Fernando Torres is a freelance art director based between Stockholm and Berlin. We spoke with him about his different work environments at boutique fashion magazines and major fashion retailers like asos and Zalando, the differences in the cities he lived and worked and trends and social influence in model booking. For more info, check Fernando’s Website & Instagram.
You’ve been working as an art director for some of the most renown fashion magazines like Schön! and Interview and also worked for large productions at asos and Zalando. What’s the different challenges in these different work environments?
Well, they’re completely different. I think for Schön! it’s more of a super organic way of working I guess. I mostly do celebrities for them so.. like when I got Bebe Rexha, Raoul is like this is Bebe and they gonna do an album launch and it’s gonna tie in with this and then I literally just get a blank slate which is really scary, haha. Because you need to please a lot of people and you don’t want to go in hardcore with an idea that might be totally against what they’re doing. So I actually spend a lot of time just stalking them online on like Instagram to get a feel for kind of where they’re going – that’s usually my starting point. With asos, for me, and this is probably gonna sound silly, this is the easiest thing to do because I was the asos guy when I was like 14. I used to be that guy that would try one trend this week, and then next week try the next trend, you know? So it was an easy thing to do for me like I can segment it really easily in my head, it just comes natural. And Zalando is more difficult I think, it’s a different customer, a broader customer. There are a lot more customers to please in one go I think. So their approach is much more, let’s say maybe sales based and figures based I would say.
Any project in particular that you are most proud of?
At asos I was really proud of when we launched asos plus actually. Nobody had done it before, and nobody knew how it would gonna look like. How do we make this fashionable and cool? Like nobody has really done menswear that’s plus size and you know – young. So I was really proud to be part of that, to be part of the casting and how we’re gonna shoot it and how we’re gonna treat it.
You mentioned open briefings can be kind of scary. Was there anything that went wrong sometimes?
Yeah I mean I had a rapper not show up, haha. Or his publicist called and said can he come tomorrow? And it’s like no but this stuff happens all the time. Or you can have a really nice mood board and it’s been approved by people and on the day – this also happened – on the day the publicist said no this looks too sexy. And you are like, well you had 3 weeks to look at the document and I can’t change stuff now. It’s really tough, I think most of the time you need to be really firm but nice and really explain your point of view.
You grew up in Stockholm, then studied Fashion Media production in London and later moved to Berlin. In your opinion, what are the differences in the fashion scene in those 3 cities and how did it impact your work?
I think Stockholm and London can be a bit more relatable or a bit more similar-ish, whereas Berlin is a completely different beast. Like it’s not cool to be in fashion in Berlin and what’s cool in Berlin is really not cool in London, you know? In London it’s cool to be in fashion, like everybody – well not everybody – but you know it’s more of like a thing. And here it’s not. Here it’s not so urgent. In London, if you do not do this thing now, you’ll get replaced now. Whereas in Berlin it’s much more chill and a different approach.
What do you prefer?
I don’t know.. I used to like that London vibe but now I am kind of in between I would say. Although sometimes in London this would be frustrating and vice versa here. I’d be like oh my god people are not taking this seriously enough, you know? But I think with Zalando here, the scene is probably changing. I remember I was assisting here like 8 – 10 years ago. It was a completely different vibe. It was super relaxed. I think Zalando has maybe helped people to step it up a little bit and also brought in people with skills from abroad. So i do think that Berlin will get to that sense for sure.
Photo: Chris Rinke
Art Direction + Styling: Fernando Torres
With the art directing you did you were also involved in the model selection. What are the 3 things that you look for in a model?
For me, a lot of it is about authenticity to what you’re shooting, you know. That’s why it’s so important when you do eCommerce or when you sell clothes online to segment where you are selling. The better your segmentation is, the better you get the clothes to the customer and I think especially in menswear – the guy that buys menswear wants to see somebody that looks like he would be wearing this in his real life. but at the same time, it needs to be somebody the guy can look up to. So basically the guy needs to be cool, but not too cool. You know be good looking but not too good looking so it’s very specific I’d say.
What are current trends in model booking that you observe? Any changes that happened from the start of your career to now?
To be honest I see my career as like two different things. I have my editorial stuff and then the eCommerce is another thing. And yeah in eCommerce you see a lot of trends. When I started at asos, the guy with the beard was still selling. And you know a year later, that guy wasn’t selling. It was just the tattoo muscle guy. That was already a change that happened in a year – you really see the trends.
How did you experience the impact of social influence on talent booking during your career?
For sure, when it comes to introducing a new brand, like a lot of these people call lads brands in the UK, that really appeal to like this muscle tattoo guy, the guy that loves football and likes hanging out with the guys. You know it’s like a little mini-universe there that those brands have going on where you know, a football player from England starts a brand or becomes the face of a brand and then targets it by giving it for free to influencers and other football players. So it is extremely important but I think the importance varies depending on the segment. But then if I am gonna book a guy for eCommerce I would rather book somebody that has like a decent following and that I see interacts with the brand ’cause me as a client I would like to see the model interact with the brand. Whereas a guy that doesn’t have that much following needs to be super perfect for what I’m casting.
What would be a brand or magazine you dream to work for?
I would love to work for adidas. adidas has always been my dream.
Any tips that you’d like to share aspiring art directors, that you wish someone told you early on in your career?
I think thick skin you know. You’re gonna hear a lot of no’s and people are gonna try and take your vision down. But I think it’s important to have a vision but also be able to really explain it and communicate it. Because if you can’t do that you’re gonna find it really hard. It’s important to be able to communicate what your vision is.