Designer duo Ronen Jehezkel and Parke Lutter of the New York-based brand Parke & Ronen consider themselves the Victoria’s Secret of menswear: Each season, they employ the hottest male models to strut down the runway in next-to-nothing fashion (tight bikinis often paired with trendy footwear, naturally). And for their spring/summer 2017 collection debuting Thursday, the designers were inspired by Ivy League school boys.
“We’re looking for all-American boys,” Jehezkel told Yahoo Style at the daylong model casting last week, where over 150 models auditioned for an exclusive spot in the fashion show. (They’ll only cast around 20 models in total). But since “all-American, Ivy League prep boys” seemed like a thematically non-diverse demographic, Jehezkel was quick to correct himself: “Well, like, all-American meets United Nations,” he said. Nice save.
And, so, a relatively eclectic group of models showed up to the casting in groups of four or five and a range of sizes — well, kinda. As I sat with them and their trusted casting director in the form of a judge’s panel (like you’d see on America’s Next Top Model), I saw tall, taller, skinny, and buff guys, but no one with a BMI over 20.
The judges were furthermore entertained by the 18- to 24-year-old men displaying themselves sexually — overtly readjusting their underwear or bikinis to make themselves look bigger, fuller. One model, Spencer Zender, openly told me that he hadn’t hit the gym in preparation but had rather “groomed” himself in case he’d have to try on a skimpy bathing suit (which he did).
After a while, I got an understanding of what the designers were looking for: the bigger the better, like model Benjamin Benedek, who is 6 foot 2 and 175 pounds — all muscle. “Oh, his proportions!” the designers gasped in unison. The 19-year-old Benedek has walked in Parke & Ronen’s show before — and with chiseled abs, slicked-back blond hair, and an indistinct accent, he’s the perfect candidate.
Despite Benedek’s recent absence from the gym, which was because he’s been “feeling sick,” the designers cast him. “Though, he’ll have to work on his legs a bit,” Jehezkel chimed in.
Click through our exclusive photos to see the process of how, exactly, the Parke & Ronen designers cast the “perfect” models for their upcoming spring/summer 2017 fashion show.