiced the walk with him, talked to him, and told him that I believed in him. We went in and the client loved him and booked him. He did the last show in Milan. Then, the models and I went to Paris. I worked and practiced more with Delta. Built up his confidence and this time he got everything. All the big shows."
Delta @ L'officiel Hommes Italia.
Delta @ Maison Margiela.
“Yes, I travel with the models. If we stay in a cheap hotel, we all stay in a cheap hotel, even me. If we have to get there by bus, I'm going by bus. If we go out, we all go out together. If we go home, we go home together."
“Just me. I really like to prove to myself that I can do my job well. So far, I’ve been successful at it. I have both women and men doing the big shows which is rare. There aren’t a lot of agents that are good at managing both men and women. But I’m a bit stronger in men. I think girls always want to be pretty, because they’ve always been told they have to be. But I don't like that stigma. I always tell the girls, you can be a tom boy girl, you can be a lesbian girl, you can be anything, as long as you are you at my company."
“You know, a chef never reveals his secret. But right now, I don’t have time to scout. I believe God will give you what you deserve. I don't like to go scouting because I don't like to chase money. Sometimes, I'll look online because I don’t have what I need for a client. But I like to think everything that happens is luck and faith. I never like to go on the hunt. I am always waiting for the right time. If someone sees something special in you, they will find you."
“Diversity is very important. It's not just about the face, it's about the personality. I think everyone has something to bring to the table. I think different ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds are very good to have. You can feel inspired by everyone's stories. I feel so educated and I learned so much from different people and their different backgrounds. I learned to have a bigger heart than I had before just by having all the different people in my life."
“Sleep is for sheep."
Shooting new content.
On the way to Milan.
“I don't know. I could go from super chic to super street. I like to be me. There’s no persona. I think I would just describe it as fashionable because I always want to look nice. These days, it's comfortable but elegant, because I really want to feel like I can breathe. When I’m working, doing a photoshoot, walking, I don't want to feel stuck."
“For my life I want to be happy, healthy, and I want to be loved by the people I love. Especially my family. I just don’t want to let people down. I want to be remembered as a loved person who gave people chances. That would make me so happy. For my businesses, I would like to have more freedom. I don’t want to have to be at the shop all the time. I want to hire one or two people who can continue to do the work when I'm not there. I always want to work, but now that I’m getting older, I’m recognizing that it's nice to have a little bit of rest and a little bit of time for yourself at the beginning of the day."
“For me, I’m inspired by this time of reflection that we have during COVID. This is the time to understand who you are and find peace with yourself. Not thinking about luxury. It's about being a human. Being happy with the things we have and our surroundings. Being there for others and not always putting yourself first."