c.2013 New York Times News Service
c.2013 New York Times News Service
It was the day after the Givenchy fall men’s show in June, and the casting director, an exhausted Daniel Peddle, was in Paris at a Seventh Arrondissement cafe.
“We work on it around the year,” he said, sipping a mocha. “That’s a special one. We look all over the globe. We flew in models from Brazil, Slovakia, Lithuania and Russia. A lot of the guys have never set foot on the catwalk.”
Peddle’s work doesn’t end after the show.
“We deal with getting them back home or to the next job,” he said. “It can be logistically challenging.”
Peddle’s agency, the Secret Gallery, also casts Phillip Lim’s runway shows.
“We seek the same thing,” Lim said. “We want to cast souls to fill the clothes, not a carton of identical eggs. It’s not about what is ‘du jour,’ but what is right. We follow our gut instincts.”
The Secret Gallery is known for its streetwise and wide-spectrum vision. Peddle’s choices are far from assembly line. Besides being responsible for racially diverse shows, the Secret Gallery specializes in a mix of disparate models. Other work this season included campaigns for M.A.C. and Perry Ellis as well as the New York Fashion Week shows for Suno and Naeem Khan.
“Everything is filtered through our eyes,” Peddle said of the shows he works on. “We narrow thousands of model cards to hundreds and bring our edit of what we think designers will respond to.”
He cast a 65-page story, a mixture of models and street finds, in the current issue of “Fantastic Man” for the photographer Collier Schorr. They met working on a Comme des Garçons ad.
“He sees beauty like a kaleidoscope,” Schorr said. “He keeps a pressure on people to push past their own notions of beauty.”
Schorr continued: “In fashion photography, we’re all guaranteed a certain amount of success because of the beautiful person in our pictures. In order to do something interesting, you need to turn it upside down or have someone different come into the frame. He is the shepherd of this someone else.”
The Secret Gallery will go out of its way to introduce a face. It helped start the career of Rob Evans, the future “Top Model” judge, by getting him into a Givenchy show.
“When he walked in, Riccardo flipped and said this guy’s amazing,” Peddle said of the Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci. “That’s why we love working with Riccardo, he takes risks and pushes the boundaries of the fashion industry forward.”
For the show Evans, a former boxer, came out wearing a leopard skirt.
“I remember audible gasps from the audience as Rob walked the runway,” Peddle said.
Had Peddle chosen a different career, he would have been perfect as an undercover narc in another “21 Jump Street” remake. With his angelic face, bleached hair and box-fresh Nike high-tops, he looks more like a student than an in-demand casting director. He doesn’t look 43.
“But I feel every year,” he said.
Peddle has lived in New York since 1992, but it hasn’t diminished his Southern accent.
“Every season I have that moment backstage when it hits,” he said, “I’m in a world far removed from where I grew up.”
His childhood home was on a dirt road outside of Winston-Salem, N.C. He stood out.
“Our neighbors would have an annual chicken stew,” he said. “They’d put other stuff in, like possum and squirrel. It was a big black caldron cooking all day. By sketching them and taking their pictures, I felt outside, but still part of it.”
He studied anthropology at the University of North Carolina before graduate film school at New York University. He found actors for his student films on the street. Friends in fashion appreciated his knack and his career began with street casting.
His youthful appearance worked to his advantage.
“Even into my 30s, I could get into places people my age couldn’t go,” he said. “Like, ‘Go get me some skaters.’ That youth obsession the fashion industry has, that helped me getting in there.”
One discovery was actress Jennifer Lawrence. He spotted her in Union Square when she was on vacation with her mother, and he put her in an Abercrombie & Fitch ad.
Street casting led to more traditional work with modeling agencies. Daniel Peddle Casting was formed in 2000 with his partner, Drew Dasent. (The agency’s name was changed to the Secret Gallery this year.)
Peddle never stopped his other endeavors. He has produced and directed two documentaries. “The Aggressives,” about black lesbians who identify as men, is on the syllabuses of various gender studies courses. “Trail Angels,” about guides in the Appalachian Mountains, is on rotation on the Documentary Channel. His paintings have been featured in gallery shows, and the sale of his art financed his forthcoming debut feature, “Sunset Edge.” He wrote and directed the film and will submit it to film festivals. It’s set in an abandoned trailer park and deals with teenagers and the changing identity of the South.
“They bleed together,” Peddle said of his varied pursuits. “If you’re looking for someone who will be arresting in a film, those same qualities will translate into a fashion show, where the audience is given the privilege to gawk at people. The catwalk is the one chance where you can freely stare at someone as part of the experience. Isn’t it great?”