fashion magazine
Sure, I Can Do That
by MARILYN R. WILSON
Photography by WAYNE MAH - waynemahphotography.com
Gina Hole stepped into the world of fashion at the age of 15 and never looked back. Her extensive resume includes: retail, teacher, make-up artist, model booking agent/scout, and fashion show and event producer Now owner of THEY Representation and Sugar Studios, she still is as driven and focused as when she first started. - all with a keen sense of humour. She laughingly refers to her brain as the "Whack a Mole Brain" as she can easily juggle ten things at once and calls her experience as a self-taught artist, "The School of Hard Knocks and the Institute of Trial and Error." One reason for her continuing success is her response to any new challenge, "Sure, I can do that."

Even before that first retail job, Hole was an over-achiever focused on fashion. She remembers, "When I was ten years old, I would do the make-up and hair for my sister and her friends, but I'd always take it one step further. I would go to my mum's closet, pull all the clothes, get them all dressed up, cook them lunch and set the table." She initially studied acting at Capilano College, but one day had an epiphany that changed her direction. "I am not comfortable in front of the camera. I love being behind the scenes doing make-up and helping them coordinate everything." That knowledge proved crucial in years to come when she worked in Los Angeles with celebrities including Drew Barrymore, Sarah Jessica Parker and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. "Celebrities need you in their corner, not competing. I have no desire to be the star. I made that realization at 19 and it's been clear sailing every since."

What followed were many years hard work to gain experience she has today. Hole looks at interning as a gift, " I would have sped up ten years of figuring out the business if I could have just sat in a corner and listened to what the pros had to say." One relationship that has endured over the years is with photographer Chris Haylett. He came on board as staff photographer while she was working as a model agent for the Charles Stuart Agency and they went on to open a studio with stylist Fernando Attunes. The three worked together creating concepts for every area of the industry. Attunes was a great mentor who changed her life when he commented, "You can't be the best make-up artist if you are doing everything." Taking this to heart, she relocated Toronto where she was rep'd by the Judy Welch Agency and then to Los Angeles where she was also rep'd with The Celestine Agency.

This was the late 80's and early '90's There was no internet or email and she was in a stable of over 40 artists. It took a lot of time and money to promote yourself. Hole would sit in her agent's office and making cold call after cold call to connect with photographers. The agency maintained three copies of her portfolio that were couriered to prospective clients, costing up to $200 a month in fees. Prints were $30 each. In a small market like Vancouver an artist can be diverse, but in places such as Los Angeles or New York, you are put into a niche. For Hole, that was being a celebrity and fashion make-up artist and hair stylist. Jobs were plentiful until Gulf War began and then evaporated over night. She tried moving to a smaller agency hoping to find more work. Although the job market did not improve, she was given the opportunity to also work there as a booking agent - a skill that would prove invaluable in the future.

In 1992, Hole decided to head back to Vancouver to open her own agency, but life had other plans. The next 14 years were spent working as a Key make-up artist in the film industry while her family grew to include a husband and four children. Still agency represented outside of Vancouver, she found herself making referrals when she couldn't take the booking. One day she realized the moment was right. It took a year of interviewing to find a core group of artists that, "...really wanted it. You can't have representation going into it gingerly. Your agent is supposed to be an extension of you, an ally, so if you go in with trepidation, don't bother." THEY Representation officially opened with fashion artists in 2004 and two years later added photographers to the roster. Although not everyone is right for representation, what Hole loves about an agency environment is, "All that artistic ego evaporates when you are rep'd. There is this kindness and camaraderie among the artist because they're not fighting to promote themselves." The biggest change since her time in LA is the internet - most bookings now come from the artist's online portfolios.

While working with photographers, Hole realized she could use her knowledge, resources and connections to save her clients money. First she stepped into producing shoots, saving countless man hours by streamlining the process. Then, after an inability to find quality studio space to work in, she launched Sugar Studios in February 2010 - a first class facility open to a wide range of users from students to world class photographers. Studio A on the ground floor features warehouse door access onto a 35' "Infinity" wall, large make-up room and equipment rental. Studio B on the second floor is more intimate with beautiful natural lighting. Special packages are available for students and portrait photographers.

Hole has sound advice for those just starting out. Don't bad mouth someone in the industry to get ahead, let your work speak for itself. If you aren't working a job then you should be shooting, creating new work to keep your book fresh. If your website or portfolio is not 100 percent ready to be seen, then work around the clock until it is. And lastly, "I encourage creatives to the fullest extent whether artists with photographers, or photographers with ad agencies."

For more information on THEY Representation go to www.theyrep.com. For information on Sugar Studios go to www.sugarstudios.com.