Meet Heads Bristol: A collective of photogenic humans changing the face of fashion

When I think of Heads Bristol, I think of the concept of chosen families. While these individuals may not be biologically related, their intentions to promote a safe space for artists that is inclusive of race, gender expression and sexuality is something exceptionally special. 

The modelling agency/creative collective does not obsess with fashion trends, dress sizes and marketability. Instead, its chief focus is the talent of their cast and the image as a work of art. The collective includes people from a multitude of creative backgrounds, with DJs, writers, artists and designers to name just a few. This diversity of background has added to the creative output of the team, with the Heads Founders Social video shoot proving how photography, editing, the editorial choice of the venue and the casts personality fuses to create visual art. 

Over the past year, we have seen just how inauthentic and damaging performative activism has been to both the POC, ESEA and LGBTQ+ community. While companies print t-shirts in rainbow colours and influencers post black squares to Instagram, institutional racism, homophobia and transphobia continue to pervade society. 

In stark contrast to this performative activism, one quick look at Heads Bristol’s cast shows just how central diversity is to the collective. It is not an afterthought or for any sort of quota, it is at the core of the movement without need for self-congratulation or applause. 

We speak to Jack, one of the creative leads at Heads Bristol, about the collective’s casting process, their commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as their current and future projects. 

It is so exciting to talk to someone who aims to address systemic oppression in the modelling industry. Could you talk a little about when the collective was formed and the motivation behind its creation?

Heads was formed in the middle of lock down (Nov 2020) due to the lack of representation and general support for non-conforming talent in the modelling industry. Our mission is to create a safe and inclusive space for talent to grow with support and encouragement. The lack of immediate community with lockdown and the pandemic left a need for a space where people can create real connections with like-minded individuals. 

There is a real diversity in the models on Heads. What is Heads’ creative background and how does this varied experience enhance the creative process?

With many of our photogenic humans working within the creative industry we have the ability to produce our content in-house meaning that what we are sharing is collectively informed and everyone has input.

As we’ve recently celebrated London Trans Pride in June, why is it so important to support and include trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people as part of the collective and, more generally, the fashion world?

When it comes to casting, the only think we are looking for is talent. We don’t cast to ’tick boxes’. We look at similarities not differences, and this has created a space where our talent is free to be themselves. Even though there is starting to be more representation of gender non-conformity within the industry, there’s still a lot more that can be done and this is across all aspects of the creative industries, not just modelling. 

I remember watching seasons of Americas Next Top Model and how systemic racism slipped into the critiques of the castmates that were people of colour. Does the fashion industry still have a lot of work to do in terms of racism and intersectionality, and how does Heads Bristol aim to promote anti-racism?

The casting for Heads happened very organically and the diversity was inherent from the start. Bristol is a very culturally diverse city and our casting reflected that. Similar to gender non-conformity, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in the industry and the past year with the Black Lives Matter movement has exposed how ingrained systemic racism is. 

A quick look at your website and social media shows just how tight a bond the collective has. Is the social and supportive nature of the collective equally as important as your projects?

Absolutely. Our socials allow our talent to connect with each other, allowing friendships and collaborations to form. Heads is a family and the supportive nature of the collective comes just as much from the talent we cast as it does from the Heads team.

You have created an amazing visual piece for the website. What was the inspiration behind the shoot and how did it act as a social?

Initially we were just planning to have a social celebrating the founding members. With Heads being formed over lockdown this was the first opportunity for everyone to meet in person. With everyone being together in one place we decided to create a piece of imagery that better represented the collective voice.  For this we commissioned the amazing photographer Hollie Fernando, along with stylist Lottie Warren as we felt their style would suit the project perfectly, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. We also commissioned Wire Studios who created a short video to accompany the images.

Due to the pandemic we as creatives have realised that our jobs are classed as dispensable. How has the pandemic affected both your own work as a freelance photographer as well as the collective?

Creatives are often overlooked when it comes to seeming important but what we do is a foundation for so many different things. For example, with the Covid NHS campaign creatives played a strong roll in producing the content to share to the population. That said, with money being tighter than usual, when cuts are made the creative industries usually suffer the most and are massively underfunded. 

Looking forward to a (hopefully) unrestricted future, what does the future hold for Heads Bristol? Have you got any upcoming projects in the works? 

All being well, lots more Heads socials! We will be opening our books for nationwide casting in the next few weeks, so if you are reading this and would like to be involved, get in touch!

Follow Heads Bristol on Instagram

Words: Will Paxton
Photographer: Hollie Fernando
Stylist: Lottie Warren
Art Direction: Flaneur Company
Heads Team: Jack Tyler, Dionne Myrianthous Mia Mok
Photo Assistants: Joshua J Sneade Rosie Carne
Styling Assistants: Christina Russell Amia Ocean Watling Fern Bradie Dee

Models: Yemanja Ollie Silas Cameron Vera Alice Maria Minowa Obi Jono