Seeing the growing influence of the Hispanic consumer on the fashion industry, entrepreneur Michelle Sanchez creates a modeling agency catered to representing Latina models.
LatinaLista — In Spanish, “moda” means fashion. To Michelle Sanchez, a 31-year-old Dallas, Texas entrepreneur, there wasn’t a more fitting word to include in the name of her current business venture.
Born with an entrepreneurial spirit, Sanchez was always on the lookout for ways to create unique business opportunities for herself. One opportunity she saw developing was the inevitable inclusion of more Latina and Latino models in the fashion industry.
Sanchez knew it was only a matter of time before the fashion industry would realize the buying power of the growing Hispanic population and how Latino consumers would want to see clothes modeled by people who looked like them. Wanting to be ready to seize the opportunity when it fully developed, Sanchez knew there was only one way to plan for it — create her own modeling agency that focused on representing Hispanic models.
“I knew I would have a niche in the Dallas market by representing Latinas,” said Sanchez.
Yet, she needed a catchy name that embodied what her business was all about.
“I decided on the name MODA because it’s easy to recognize and remember,” said Sanchez. “Also, since moda, in Spanish, means fashion, it was just easy to add modelos to it and create MODA Modelos.”
Next came the business plan. Sanchez started out with a short business plan but credits her success in getting the venture off the ground with her ability to network and meet a variety of people with whom she was able to do trade arrangements with.
While coming up with the name, finalizing the business plan and networking took effort, it was convincing the fashion industry to include Latina and Latino models in their shows and to be featured in fashion catalogs that has been a four-year struggle that Sanchez finally feels is paying off.
Yet, to be successful, Sanchez knew that her models had to be competitive with others in the market. For that reason, Sanchez will not represent just any Latina. Like their Anglo counterparts, Latina models must meet specific criteria before Sanchez even considers working with them.
“I choose my models by looking at the Latina and discovering if she has potential to be a model,” said Sanchez. “Many girls come into the agency as pretty girls. It is my responsibility to develop them to be a “model.
“This is a process and it’s a journey for most of them. What I look for is if they have a “Look” that the agency could use. Personality has a lot to do with it too.”
Today Sanchez represents 30 Latina models. Adamantly refusing to work with divas — “Clients like easy-going models that will get the job done without having to put up with the hassles of diva models,” explained Sanchez — she is also strict about the all-important measurements.
Moda Modelos CEO Michelle Sanchez with several of her Latina models.
Latina models must be between 5’8″ to 5’11”, wear from a 4 to 6 dress size, have a 32 to 36-inch bustline, waist measurements of between 24 to 26 and hips of 32-36 inches.
Latino models have an equally stringent list of criteria: 5’11’ to 6’2″; suit size of 40-42; waist of 30-33, defined jaw lines and a flat stomach.
Realizing that most Latinas and Latinos aren’t usually blessed with such measurements, Sanchez is always scouting for new talent. From movie theaters to clubs to restaurants and even church, Sanchez doesn’t visit a place where she’s not looking for that particular “Look” that will propel some lucky Latina or Latino down the runway of modeling success.
Success is what Sanchez foresees for herself as well. When asked what she thinks lies in her future, she replied, “In 5-10 years, or sooner, I hope to expand the agency to Miami. I have lived there and I consider Miami to be my future home. My plans are not only to be a modeling agency but also a special events company as well.”
Fending off requests to do reality shows because she doesn’t want “all my drama out and about,” she concedes that those who want to be models need to be as comfortable in front of the television camera, as well as, the photographer’s camera.
“If you want to be a model, develop yourself,” advises Sanchez. “Invest in yourself to be unique. Have a special talent that will give you an edge. Nowadays, modeling is not enough. Learn to act or to have hosting skills for a TV show but most importantly — always be up to date with fashion!”