One of the world’s leading model agencies has accused its rival of poaching its highly prized talent and staff.
Elite Model Management filed a lawsuit against its old foe Ford Models in Manhattan’s Supreme Court in January.
Its bosses claim that Ford poached two of its top talent executives and that it also came after models Caroline Trentini, who walked in three Victoria’s Secret shows between 2005 and 2009, and runway stars Cora Emanuel and Josephine Le Tutour.
The two agencies have been at loggerheads since the 1970s when Elite was founded serial lothario John Casablancas.
At the time Ford, so named after its notorious founder Eileen, had reigned the fashion industry for years and held all of the world’s most coveted supermodels on its books but Casablancas went after them ruthlessly.
It sparked a bitter feud which persists today years after both of their deaths.
In its most recent swipe at its enemy, Elite claimed that agents Michael Williams and Kwok Kan Chan were seduced over to the other side before the end of their contracts in October last year.
Elite claims that once they were settled in at Ford, the pair aggressively went after talent that they used to manage under its US Division, The Society.
This included Trentini, 30, who announced her move to Ford in June.
At the time, she said she was inspired to jump ship in order to the new team at Ford with whom she had ‘a lot of history’.
‘In that way, it feels more like going home rather than to some foreign place that I don’t know,’ she told Women’s Wear Daily.
Le Tutour, 22, the current face of the Zadig & Voltaire fragrance campaign, followed in August.
Elite alleged in its January lawsuit that the migration was proof of ‘willful and malicious competition’ from Ford.
The suit was thrown out by a US Supreme Court judge, but Elite’s lawyers aren’t letting up.
Brian S. Cousin, the attorney which filed it on behalf of the agency, told The New York Post on Friday that he intends to depose Williams and Chan this fall and says he hopes they will incriminate their new employer by doing so.
Their lawyers say the feud should stay on the catwalk and not spill over into the courts.
‘If there is a model war going on, it should be fought on the runways and on magazine covers,’ Williams’ lawyer, James Wicks said.
The Society still counts Adriana Lima and Kendall Jenner, who Williams helped elevate from reality TV child star to fashion darling.
Both Elite and Ford are in competition with the newer IMG Models which counts the Hadid sisters Bella and Gigi along with Ashley Graham, Hailey Baldwin, and the majority of the recurring Victoria’s Secret Angels including Candace Swanepoel and Lily Aldridge on its books.
The battle between Ford and Elite started in 1977, five years after Casablancas founded his agency in Paris.
The pair were at first on good terms and worked in tandem across the Atlantic until Casablancas set his sights on New York and its teaming pool of fresh-faced models.
Christie Brinkley and Naomi Campbell both defected to Elite after being originally discovered by Ford, and countless others joined.
Following the death of legendary model agent Wilhelmina Cooper in the 1980s, the established order of the modelling world was obliterated and Ford and Elite were at the forefront of the chaos.
They engaged in a hostile, all-out battle for the talent. Hurling lawsuits and tabloid insults at one another, their spat became known as The Model Wars.
Many stars who had been discovered by Ford defected to Elite. They included Janice Dickinson, Christie Brinkley and Naomi Campbell.
Casablancas, who is credited with coining the concept of ‘the supermodel’, was commonly dubbed a ‘sleaze’ by his arch nemesis in the press.
An unapologetic womanizer, his second marriage was torn about by his affair with Stephanie Seymour who he bedded when he was 42 and she was 16.
Ford, by contrast, was traditional and scrupulous. She founded her agency with her husband Gerard and they treated their young models strictly and as if they were their children.
Casablancas died in 2013 at the age of 70. Ford died in 2014 at the age of 92. CEO is Nancy Chen, its former COO.
Elite Model Management is now part of parents company Elite World S.A. which has agencies around the world. It is run privately by businessmen Gerald Marie and Alessandro Raffelini.