As awards season approaches, no company’s presence will be felt on the red carpet more than The Wall Group, the artist management agency that represents one of the largest armies of stylists, manicurists, makeup artists and hair stylists readying the stars for their moment in the spotlight.
Last season, more than 60 TWG artists worked the SAG Awards, with 80 at the Oscars and 90 at the Golden Globes. Of the 20 nominees for the supporting actor and actress at the Academy Awards, 10 were dressed by TWG stylists, including Viola Davis (Elizabeth Stewart), Meryl Streep (Micaela Erlanger), Ruth Negga (Karla Welch) and Michelle Williams (Kate Young, whose other client Natalie Portman did not attend).
It’s an astonishing feat for a company founded by a former receptionist at a New York City hair salon.
“Someone once said to me, ‘Game recognizes game,’” says Brooke Wall, CEO of the company she founded in 2000 and sold to entertainment behemoth Endeavor (then WME-IMG) in 2015. “I think that applies here. I’ve always been deeply entrepreneurially minded, so I immediately see that in other like-minded individuals.
Rather than rest on her laurels after the acquisition, Wall has expanded into Europe, opening two offices — the first in London last year, with the second bowing in Paris Sept. 26.
Wall says the London office has “been successful beyond what we originally anticipated and it’s growing very quickly.” The company’s first foreign outpost already has a roster of 30 artists. Paris seemed like a natural next step.
“Over the last couple years, the demand has become greater as the focus on international red carpets and film festivals intensifies,” she says. Ninety percent of the hair, makeup and styling artists working this year’s Venice Film Festival were TWG clients.
“To address this need, we decided that operations on the ground, without a time difference, were necessary.”
Having cut her teeth working for Eileen Ford at Ford Models in New York, following her stint at the salon, Wall foresaw the rise of the actress as mannequin and red carpet obsession, and its attendant need for an army of stylists and groomers, when she ventured West to open a second office in Los Angeles 12 years ago.
“I’d observed that a lot of major brands were more interested in the celebrities the talent had worked on, rather than what fashion shows they were keying backstage,” Wall says. She “learned very young to pay close attention to details and to think about what small shifts could mean for the future.”
For her artists, the future looked golden, thanks to a growing fascination with the secrets, tools and talent behind the stars’ 360-degree red carpet looks.
Far from feeling intimidated by the boys’ club that was and still is Hollywood, TWG saw it as an unparalleled opportunity.
“The services our agency and artists supply primarily cater to the needs of women,” says Kate Stirling, one of the company’s two female directors. As a result, “We’ve always had a seat at the table, because we provide a specialized service that, in a sense, keeps Hollywood running.”
When Endeavor — headed by co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell — came knocking, the acquisition seemed a natural fit.
“We’ve been longtime admirers of Ari and Patrick as business leaders and visionaries,” says Wall.
“From the beginning, we felt a kinship and a shared mindset,” adds the company’s other director, Ali Bird. “At the end of the day, we all want what’s best for our company and clients.”
For TWG’s 150 artists and 70 employees, the benefits of the merger are manifold.
“Our clients now have a direct pipeline to the entirety of the Endeavor client base,” says Stirling. “The internal opportunities for synergy are endless.”
Adds Wall: “We’re now part of a global sports, entertainment and fashion company; we have colleagues in approximately 30 countries.”
Yet the trio has managed to maintain autonomy. “Brooke, Kate and I are still directly responsible for guiding the TWG ship in terms of scouting and signing talent,” notes Bird.
If the last shift Wall sensed launched the artist as star behind the star — with the power to turn an unknown ingénue or brand into an international media force — Stirling suggests that the next will usher in an era of artist as star.
“As our talent becomes increasingly consumer facing and internationally recognized, we see a lot of fashion and beauty brands looking to them to come on board as creative directors and spokespeople,” says Stirling.
“The advent of social media has given all of us the opportunity to broadcast ourselves and create individual brands,” adds Wall.
While it could be argued that the same social media platforms that granted TWG’s marquee-name artists “Insta” fame has also given rise to a new breed of overnight, “indie” sensations, Wall cautions against going it alone.
“Just because you’re able to acquire a following doesn’t necessarily mean you have the experience or acumen to grow a legitimate business,” she says. “There will always be small operators who make a living, but if you want to do anything substantial, it takes a village that shares the same vision and goals. Having a business advocate, especially if you’re a creative talent, is never a bad thing.”
In fact, Wall views digital influence as one piece of the overall puzzle. “The key is to view a strong social following as a tool to achieve success, rather than a hard and fast measurement of your success. It’s the difference between playing the short game and the long game. In this fast-paced industry, it’s important to be 10 steps ahead of the curve.”
Which begs the question: What’s Wall’s next step?
“We’re currently focused on developing our new Paris office,” she says. “However, the Asia-Pacific market has always been interesting to us and we’re communicating regularly with our Endeavor colleagues there.”
Adds Stirling: “We’re really focused on further expansion. We’ve been industry leaders from day one and that’s not changing anytime soon.”