Assets Model Agency – Derek’s Army
Wednesday 10th of August, 16:50 and we had arrived at 51 South William Street. I rang up the office to let them know we had arrived. The entrance was hidden in the back of Kokoro Sushi Bento restaurant. As we made our way through the shadows of the sushi house into the back, I couldn’t help feeling as if we were part of a Japanese Noir; two suits ready to carry out some illicit deal with a Japanese Kingpin. The gated entrance was marked with a large poster of a group model shot. We walked up the stairs and slowly opened the door. Behind it, the white walls and airy atmosphere were a stark contrast to the bar downstairs, like entering heaven. This was Assets Model Agency HQ. With a brisk wave of the arm, we were greeted with a hearty “come in you guys”, Derek Daniels welcomed us in. They were finishing up packing to relocate to their new HQ. We took three chairs and put them in a separate room for privacy. Tools, models photos and equipment lay strewn on the floors. After a few seconds of formalities and pleasantries, we opened:
So Derek where were you born and raised?
I was born in Donegal but I was raised in Leixlip in county Kildare just outside the city but I’ve lived in Rathmines for 22 years… And how do you find it here in Dublin? Oh I love it, sure I’ve grown up in Dublin so. We’re only just over the border in Kildare. Although when I grew up in Leixlip it was a tiny little village now it’s like the biggest suburb of Dublin or certainly the biggest village in the town of Kildare so it’s changed a lot.
When did your interest in fashion start and why?
I’ve always had it. I knew it when I was 11 I wanted to open up a model agency. I had a friend of mine who lived in London and when she came home she had brought some old style model zen cards*. We would be playing in her grandmother’s kitchen and she showed me these cards. And on that day said I said to myself “I’m going to be a model agent”. So I always knew I had an interest. In saying that as kids we
*A physical card, usually 5.5 inches x 8.5 inches used by models. It usually has the models head shot on the front and 3-5 photos on the back showing the models work range as well as body stats.
Why did decide to open Assets at the time?
It happened quite by accident actually. I was working as a model at the time; we’re going back 25 years ago almost now. My booker at the time she fell out with the guy who ran the agency we worked for. She worked in the office. So she said to me in the Baggot Inn over a cup of coffee “If I open a model agency would you be my partner?” and I said to her “no, I wouldn’t have the experience but I’ll certainly help you to get models”. She opened up about two months later. We got free premises off a friend of ours. It was rent free for the year; otherwise we would have never survived. And that was on Lesson Street, which we ended up being there for nearly 18 years. So that’s how it started and the name came about through and art director. We were originally called “Profilo” which is Italian for “profile”. People however started calling us “The Profiteroles”. We didn’t like that, however, we really hadn’t decided on a name yet. So I rang up a friend of mine who was an art director in Young Advertisement at the time and I said to her “Carol, would you have any ideas?” and she came back with two. I can’t remember the second one but the minute we heard “Assets” we just thought to ourselves that’s a perfect name for a modeling agency. And that’s exactly how Assets was born. We had been in business for about 9 months when we changed our name to Assets. We’ve been Assets ever since. We’ll be 25 years midway through 2018 I think. So we’re nearly there… [TO It’s quite an achievement isn’t it? [DD]
Did you have a lot of support when you started?
No!…*laughs out*… we lived on air and we had, I remember having a huge row one day with over who’s turn it was to buy the coffee…*laughs out* … so that’ll tell you how tough it was. But I worked as a chef part-time at the time and I lived in a little flat in Rathmines and then I lived with my business partner, I moved into her house. No money literally. So we used to get the DART in the morning. The big agency at the time was Eddie Shanahans, which was called “Elaine’s Model Management” which was a very famous agency in Ireland. And literally within 8 months it there was like an avalanche of models to Assets because we were young we had the energy we had a new outlook people were interested; we were getting a lot of support. And every time the buzzer went it would be another big model coming in and we would be like “Jesus! Who’s gonna come next!” … *laughs out*. I could say for about two years we had a lot of profile people; everything then was very newspaper oriented which is not now. So the models all had profiles from being constantly in the newspaper, people like Ronan Keating’s wife Yvonne, Amanda Byram who was the presenter of The Swan in America the second biggest TV show in America…she’s one of my girls along with her sister Rosanna Davison who became Miss World. But all the girls back then were known as Press Models whereas now you don’t really have Press Models. Well you’d have the likes of Glenda Gilson, Nadia Forde, people like that who we look after but the whole thing has evolved. They’re more inclined to book these girls to a tweet than they are for a press picture which is incredible when you think about it you know.
What’s the most challenging obstacle for you in regards to the agency?
For me, but not so much for the girls because they’re younger, it’s keeping current because I mean what’s automatic for someone in their 30s, I’m in my 50s I’m 52, I have to think about these things where it’s automatic for someone of say your age group, do you understand me? So you’re constantly, it’s not a pressure, but you’re constantly keeping yourself up to date which is part of the gig realistically you have to. From a production point of view things are more or less the same, the basic rules apply, good product done at the right time, proper styling, good hair and makeup. Those things really haven’t changed. It’ all about having a good product and knowing how to market it. I spoke to a client recently, Junk Couture, it was a huge children’s event that we do. We did a press call with some of the girls last year and I said to them the following day that they had landed in all the newspapers. And they said “sure we’re not interested in the newspapers, we’re only interested in the content we get online” and I said “What?!” Kids don’t buy newspapers, they’re all online. And I didn’t get it at the time but I suddenly said to myself “Jesus he’s right! This event is about 14-16 year olds, they wouldn’t know a newspaper if it hit them over the head!” They might see the local one that comes in through the door but that’s it! They don’t buy newspapers because young people don’t get their information from newspapers anymore. It was like a bombshell going off in my head really. This is the way it is now. And it really is, it applies to everything you do. It’s all about online, and at the rate things are going outside of the very popular Sundays which really are coming to the end of their generation of viewership’s, they maybe have 10 years left, but I think they’ll be a thing of the past soon. No one is interested in advertising with them.
What’s a typical day for you?
I’m up at 07:00 I can’t really sleep past that time. Even if I have nothing to do I get up at 07:00 generally speaking. I train in the morning, well, when I’m up for it. I work from home most of the time except on Wednesdays when I’m here to do interviews and I meet clients and different things. I could have two or three meetings so I’d be out and about. But generally I’m here in the office once a week. And that’s it. My main area of focus is looking after production and events and putting together shoots so I’m in the field more so than being in the office.
What do you do to relax Derek?
I love to watch Judge Judy *laughs out* I’ve watched her shows all night. I like to train obviously now at the moment. Sun holidays; I read on holiday which is really the only time of the year that I read. I’m a bit wired most of the time which is part of the job I suppose so that’s about the extent of it. Oh I love gardening! I’m an avid gardener. I’d show you pictures of my garden but I don’t want to be starting to wreck your heads *laughs out*
What’s your favorite sport?
Rugby and I love athletics. I’d be all over the Olympics now. What’s annoying me about Rio is I don’t know whether I’m getting live, semi-live or recorded and they keep switching from one channel to another.
Final question, what plans do you have for the agency in the next coming year?
We’re changing our focus more towards online with the work we do. Like I said before earlier on, it’s a very dynamic and ever evolving industry and you have to keep up with it and adapt otherwise you get left behind.
For over 20 years, Assets Model Agency has been signing up talent and propelling their careers into the lime light. They’ve become a household name that is instantly recognizable in Ireland and to some abroad. Visit them at www.assetsmodels.com
by Alexandr Mendez