London modelling agency all about embracing 'Ugly'

Long necks, large chins, flapping ears, crooked noses: Welcome to Ugly Models, a London modelling agency where imperfections are celebrated.

As Fashion Week comes to an end in the British capital today, among the legions of models who strutted down the catwalk, several would have come from Ugly.

They make eye-catching additions to the perfectly honed or androgynous models that typically feature at fashion's annual showcase in London.

"It is celebrating diversity really, and it is bringing a bit more light to fashion instead of just using the bog-standard models," agency owner Marc French told AFP.

He describes it as a "character" model agency - "from fat, thin, to large, to small: you name it, we've got it".

He cited the example of French actor Gerard Depardieu.

"I mean, look at him: He is so full of character and charisma. He becomes sexy because he is so cool and he is so different."

Founded a half century ago, Ugly occupies a trendy open-plan space in west London featuring a baroque sofa, brushed aluminium computers and walls studded with photos of models.

A portrait of late rock superstar David Bowie adorns the wall, alongside the quote, "Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius", which reads like a company motto.

Like any such agency, it manages the careers of its models, putting them in touch with employers of all stripes, from Burberry to Mercedes to Jack Daniel's. At a recent casting to complete its catalogue, those in attendance were atypical models.

Chris Manns, a former soldier with arms as thick as logs, posed shirtless with a 50-year-old brunette in a two-piece suit.

Kris Chesney, an ex-rugby player, is nearly 2mtall and weighs 135kg. With his shaved head, tattooed arms and body bearing the marks of countless scrums, he is perhaps an unlikely model. He said: "It is a new journey, something interesting, like a challenge."

Sheerah Ravindren, a petite 22-year-old model who is just 1.61m tall, comes from Sri Lanka and proclaims herself a "militant immigrant model".

Sporting a bare belly between baggy jeans and a black top, she has a right nostril piercing and plenty of positive attitude.

She said: "I am a woman of colour. Growing up, I've never seen people that look like me in media, in fashion."

Frances, a disabled model who gets around using a pair of eye-catchingly futuristic crutches, revealed proudly that her disability "didn't stop me from doing what I wanted".

For Mr French, "what makes a good ugly model is someone who is comfortable in his own skin".

He said: "We don't want retouching, we don't want people to change the way they look.

" If someone comes to us a certain way, we'd never say it'd be better if he was smaller. It is really important. There is so much pressure on young kids." he said. - AFP