Patrick McDonald, self-proclaimed “dandy of New York” and a favorite subject of the late famed fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, thought his days of catwalks and posing for Halston campaigns were long behind him.
Though he left the modeling world in the late ’70s, at “61 years young,” McDonald has remained a prominent figure in the New York style scene. He’s collaborated and worked with several designers, and in 2009, participated in the Bravo reality show competition “Launch My Line,” where he vied for the chance to launch his own fashion line.
However, with the help of Zand Wagon, a model management and talent casting company that launched last week, McDonald said he’s ready to get back in front of the camera. Founded by Kayvon Zand, a longtime fixture of Manhattan nightlife culture who self-identifies as a queer performance artist, the agency is dedicated to breaking beauty barriers by providing visibility to a diverse array of models that span all ages, races and sexualities.
Patrick McDonald and Bill Cunningham talking outside of Lincoln Center
Zand Wagon currently represents more than 60 models, visual artists and photographers from backgrounds that its founder said are particularly underrepresented, including individuals that identify as transgender, plus-size and gender non-binary. (In each talent bio, there is a section for “preferred pronoun” for models that don’t use gendered language like “he” and “she.”) Though the most recent fashion show season showed slight progress in runway diversity, groups like transgender models were among the least represented, at just 12 appearances, or 0.17 percent of all model castings, according to a report by The Fashion Spot.
While several other agencies have sprung up in recent years to help increase minority percentages — including the Muslim modeling agency Underwraps and Oldushka, a Russian modeling firm only open to clients older than 45 — Zand said his agency is unique for its focus on total inclusivity. Just shy of two weeks out, Zand Wagon is already resonating: Zand said he’s received an overwhelming amount of requests to join the agency, as well as positive feedback from industry bigwigs like Patricia Field, the costume designer for “Sex and the City.”
While his next step is to cull through the slew of prospective new talent, Zand has already helped cast talent for several brands and publications including Milk Makeup, Nylon, Vice and MTV, and is in talks for a prospective project with Teen Vogue.
“[The industry] needs to change. It needs a shot in the arm,” McDonald said. “Kayvon will be a pioneer in this area to feature different people, all different types of people, and get the message our that we’re all humans and we’re all one, and I think that’s important.”
Zand got his start in fashion as a teenage model, but was eventually dropped by his agency for attending castings and shoots wearing makeup. During a time before “boy beauty” and gender neutral had entered the cultural vernacular, he said the industry was particularly conservative and uncomfortable veering outside of gender norms.
“A guy had to look like a guy and be masculine-presenting. Being Iranian and wearing makeup didn’t make sense to them. I loved expressing my culture and expressing myself,” he said.
An Instagram shared by Kayvon Zand
Buoyed by his early quest to overturn traditional modeling standards, Zand said he derived inspiration for the agency from the unique array of people he rubbed elbows with performing and hosting events in downtown Manhattan. He wanted to channel that “motley crew of acceptance” to form a business focused on gaining national visibility for individuals who are often excluded from runways or campaigns.
Zand was also, frankly, ready to settle down. As the father of an eight-month-old alongside his partner Anna, Zand began to realize the grueling late-night hours and flashy performances weren’t conducive to his new lifestyle. Zand Wagon allowed him to pair his vast rolodex of connections and experiences to a schedule better suited to being with his family.
“Essentially, I had started this organically, years ago. I come from a background of nightlife, particularly queer subcultures, with the whole alternative scene, so I was always surrounding myself with really unique, strong individuals,” Zand said.
When McDonald heard murmurings about the agency, he knew he wanted to come aboard. Though he enjoyed his time modeling several decades ago, he said he left after competition for male models started to intensify and the market grew saturated. “My goal is to represent older, flamboyant men and dandies. The best thing I’d like to get out of it is a campaign in which I could be an inspiration for other people to feel like they can be themselves. I want people to feel like, ‘If he can do it, I can do it,'” he said.
Lexie Bean, a model who identifies as gender non-binary and prefers “they” pronouns, said they fell into modeling while working on the set of a short film recently, during which a fellow actor asked if Bean would be interested in giving it a try. The actor encouraged them to reach out to Zand Wagon, and Bean was signed a few days later.
“I trust Zand Wagon with not stopping a promise for diversity at the word ‘trans,'” Bean said. “It’s vital to have an agency where I am one of very few people who fits the prototype of tallish, white and skinny. It instead prioritizes and holds space for every other color and shape that is a more honest representation of the vast, vast world that we live in.”
and with a little bit of magic i’ve signed onto @zandwagon – a rad queer-friendly, pro-use-your-dang-voice modeling agency w/ a lot of grit n twinkle. they’re brand new and just launched *today* via out magazine (link in comments section below). special thanks to the labor and imaginations of @kayvonzand and @deboraspencer annnnndd wow Lori Laing for being encouraging as heck. i have a lot of feels about the journey to now, but most of all feel v grateful for all the ways i can surprise myself. i especially especially enjoy being my alien self and seeing what happens when i wear Jacob’s dress backwards 💜 . . . #OUT #planetfemme for @chloerossetti ✨#backwardsday #growingup #growingout #secretlife #alienbaby
A post shared by Lexie Bean (@oklexiebean) on
Model Lexie Bean announces joining the Zand Wagon team on Instagram
Joey Kingery, an Iraqi American who also is signed with Zand Wagon, echoed Bean, and said he was drawn to the agency’s fresh approach to beauty after experiencing the unrealistic standards models are subjected to firsthand. As a freelance model, Kingery at times found it challenging to navigate the industry with an unconventional look, including his signature full beard and tattoos.
“It feels very unique. You’ve never heard of any agencies that have people from all different walks of life,” he said. “It might take time, or it might just blow up right away, but it’s very interesting. I think a lot of people are going to be asking about it.”