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Roland Bunce could be the Next Top Model

When 24-year-old Roland Bunce entered Next’s “Make Me the Next Model” competition he couldn’t have known the extent to which the public would embrace his submission.

Amongst hundreds of images of beautiful young things it was Bunce, who is perhaps not what might be considered classically handsome, who stood out. Thanks to his kindly smile – and tens of thousands of social media users on Reddit, The Poke, Twitter and Facebook – he is now the most voted for entrant..

Next’s competition invites modelling hopefuls to submit a picture of themselves online. Visitors to the site can then vote for their favourite, the top 250 will then be shortlisted down to 50 by a panel of “industry experts”, with the eventual winner being treated to £2,000 of Next gift cards, a contract with Storm modelling agency and “the chance to star in a Next photoshoot”.

Well that’s great, but it seems like the public are getting a bit fed up of the exclusive nature of fashion and this social media retaliation should send a warning because, hey, we all wear clothes. So far, Bunce, the partying and wrestling enthusiast, has been “liked” by 34,000 people on Next’s Facebook button, way ahead of the number two favourite, who had an incomparable 97 likes. Michele Hanson wrote for The Guardian:

“It’s John Sergeant and Strictly Come Dancing all over again but better, because this seems to be the public having a pop at the ghastly fashion world, with its blemish-free, pouty, stick models poncing about in odd garments that most of the rest of us wouldn’t dare, or want, to wear. And even if we wanted to, many of us couldn’t, because they wouldn’t be in our size.”

Instead of embracing Bunce, however, some of the media seemed almost angry with the campaign; I imagine that they’re still not over Rage Against The Machine getting to Number One in the Christmas charts. The Daily Mail went so far as to say the competition was sabotaged (although this has now been edited out).

Grazia were quick to respond with the article “Next’s Model Search – HIJACKED” and stated “…we have been excitedly championing this opportunity to find a new talent in the modelling world”. Read “new talent” as, “We want a rehash of what’s already out there as to ensure that Next’s publicity campaign goes to their plan,” and you’re a little bit closer to the truth. They continue with, “So it is with a slightly heavy heart that we ask fashion fans everywhere to redress the balance on Next’s website…Sorry Roland”. Despite the light-hearted manner the message was there, “Stop voting for Roland Bunce”. It was this statement, particularly, that seemed to anger readers who responded with comments such as:

“I’m voting for Roland and others like him because I think it’d be nice for Next to use the type of people who actually spend money in their stores, rather than tall and beautiful 18 year olds who really buy their clothes from H&M and Topshop.”
iamKate

“So it is with a slightly heavy heart that we ask fashion fans everywhere to redress the balance on Next’s website and help the fashion label promote some genuine future talent for the industry”….. Are you serious?! It`s comments like this that make people feel awful about themselves and leads to disorders like anorexia. You should surely be more responsible in your attitude! Who are you to say that Roland isn’t genuine talent? Ask Next what they sell and I reckon a good percentage of it will be to plus size customers. Stupid, stupid comment.”
johnny84

“Sorry but we are not all wrong – I personally would rather see Roland than rakes!”
RatherSeeRolandThanRakes

“This article is a complete disgrace. It is these sorts of attitudes that lead to eating disorders, anxiety and other mental health problems. You need to try and write a bit more responsibly. Maybe you should take a leaf out of Rage Models’ book and embrace a concept of beauty that is a bit more inclusive.”
ladylady

However, for Next it’s all publicity, Storm Model Management said, “’We’re thrilled that this year’s event has captured the public’s imagination. Make Me The Next Model 2011 has become the model competition to enter. Entries are up by 1000% on last year, and there are some great faces to watch out for. We would encourage everybody interested in modelling to send in their pictures.”

Obviously Storm are aware that no matter how many votes Bunce gets he still has the substantial obstacle of getting past the judges at boot camp before he can be considered the winner. What an amazing PR opportunity for Next that would be.

Update

Despite making it to the final 250 contestants, beating more than 5,000 hopefuls Roland Bunce posted the following comment on with Facebook page:

“Just to let you all know I am quitting the next model contest. It was a big honour to win and it’s been fun but the amount of abuse I’ve been getting since Thursday is out of control and I’ve now just been threatened. Thanks to everyone who has supported me but I am now bowing out before this gets any worse.”

Flannels adds fuel to Grazia promotion debate

Designer mini chain Flannels has inflamed the debate about out-of-season promotional activity after it launched a 25%-off promotion with women’s glossy Grazia, just one week after York indie Sarah Coggles ran a similar 30%-off campaign with the magazine.

Flannels, which stocks brands including Paul Smith London, Luke and Vivienne Westwood and has 11 full-price multi-brand stores in key shopping locations such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham, took part in a wider Grazia promotion this week, joining high street stores such as Warehouse and Wallis in offering readers a 25% discount between October 13-21. In addition to offering the discount in its shops, it also gave shoppers a code to use on its website.

Last week, Sarah Coggles was lambasted by rival indies for offering 30% off more than 200 brands on its website, which the indies said had damaged the sector and harmed their own sales. Several indies remained incandescent that two of the leading multi-brand indies were discounting so early in the autumn season, particularly via their websites.

According to Drapers, Grazia does not charge retailers and brands to take part in its promotions. Instead, it uses them to drive newsstand sales of its magazine, which has a weekly circulation of about 228,700 copies.

Jan Shutt, owner of Sunday Bestin Rawtenstall, Lancashire, said she could understand the temptation of taking what was effectively a free full-page ad in Grazia, but added: “Where does this all end? This might be a quick fix for some retailers but it could change the shape of retailing forever. Why would anyone buy anything from a store if it can be bought cheaper online?”

Rhona Blades, co-owner of five-store north-east indie Jules B, added: “Everybody has to think cleverly but this is just wrong. This kind of behaviour is leading the industry nowhere.”

However, the attitude of some indies to the discount strategies had softened this week. One rival to Flannels said: “It’s a minefield out there and retailers have to take a realistic view. Each retailer needs to do whatever they need to do to keep their business healthy. No multi-brand retailer would choose to discount because the margins are so small, but the mild weather just isn’t shifting stock.”

Sarah Coggles angers rivals over Grazia promotion

Found on Drapers, designer independent Sarah Coggles has angered its market rivals after launching a 30%-off promotion across its Coggles.com website in women’s glossy magazine Grazia.

Premium indies including Sunday Best in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, Newcastle upon Tyne-based Jules B and Emporio Clothing in Worcester, have lambasted Sarah Coggles owner Mark Bage for offering the discount on more than 200 brands – including Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood Anglomania and Nicole Farhi – for two weeks until October 12.

The trio of indies baulked at the level of the discount, and the high-profile ad and cover line – Grazia sells about 228,700 copies a week. They claimed the promotion hit their bottom lines and reduced customer demand for new season autumn product.

Indies generally do not discount outside of the traditional Sale periods during the year, but they have seen their market share eroded by recent heavy discounting by multiple department stores.

“I was horrified to see this from a reputable retailer,” said Rhona Blades, co-owner of Jules B, which sells brands including Vivienne Westwood Anglomania and Twenty8Twelve. “It’s an approach that is bad for the industry and the repercussions have been phenomenal. Sarah Coggles has offended colleagues in the industry.”

Bage defended the move and Sarah Coggles’ reputation as a retailer with a strong track record where promotional activity is concerned. “We rarely do promotions and that hasn’t changed,” said Bage. “We had to break one of our own rules and it was a one-off. I thought long and hard about it and came to the conclusion that if any other indie was in my shoes and Grazia said ‘you can go on the front cover’, they wouldn’t have turned it down.”

Paula Jauncey, owner of Emporio Clothing in Worcester, which sells Paul Smith and Joseph, said: “It was cavalier and we are furious. Customers have started bargaining with us and the designer ethos then becomes market trader.”

It is understood that a number of brands involved in the promotion asked to be withdrawn from it following calls from angry stockists.

The boss of one brand involved said: “Part of me feels ‘good on him’, and the other part understands why people are irate as it’s not ideal to set a precedent. It’s a gamble unless you’re a massive department store and you can get away with it.”

Sunday Best owner Jan Shutt added: “There is a gentlemen’s agreement when it comes to RRP. It’s good to make a stand to address this.”

Oh dear. Yes, this practise is unethical but on the plus side, discounted designer clothes anyone?