Eileen Ford: Happy 90th by Robert Lacey
Eileen Ford, Cover, Campus Classics Knitters, Vol. 10, 1940
Pat Geoghegan, ”Botny Fabrics” - red dress armed forces,1940’s
Dorian Leigh, 1946
Carmen Dell’Orefice photographed by Cecil Beaton, 1948
LIFE, October 1948
LIFE, October 1948
Jean Patchett, 1951
”'Beauties on The Beach” by Richard Litwin, May1951
McCalls, cover, April 1955
Millie Perkins, Vogue, January 1957
Jean Shrimpton, 1960’s
Nena von Schlebrugge, 1961
Eileen Ford, ”Learn to be Beautiful”, LP cover, 1961
Bettie Johnson, McCall's, October 1961
Jane Fonda, 1960’s
Jill Kennington photographed by Jeanloup Sieff, 1964
Jane Holzer photographed by David Bailey, 1960’s
Eileen Ford, September 1964. © UPI / ChicagoTribune
Sunny Griffin and Agnetta Darren photographed by James Moore, 1960’s
LIFE, November 1970
”Ford Beauties”, LIFE, November 1970. ”Ford Beauties”
Eileen Ford, 1970. Publicity photo.
Gabrielle von Canal, 1970’s
Halston group, 1970’s
Lauren Hutton photographed by Richard Avedon, 1974
Editorial fashion, 1970’s
Barbara Minty, 'THE FORDS' Annououncement Card, 1970’s
Clotilde for YSL, 1970’s
Jerry Hall, 1970’s
Lisa Cooper, Chanel ”Christalle” advertising, 1970’s
Lisa Taylor photographed by Helmut Newton, 1976
Beverly Johnson, Cosmopolitan cover, 1976
Vibeke photographed by David Bailey, Vogue Paris, 1970’s
Peggy Dillardand and TonySpinelle photographed by Guy LeBaube, Vogue, 1977
Rosemary McGrotha photographed by Denis Piel, Vogue, December 1981
Nicole Hood, 1980’s
Linda Spierings, 1980’s
Jacki Adams, 1980’s
Barbara Neumann, 1980’s
Terri May, FORD1984-1985
Jolanda Boot, Avenue, March1984
Karin Lund, 1980’s
Dale Weston photographed by Eric Boman, 1984
Erin O’Connor photographed by Sølve Sundsbø, i-D, 2009
”Eileen Ford is the mother, the “godmother” of all modeling agencies. She was sometimes challenge, but never matched, and she also incidentally introduced me to my wife Sondra”. These are Daniel Filipacchi’s words on the occasion of Eileen’s 90th birthday and it is writer Robert Lacey who provides her portrait.
This is the Diamond Jubilee year of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. And it is also the year in which America’s Queen of modeling, and the Queen Mother of modern modeling all over the world, is celebrating two anniversaries of her own. It is sixty-five years this month since Eileen Otte Ford opened her ground-breaking model agency in New York (in the spring of 1947) with her husband Jerry, and this Sunday, March 25th 2012, she also celebrates her ninetieth birthday.
Jerry, who provided both the name and the financial expertise behind the famous agency that set new standards in the fashion world, died in 2008, but this Sunday’s hundred-strong celebration at the Standard Hotel, New York (the latest hotspot of her former son-in-law Andre Balazs), will be very much a family affair. Leading the festivities will be Eileen’s three daughters, Jamie, Katie and Lacey, her son Bill, plus eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, all ‘marvellous human beings’ Eileen told the London Times in a major profile published last week. www.erinsmodelsanctuary.com/erin-oconnor/
For Eileen, taking advantage of a girl could include keeping a model beyond the time for which she had been booked. The young Richard Avedon lived in fear of Ford wrath if a photo session stretched out longer than intended.
“I remember him quite losing his cool and dashing to the phone when the session started running late,” recalls Bianchi, whose gamine, Audrey Hepburn looks kept the photographer snapping more than he expected. “The poor man couldn’t concentrate until he’d made certain Eileen would let him have the extra half hour – and, of course, he had to pay extra for it.”
Making money for the girls, and hence for the agency, was the cornerstone of the Fords’ success. In 1947 models were engaged for a flat fee, and on an entirely provisional basis. If rain fell on an open air shoot, the models were sent home without a penny.
Jerry Ford changed that immediately. Clients had to pay for the time they booked, whether they made use of it or not – and as the years went by, he negotiated what was effectively a royalty system on advertising jobs: so much for the session itself, with so much extra for a full page or half page; an extra fee was due if the image was used on the packaging, and there was still more money if the package was reproduced on a store card or hand-out.
Girls could go on earning for months, if not years, after the shutter had clicked, the basis of the multi-millionaire dollar incomes earned today by the supermodels. Ford had its share in its heyday, Suzie Parker, Dorian Leigh, Dovima, Jean Patchett, Lauren Hutton, Sonny Griffin, Beverly Johnson, Jerry Hall, Chanel Iman, Christie Brinkley, Cheryl Tiegs, Christy Turlington, Karen Graham, Naomi Campbell, Elle MacPherson, Brook Shields, Stephanie Seymour, Patricia Velasquez, Rachel Hunter, Veronica Webb, Crystal Renn, as well as the evergreen Carmen, and models-turned actresses like Tippi Hedren, Ali MacGraw, Maud Adams (Octopussy), Veronica Hamel, Rene Rousso, Kim Basinger and Candice Bergen.
These dazzling Ford girls make up a unique roll call of some of the greatest names in the fashion business. But there is a sense in which every modern model and supermodel, no matter what their management, is a product and beneficiary of how Jerry and Eileen Ford transformed the practices of the modern modeling industry.
Robert Lacey, author of Majesty, The Kingdom is currently writing an account of Eileen Ford and the growth of the modern world modeling industry that is slated for publication by HarperCollins in 2013. TV drama rights have been secured by Fox Television Studios who are currently developing the project under the working title Model Woman.