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From the catwalks of Paris to a model solution for Hongkong

IT TAKES one of the best to make one of the best, or so goes the thinking behind Hongkong's newest modelling school which will open next month.

Former Chanel and Christian Dior model Marianne Cartier is joining the territory's top choreographer, Kiki Fleming, in a venture which is hoped will breathe new life into the modelling scene.

The pair collaborated soon after Ms Cartier arrived in Hongkong a few months ago, working together on the hugely successful Vogue Alley show.

Ms Fleming and Ms Cartier say the school is desperately needed as the local modelling industry is running out of fresh faces and, in order to prevent it going stale, new talent has to be found.

''It is essential to have a breath of fresh air,'' Ms Fleming said.

''There is a desperate situation here with regards to the quality of the models. That is why we have to open this school.'' The school will take the form of a series of intensive seminars. The preliminary plans are to run the individual sessions over 10 days; some will be evenings while others may be full days. The syllabus is a comprehensive one: girls learn how to do ''fullturns'' in heels and flats, model everything from jackets and capes to jewellery and lingerie, learn grooming and hygiene, spend a day at a nails, hair and beauty salon, visit a photographic studio and, most importantly, try to come to grips with the business of modelling.

''There was a gap in the market for this kind of intensive training because nobody in Hongkong was really qualified to do it,'' Ms Fleming said.

Ms Cartier's international modelling experience enables her to pass on knowledge to young men and women interested in the business. She has also produced shows in Paris and Switzerland. Ms Fleming ran a modelling school in Hongkong but closed it to concentrate on choreography.

''But the time is right to revive this,'' Ms Fleming said.

''We want to find new stars on the horizon. It is time for fresh blood.'' She said she would make it clear to students whether or not they should continue in modelling, while others might simply be interested in learning grooming and deportment.

''We are not selling a bag of illusions. If we don't see the potential, we will tell them. But this is fun and educational for young girls, to give them information they can use for the rest of their lives in their own grooming and presentation,'' she said.

Ms Fleming said of the models working in Hongkong today, only about 10 would have what it took to make it to the international catwalks.

''The situation here is bad. Some of the girls are very pretty and charismatic, but they have no idea how to walk. Modelling is all about performing, it is about having the right attitude. But most of these girls just copy each other and they don't interpret the mood of the garment,'' Ms Fleming said.

She said this was because of lack of exposure.

''There is no one guiding them and telling them what to do. It is a question of training. We try to find new faces and we help them. Training in Hongkong so far is virtually non-existent. The biggest mistake these girls can make is that they think if they are 1.8 metres tall and blonde, that is enough. But it's not,'' she said.

Part of the training was to show girls how to be versatile: to adopt the mood of the garment they were modelling and allow it to alter their catwalk personas.

''Gianni Versace and Issey Miyake can use the same girl, but she will look completely different because she knows what is involved. This can come with practice, training and a lot of exposure.'' Ms Fleming and Ms Cartier intend to run the basic modelling courses about three times a year and are also considering doing a summer school for children.

''Although it is only part-time, the spirit of the school is to work them hard. They will be videotaped so they can see for themselves how they walk and the progress they make,'' said Ms Fleming.

Ms Cartier said learning about the business side of modelling was equally important.

''It is no use teaching someone to walk and look pretty without showing them how to handle a client. Models think they don't need to have brains to work. But they have to understand their responsibility when they say yes to a job, to be punctual and to have a certain work ethic,'' she said.

''Models have unfortunately never been taken seriously. But it is a jungle out there because it is so competitive. If we ask for 20 models, we will get 45.''