Darley studios, Flinders Street, 3:30pm

Fashion blogger Lady Melbourne once said to me that fashion was the visual language people used to communicate their identity to the world.

As I sat there talking to her on that afternoon last year in my sloppy jeans and t-shirt, I wondered just how well I was communicating the inner fashion siren locked – somewhere – inside of me.

So this week, in my attempt to learn the secrets of the eternally glamorous, I met with model manager Philip Darley at his studios on Flinders Street.

Aesthetics and excellence are hallmarks of Philip’s many incarnations. He began his career as a world-class dancer for the Australian Ballet, was considered for the Olympics as an equestrian rider and launched his own fashion management business, Darley Management, in 2008.

The business has grown rapidly and now he sends his twenty models to haute couture shows in Milan, London, New York and throughout South-East Asia.

Philip’s management style is unique for the industry because he transforms not only the look of his models, but also their life skills. He is committed to developing models of different ethnic and social backgrounds by building their self-confidence, direction and importantly, business skills.

Back at Flinders Street, I couldn’t help but smile as I watched model Azusa Hyde transform into an ethereal beauty – glowing with confidence – for Philip’s camera. Lady Melbourne had been onto something after all.


High kicks

At the age of eight I began going to my mother’s jazz-ballet classes. I was at the back of the class and I was kicking my legs up and the jazz teacher said “your son looks like he could dance” and it just went from there.

I also started doing my horse riding around the same time. We were living in the country town of Longford and we had about ten acres and a few horses. So I am a country boy at heart. When I was at school I was teased a bit because I was different and more artistic, in the country it was very sporty and everything revolved around football.

My family was very into doing things yourself and teaching yourself. My grandmother plays piano and my grandfather and taught himself lead lighting. I don’t like someone telling me how to do something; I like to figure it out myself. You have to have a lot of self-confidence to do things on your own because it’s a lot of trial and error.

There were two ways I could have gone when I was a teenager. I was getting heavily into horse riding and they wanted to take me to an Olympic level and at the same time I was coming into Melbourne to do workshops for dancing. People were saying “you’ve got talent”, so I ended up auditioning and getting into the Victorian College of the Arts.

I started off doing a short stint dancing with the Australian Ballet. Then on a whim I moved to Germany and started working in Dresden, where I eventually got promoted to soloist. I then moved to London where I ended up doing Cats. I get bored very easily, so I think I need to move around to be mentally and creatively stimulated. I think if you’re stuck somewhere for too long, it can kind of cut off the creativity.

Dancing is not easy because you are physically active twelve hours a day. After 16 years it was getting to the point it was a means to an end. I was having operations and I felt like I was torturing my body. The last show was Dirty Dancing and I had a chorus and singing role. I couldn’t find that inner peace, I was anxious and I didn’t feel like I meant to be there.

While I was still dancing, I used to travel on public transport and notice people that caught my eye. After a while, I started researching the whole fashion industry. I started doing make up here and there. Instead of going to school I just started grabbing people and asking if I could do their make up and hair. I had a few friends in London who were drag queens and I loved seeing if I could make a man look like a woman.

Darley Management

I started Darley Management in mid 2008. At the moment, things are boutique and I manage twenty models. I don’t want to have a supermarket – I want an agency where I walk in and know who everyone is in the building.

There are so many people who want to work in the fashion industry because they think it’s glamorous. For me it’s about the passion. I like to get people who have a great look and to give them something.

I’ve met girls who don’t really have a life ambition, they’ve been through a lot of stuff, but they happen to be good looking. So I’ve said to them, “you can make this your business if you are smart”. I really enjoy seeing people blossom and giving them a feeling of being beautiful. I’ve got some great kids on board who really appreciate what I’ve done.

The great thing about the fashion industry is that it’s always changing. What’s in now, might not be next month. You are constantly rotating your talent around the world to wherever they are suited. I think my moods flow with the seasons. I know when I see talent, it’s just an instinct.

I’ve found it harder to push forward in Melbourne than overseas. From what I have seen, the industry here doesn’t like to give new entities a chance. At Melbourne Fashion Week this year, I tried to place talent and I felt I wasn’t being taken seriously.

I was sick of getting rejected and I thought about giving up. Then, I realised it is my passion that keeps me going and drives me in the fashion industry. So I got this tattoo which says “passion defines success” and it reminds me of the commitment I made.

I take a lot of pride in my business and I take pride in the people I represent. I want to be known for producing unique talent that just stand out on the forefront of the fashion industry.

If you would like to get in touch with Philip Darley, you can contact him at info@darleymanagment.com or visit his site www.darleymanagement.com.