Notably the first and original fashion modeling agency in the world, Barbizon Agency was founded in 1939 on Fifth Avenue in New York City. For over 75 years, since its' opening in 1939 by fashion model Helen Fraser, Barbizon has been in the forefront of the industry, and a leader in developing the careers of Women, Men, Kids and Teens all over the world.
The Era of Barbizon - "The Girl with a Job"
On Election Day in 1920, millions of American women exercised their right to vote, declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
By the late 1920s women were entering the workforce in large numbers while men went off to war. Women flocked to the Barbizon in New York City in hopes of being accepted to the prestigious agency, later referred to as the sorority on E. 63rd Street. The Barbizon opened hoping to attract the single, stylish, and thoroughly modern beauties pouring into New York during the Jazz Age to chase their dreams: stardom, independence, a husband. Prospective tenants were required to bring three good references for admission, and were graded on criteria such as looks, dress, and demeanor.
From the beginning, the Barbizon existed as a combined charm school, model agency and dormitory. The building possessed "the greatest concentration of beauty east of Hollywood." The Barbizon, housed many yet-to-be discovered beauties - Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Candice Bergen, Sylvia Plath, Ali MacGraw, and many more.
In the late 30s early 40s, Conde Nast published many fashion magazines which created a need for photogenic models and ignited the Mad Men period. One of the first being the launch of GLAMOUR magazine in 1939. GLAMOUR Magazine changed the focus from Hollywood starlets to working women. The tagline for the magazine became "the girl with a job".
Places Where Women Made History
Reflecting a decorative and eclectic blend of Italian Renaissance, Gothic and Islamic influences, the 23-story Barbizon Hotel represents one of the earliest residential alternatives for women moving to New York City to take advantage of the new professional opportunities of the 1920s. Young women began leaving the traditional family home in search of career opportunities brought on by the era's economic expansion. The Barbizon provided a refuge for many of these women, and its owners sought to create an environment that reinforced the values of the families from which the women had come. Codes of Conduct and Dress were enforced, no men were allowed above the lobby floor, and prospective tenants needed three letters of recommendation to be considered. Despite these apparent constraints, the Barbizon later hosted many social, intellectual and athletic activities and, and in recent years attracted a variety of famous tenants, including entertainers Grace Kelly, Candice Bergen and Liza Minnelli. The Barbizon was also active in promoting women's organizations, providing meeting space to groups such as the National Junior League, the Arts Council of New York, and the Wellesley College Club. Today, the Barbizon operates as a standard hotel.
The World Famous Garment District
New York City is arguably the fashion capital of the United States and the entire world because the industry based there generates over $14 billion in annual sales and sets design trends which are mirrored worldwide. The core of the industry is Manhattan's Garment District, where the majority of the city's major fashion labels operate showrooms and execute the fashion process from design and production to wholesaling. No other city has a comparable concentration of fashion businesses and talent in a single district.
The Garment District is home to a number of well-known designers, their production facilities, warehouses, showrooms, and suppliers of fabric and materials. Many in the industry looked to Barbizon to book models over the decades and allege that this dense concentration of talent, entrepreneurship and supply stores functions like an ecosystem in which each of the parts help sustain the whole. Major fashion labels such as Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Liz Claiborne, Nicole Miller, and Andrew Marc have showrooms, production facilities, or support offices located in the Garment District.
Nineteenth Century Tailor Made
Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, the majority of Americans either made their own clothing, or if they were wealthy, purchased "tailor-made" customized clothing. By the 1820s, however, an increasing number of ready-made garments of a higher quality were being produced for a broader market.
The production of ready-made clothing, which continued to grow, completed its transformation to an "industrialized" profession with the invention of the sewing machine in the 1850s.
The need for thousands of ready-made soldiers' uniforms during the American Civil War helped the garment industry to expand further. By the end of the 1860s, Americans bought most of their clothing rather than making it themselves.
German and Central European immigrants to America around the mid-19th century arrived on the scene with relevant business experience and skills just as garment production was passing from a proto-industrial phase to a more advanced stage of manufacture. In the early twentieth-century a largely Eastern European immigrant workforce powered the garment trades. With an ample supply of cheap labor and a well-established distribution network, New York was prepared to meet the demand. During the 1870s the value of garments produced in New York increased sixfold. By 1880 New York produced more garments than its four closest urban competitors combined, and in 1900 the value and output of the clothing trade was three times that of the city's second largest industry, sugar refining. New York's function as America's culture and fashion center also helped the garment industry by providing constantly changing styles and new demand; in 1910, 70% of the nation's women's clothing and 40% of the men's was produced in the City.
President John Kennedy establishes the President's Commission on the Status of Women and appoints Eleanor Roosevelt as chairwoman. The report issued by the Commission in 1963 documents substantial discrimination against women in the workplace and makes specific recommendations for improvement, including fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable child care.
Congress passes the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to pay a woman less than what a man would receive for the same job.
Model Composites were invented by Peter Marlowe in London, then printed on paper. The format was changed in 1972 to card format, for filing purposes, and a few other companies started publishing cards for the model industry. Sebastian Sed traded under the name Sed Cards, which are sometimes mis-pronounced as Z ("Zed") or Set cards. Today, the words "models composites" and "comp cards" are generic within the model industry.