Text by Ellesca Helderberg

Photography by Aicha Abdoun

Ismael Santana Vasquez 30 year old runs the Amsterdam-based model agency KNOWN Model Management and menswear store Unknown. While enjoying some food and drinks Ismael is having a conversation with Steven Dahlberg and crew members, we just finished the fashion editorial with Ismael, and we just talk about his life experience and why he is so passionate about his work.

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“I was in Barcelona for work not for vacation but my vacation is always combined with work. I had to meet up with some people; they were interested in my work. They have the best agency in Spain.” And right now I’m doing everything by myself. I’m a very busy guy, but I also love my alone time. I enjoy taking pictures and edit them in the evening, little bit of Photoshop and ready. I love to dance and I don’t use alcohol and drugs. That’s also one of my rules in the agency. The music I listen to is from hip hop to dancehall.

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My accent isn’t Flemish, more of Belgian, I’ve lived in Maastricht for many years and had a lot of Belgian friends. Actually I’m multilingual, I’m a smart guy (laughing). My relationship with my parents wasn’t great, but yeah you know we are getting older and it gets better now. I’ve trained myself to get pull out of bad situations, because no one except me can help me with that. My family can’t support me financially; actually no one can do that. At a very young age I knew how to sell, I’ve worked in a clothing store for many years and I have worked very hard. I love what I do because I’m passionate about everything I do. The store where I’ve worked my colleagues didn’t support my skills. I was working very hard and when I stopped working there I’ve told them that they wouldn’t last without me. And you won’t believe it, within 4 months the store closed their doors (bankrupt).

The agency

I have a lot of satisfied clients Gucci for example, always compliment me because I deliver every year a strong team with guys for their fashion show. It’s difficult to find interesting guys who are into modeling, but I have never been disappointed. I always work with my feelings, that is very important for me One day I told David a colleague, today is the day that I’ll find someone who will be the next big thing. We went outside and there he was, just passing by, a guy in a black hoodie. I was excited, at least emotional. I walked towards him and invited him to come to agency the next day. He showed up the following day. Even though, he wasn’t interested at first, he is now one of my top models.

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I have one thing others don’t have, I can feel and see things that you or someone else can’t do. Like I mentioned before I always work with my feelings. Some people think that I’m weird but what I say always comes true. I also have my funny side but I’m a really serious guy, money isn’t important to me, my passion is. I have a lot of models, all races and sizes, I like diversity. When I started my agency people thought that I would fail, that I wouldn’t make it, but I’m still here. Sometimes it happens that models would try other agencies, while I scouted them first, when they are rejected by the agencies, they want to come back to me. Listen I’m not a second choice, I am the first choice.

Building long-term relationships has proven to be crucial for many years. In this context he thinks back to the period where he worked for Hugo Boss as a sales man and other major brands. Also in his period as a sales trainer and model / catwalk coach, strong mutual relationships have so far ensured that he can realize the things he visualizes for himself.

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What makes Ismael even more different from other model scouts is its rather unorthodox way of casting. It can happen that he just takes a model literally off the street, once he scouted a homeless young man. His approach is simple: have the person take a bath first. Very interesting is the story of a model that everyone thought he had an ugly crooked nose, it was precisely his crooked nose that made him special, and he was very successful. Everyone has a story, there are people who have a good story, others a bad story, that’s life

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Suit Hugo Boss

Styling Steven Dahlberg

Grooming Jimmy Stam

Special thanks to Studio AH