T Style: Ashley Brokaw: Fashion’s Most Unlikely Power Player
BROKAW GREW UP in England, attended boarding school in Connecticut and interned after 11th grade with Woody Allen’s casting director Juliet Taylor. Before her formal training in the fashion industry — doing casting for Bruce Weber’s Abercrombie & Fitch shoots — she studied international law at Georgetown. Much of her job, serving as buffer between artist and (often moody) adolescent model, looks quite a bit like statecraft. “I always say to the girls, ‘If you have a problem, come to me. Don’t go to the designer, don’t go to the stylist, don’t complain to anybody, come complain to me.’ ” Her job requires mastery of seemingly oppositional skill sets: the ability to perceive the human form with an almost cruel objectivity and the simultaneous capacity for maternal tenderness. For all her artistic vision, Brokaw often plays the role of high school guidance counselor. She has sent girls home from castings and shows for being too thin or obviously on drugs. Other forms of coaching are achieved discreetly in conversations with agents. “Sometimes I will say, ‘Get her teeth fixed.’ Sometimes I will say, ‘She needs to get her skin cleared up; she needs to drink more water.’ ” Brokaw recommends dance and yoga to the less coordinated girls, and lots of practice walking in heels to the fawnlike girls whose “legs just aren’t strong enough to hold the weight of their body.”
Brokaw likes to meet parents — to assess their level of support but also, if the girl is not yet post-pubescent, to get a sense of how tall she might end up.