Interview: Casting Director Walter Pearce Talks Street-Casting Models, Industry Racism and Three Models to Watch

Photo via @backstagebombshell on Instagram 

Hood By Air’s 19-year-old in-house casting director Walter Pearce has an eye for street-casting – and he’s telling us about his process, as well as three models to watch.

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Photo via @walterpearce on Instagram 

Congratulations on the Hood By Air show – that was an amazing show!

Walter Pearce: Thank you!

What exactly are you doing for Hood By Air?

Walter Pearce: In-house casting, especially closer to show-time and definitely full-time. I’m also working on street-casting 24/7, either saving for fashion week or a shoot for web. Also, I occasionally street-cast for magazines and other clients.

Hood By Air was one of my favorite shows. Tell me about the casting process.

Walter Pearce: With street-casting, it’s almost equally about the personality as the look. The people we street-cast embody the brand and live the lifestyle. They are people we want to surround ourselves with. I often street-cast someone and then they become my friend.

What are some specific traits you look for in models?

Walter Pearce: A certain excitement, embracing whatever they do. A great example is Hirakish – who wore the white dress and ran out with [designer] Shayne [Olivier] and grabbed his hand.

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Photo via @myjacuzzi on Instagram

Chucky and Sunny’s faces are covered in tattoos. Leilah [Weinraub] and Ian [Isiah] met them when they were in L.A. and we flew them out because their look can’t be faked or recreated. Sunny been involved since Paris [men’s show in July].

Another boy, Jacuzzi, wasn’t in the show, but we’ve shot him before and he projects that same inspiring energy, and, as a result, works with us, helping with production and in the warehouse. We cast people who live the brand.

What are your thoughts on more traditional forms of casting?

Walter Pearce: To me, street-casting is by far the most interesting. Agency casting is like shopping because you’re either looking at a stack of cards or a website and deciding who will fit the brand. With street-casting, it’s a lot more. The street-cast models don’t look at modeling as just a job – it’s because the person adds something that you can’t get from anywhere else but that person. There are of course some legends from agency [casting] that provide that same energy but most of the time, it’s the kids from the street that get me the most excited.

What do you think of models who are street-cast, make a huge mark, but don’t continue sustainable careers?

Walter Pearce: We have some street-casts that we will use for only one season and some that get cast to the biggest agencies in world. Some street casts look good for one look, for one show. Others could wear any brand in the world and look good every time. Each model is a different case. Agencies are starting to notice the idea of street-casting. Models you would never see ten years ago on the runway, you now see on the runway.

What do you think of the lack of diversity in castings?

Walter Pearce: Diversity in fashion casting is slowly getting better, but it’s definitely still not at all where it should be. Our casting is incredibly diverse, but to me it’s dangerous to numerically think of race while casting. It’s easy to tell when a brand throws in a single non-white model to appear ‘politically correct’ or something, and this mindset is not really a secret within the industry. It’s pretty disgusting. Hood By Air has an extremely diverse cast because a Hood By Air girl could be a million different things.

Who are your editorial clients?

Walter Pearce: i-D, Vice, Masses (Parisian), PIN-UP, Matte…I took photos for Masses and Vice, in addition to handling the casting. My photography is an extension of my casting. I do some architectural photography work as well. But people-wise, my photography is all about the person.

Tell me more about the casting process at Hood By Air.

Walter Pearce: We build a story off the street-casting. We start off with street-casting right after Paris. We street cast in New York and book people around the week of [the show]. This year in New York we worked with Evelien Joos – she’s fantastic, the sweetest person. I learned a lot under her, as I did with Patrizia Pilotti in Paris. Ian [Isiah] also helped a lot with casting this season.

We all kind of had different tasks. I focused on street-casting and split up handling the industry boys with Ian. Evelien was in charge of industry girls. It was definitely a team thing.

Are you in school right now?

Walter Pearce: I’m studying photography at FIT but want to drop out soon. School is the hugest waste of time. I sit there and they tell me to take a portrait of crushed up books. It’s a state school but still something my parents are paying for that isn’t giving me tools whatsoever. It teaches me some technological things but I’ve learned more from the Hood By Air team than from any professor or teacher in school.

Has anyone ever stolen your castings?

Walter Pearce: Yes, but you can’t really have something stolen that wasn’t even really yours in the first place. That being said, I am very possessive because I would rather a boy just be in the best show of the season instead of walking for a ton of different brands.

Tell me more about your background and how you’ve gotten to where you are.

Walter Pearce: I grew up in the woods but came here [NYC] four times a week, interning. I was super impatient and wasn’t going to wait until I was old enough to live here.

It’s so great that you are doing what you love, at a brand that you love.

Walter Pearce: I am very blessed.

Which of the models you’ve street-casted should we most keep an eye on?

Walter Pearce: Hirakish has some of the most insane energy of anyone I’ve ever met, let alone cast. His walk is unreal. He is a true legend. 

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Photo: Walter Pearce

Jacuzzi is like the cute version of a bad boys club. He has all of the bad boy attributes but with a baby face.

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Photo: Walter Pearce

Cassius is here from Atlanta. He gives something new. 

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Photo: Walter Pearce


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