Ivan Bart, Former President of IMG Models, Dies at 60

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Ivan Bart, the former longtime president of IMG Models, died Friday after a short illness. He was 60 years old.

His death was confirmed by Mark Shapiro, president and chief operating officer of Endeavor, which owns IMG Models.

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Over a 30-year career, Bart helped shape the careers of many of the most sought-after models in the business such as Carolyn Murphy, Stephanie Seymour, Kate Moss, Gisele Bündchen, Joan Smalls, Kate Upton, Bella Hadid, Gigi Hadid and Tyra Banks. Bart was well regarded as an energetic, charismatic and supportive executive who strove to build a more diverse and inclusive industry.

“It is with overwhelming sadness and deep regret that I share that Ivan Bart, longtime president of IMG Models and a trailblazer in the fashion industry, passed away over the weekend,” Shapiro said in an email to employees.

Born in 1963 and raised in Brooklyn, Bart graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in psychology. He began doing public relations for a firm, which had a very small modeling agency attached to it, and he started to work there. In 1994, he became creative director of IMG Models, which was just starting a model division, and the firm had just signed Niki Taylor and Tyra Banks. Three years later, they had signed Angela Lindvall, Bridget Hall and Murphy, and a year later, Bündchen, followed by Moss in 2000. Bart became a senior vice president in 2000, and was promoted to senior vice president and managing director, directing the operations of talent management in New York, London, Paris, Milan and Sydney, in 2009. In 2014, Bart was named president of IMG Models.

“During the course of three decades at IMG Models, Ivan quite literally changed the shape and face of the modeling industry from within. His relentless pursuit for diversity and inclusion challenged fashion’s gatekeepers and created household names whose omnipresence has inspired generations,” Shapiro related in the email.

Shapiro said he literally sat beside Bart at a table with the former management team at Victoria’s Secret while he politely argued that they had to change their annual runway television special and diversify their models in terms of size, age, race and background.

Shapiro noted that Bart was an early adopter of social media and an advocate for the power it gave models to be heard, not just seen. “He knew innately that a picture was worth a thousand words, and the images he helped create became a necessary catalyst for social change,” he said.

“Being in Ivan’s world was awe-inspiring,” said Shapiro. “Attending fashion shows and events with him in Milan, Paris, Miami, Lisbon, London and New York and just tailing him, being at his side, witnessing him work the room, was exhilarating.”

In March 2023, Bart relinquished the president’s role at IMG Models and became a senior adviser at the agency.

During his tenure the agency signed models such as Ashley Graham and other plus-size models after the closure of the plus-size division at Ford Models. He also signed transgender model Hari Nef, as well as Maye Musk and Ella Emhoff. He headed up IMG’s global fashion events business, which owns, operates and/or commercially represents fashion properties such as New York Fashion Week: The Shows, Australian Fashion Week, and MADE.

Leslie Russo, the former president of IMG Fashion Events, worked with Bart for eight-and-a-half years and for two of those years, he was her direct boss. “Ivan’s warmth, sense of humor, his genuine desire to lift people up, really made IMG Fashion, not just Models, what it is today. As an executive, he was beloved by his team, his clients, his circle of friends. He’s not someone who demanded respect, he earned it. He led people with kindness and warmth. He had this incredible gift for discovering and nurturing talent. Not just modeling talent, but even talent in the office.

“He’s someone who really saw people and championed them passionately. For me, you could always count on Ivan to have your back. Even though he was this gentle soul who would fight on behalf of others, I think he had a harder time fighting on behalf of himself. I always felt people should have fought harder for him,” said Russo.

Fern Mallis, an industry consultant and creator and host of “Fashion Icons With Fern Mallis,” said Monday, “He was one of my very best friends for a very long time.” She said they were friends even before she worked at IMG, and they lived near to each other in Southampton, N.Y.

“He was one of the most lovable, delicious human beings you ever want to know. He was full of life, love and passion. What he did at IMG Models was remarkable. He created opportunities for everybody. He saw the best in everyone. He single-handedly helped make the modeling business inclusive, from the men’s business, the women’s careers he structured and made, to the plus-size to the disabled. He did all of it,” said Mallis.

Jeffrey Banks, a close friend of Bart’s, said, “Ivan was the most generous, compassionate giving person, which is so rare in the fashion world with its back-biting. He was the complete opposite of all that. He gave of himself to his friends and colleagues that he worked with. He was really one of a kind, and it’s just so, so sad.” He recalled that Bart had gone to Italy on vacation a month or so ago with his husband, Grant, “and they were both so looking forward to his next chapter.”

Bart wasn’t afraid to take the lead when seismic controversies shook the industry, such as when in 2020 multiple accounts surfaced of alleged sexual misconduct by a few well-known photographers and stylists against many models. He told WWD, “The only way our industry will send a message of a safer and more inclusive work environment is if we all hold each other accountable in preventing unacceptable behavior.”

A big-picture executive who understood the intricacies and many unknown faces who helped to make the industry run, Bart once said, “I don’t know if everyone appreciates making the train run on time and the lighting that works so that everything goes accordingly well.” He also understood not only that the business needed to evolve, but also how to help execute some of those changes.

Well before diversity, equity and inclusion was being discussed in C-suite conference rooms, Bart was among the industry representatives who openly criticized the industry for the lack of Black models on designer runways and in major advertising campaigns during a 2007 discussion that was organized by Naomi Campbell and Bethann Hardison. At that time, he said that not representing more Black models wasn’t just a matter of missing out on Black consumers’ spending power but that they were also — wrongly — “saying that they can’t afford it.”

Acknowledging how diversity can encourage new talent, Bart noted a few years ago that “getting behind talent that is hitting different communities shows that there is an opportunity.”

He also helped to usher in acceptance of considerably more seasoned models including Iris Apfel, who was signed by IMG at the age of 97 in 2019. The company has revived the modeling career of Maye Musk, who some know better as the mother of “X” (formerly Twitter) owner and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. In 2012, Bart reignited the men’s market by restarting IMG’s representation of male models after a five-year hiatus.

Hardison said Monday that she loved the fact that Bart would tell models when they left, “‘Listen, you always know where home is. You can always come back.’ A lot of agencies don’t do that and a lot of people don’t think that way. And he meant it.”

Bart always would approach Hardison if he knew something was not right and tell her. “He wasn’t going to allow them to push him into a certain corner. He was also going to do the right thing by the person. He had an incredible amount of integrity,” said Hardison.

Having been a close friend of Bart’s for years, Stan Herman described hosting Bart’s and Grant Greenberg’s wedding five years ago on the dock of his Southampton lakefront house. Next-door neighbors, Bart enjoyed soaking up the sun and swimming during the daytime and the evening. His legacy will be “the humanity that he brought to the modeling world and the way that he treated the models. I had sat here so many times and heard him on the phone, talking them through the path of righteousness,” said Herman. “He was like the daddy to all of these models, who could sometimes be so tricky.”

In describing the IMG offices under Bart, Herman said, “There was just such a warmth for the people around him. It was not a corporate feeling.”

An honest player, “who was quite intelligent with a great fund of information,” Bart often spoke past midnight during dinner parties about the “inequities in life,” Herman recalled. “He really tried to build bridges. He was one of the first [executives] who really got behind the Black models movement. He was very forward-thinking about LGBTQ matters.”

Linda Wells, editor of Air Mail Look and former editor in chief of Allure, said, “I met Ivan in the early days of his career and loved him immediately. Everyone did. He was smart, charming, opinionated and principled — and I admired all of those qualities in him. He championed so many young models so powerfully. He also advanced the way the world saw and defined beauty.

“When Ivan called me about a new model named Ashley Graham, he was exceptionally passionate — even more passionate than usual, which is saying a lot. This was urgent. He needed me to see her and to witness her potential as a person and as a catalyst for change. The three of us met for drinks at The Mark. Drinks turned into dinner and dinner turned into a contract with Revlon. Ivan was right. Ashley was and is a force of nature. And Ivan pushed all of us — those in the business and far beyond it — to see how the narrow definitions of beauty needed to expand. He was a visionary.”

Sara Ziff, founder and executive director of the Model Alliance, a New York-based advocacy group for models, issued a statement, which said, “We send our sincere condolences to those who knew and loved Ivan Bart….Although we did not always see eye to eye with Ivan, we appreciated his passion for his clients and his contributions toward creating a more diverse and inclusive modeling industry. Last year, when we invited IMG to the table to discuss the Fashion Workers Act, Ivan expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to find synergy and work toward a unified solution. We are grateful for his contributions to the bill and the industry at large.”

Constance C.R. White, an author and journalist, said, “Ivan rose to the upper echelons of fashion and he worked with some of the biggest modeling names of the last three decades, but I believe some of his most impactful and long-lasting work will be his efforts to promote diversity. He was a champion of groundbreakers like Alek Wek, Tyra Banks, Liya Kebede and Joan Smalls. All these Black women represented firsts in the field and were representative of Black women being visible and society making space for Black women to show their beauty.

“I remember one year, Black Retail Action Group [BRAG], the almost 50-year-old volunteer organization promoting DEI in fashion and retail, honored Naomi Campbell at the organization’s annual black-tie gala at Cipriani. This was several years ago. Ivan came to support Naomi and bought seats for four or five young Black models so they could be inspired by seeing Naomi in person onstage. They swarmed her to get photos with her when she left the stage. They were ecstatic,” she said.

Malcolm Carfrae, principal of marketing and branding consultancy Carfrae Consulting, recalled Monday, “For me, I will remember him for his kindness and loyalty. When I announced I was leaving Ralph Lauren and opening my own consultancy, he was one of the first people who called me and said, ‘OMG, that’s fantastic, let me take you for lunch, I want to hear all about it.’ He asked, ‘What do you need from me? What can I do?’ And then he eventually hired me for a project for IMG. That kind of generosity is truly rare.”

Bart received the Social Impact Award at the Fashion Institute of Technology Annual Awards Gala in 2018, and said during his acceptance speech that he was raised by a single mother and had an aunt who both influenced and shaped who he became, and perhaps even inspired him to manage women’s careers. He was presented the award by IMG model and actress Carolyn Murphy, who said that it has always been Bart’s personal mission to break the social modes, push boundaries and be more inclusive.

Bart pointed out at the time that a Lauder campaign that featured Joan Smalls, Carolyn Murphy, Fei Fei Sun and Hilary Rhoda not only signified inclusivity but also sent a strong message “that no woman is excluded from luxury products and women of color have real spending power.”

“What we see in advertising and the runway must reflect who we all are,” said Bart. He said he had advocated for plus-size models such as Candice Huffine, Ashley Graham, Precious Lee and Zach Miko to get work. “Our team worked together to push these talented models into the mainstream and it’s working,” he said.

Bart is survived by his husband, Grant Greenberg, his family, friends and the IMG family, said Shapiro.

Through a friend, Greenberg said he was unavailable to comment at this time, but said Bart died of a short illness and that he and his family kindly request privacy at this time.

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