Ivan Bart on His New Role Heading IMG Fashion

Jacopo Raule/Getty Images
Ivan Bart

"I feel very privileged to have worked the last couple years pushing our message of inclusivity, and finding new and exciting talent ... Why not bring that to a bigger platform?” says Bart.

Ivan Bart’s star is rising.

IMG announced Monday that Bart, who as the current president of IMG Models has helped diversify fashion in race, gender and size by signing Ashley Graham, Maye Musk, Halima Aden and Hari Nef, and created a new generation of social-media supermodels with his roster of such Hollywood-adjacent talent as Bella and Gigi Hadid, is being elevated.

In addition to IMG Models, he will now oversee all of IMG’s global fashion events, including its fashion weeks. Catherine Bennett, who led the business for the last five years, is departing the company in June.

IMG’s fashion events group owns, operates or commercially represents New York Fashion Week: The Shows, London Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia and Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo. 

One imagines with Bart’s dedication to inclusivity and his social-media and celebrity savvy, he could bring more Hollywood synergies to IMG’s fashion properties, and perhaps draw more pop culture interest to the runways. In 2014, IMG merged with Hollywood talent agency WME. Bart, who has worked for IMG Models since 1994, rose to the role of president soon after the merger.

“I feel very privileged to have worked the last couple years pushing our message of inclusivity, and finding new and exciting talent," Bart told THR when reached Tuesday to comment on his new role. "Why not bring that to a bigger platform?”

Bart admits he doesn’t know everything about putting on fashion shows (although over the years, he's certainly been a constant presence at them, in tandem with his clients). But he says he has faith in IMG’s teams in place. “I plan to do what I do best, be a good leader by supporting and elevating people."

He steps into running IMG's New York Fashion Week event at a time when the future of centralized fashion shows is in flux. While IMG’s new show hub is located at Spring Studios in Soho, the Council of Fashion Designers of America is slated to have a hub at The Shed at Hudson Yards starting in 2019. Other designers show on their own at individual venues around the city — or don't show at all, with Instagram and online now viable alternatives that do not involve expensive event costs, models and sponsorship obligations that can create an overly commercial atmosphere. 

Some American brands, Alexander Wang included, are choosing to show apart from the traditional February and September weeks, and others, such as Proenza Schouler, have defected to Paris Fashion Week. Meanwhile, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger are among those challenging the calendar in another way, showing in-season collections available immediately to consumers, instead of previewing their collections a season ahead of time. And traditional fashion media and retail are facing their own challenges.

“It’s a well-known fact that everyone is questioning how we communicate fashion … and trying to figure out in this new era of hyper-media, social media, streaming, digital and devices how you capture a consumer’s attention,” Bart says. “I do not have have all the answers, but by having this opportunity, I hope to find answers that work.”

Bart is also enthusiastic about finding and showcasing new talent through IMG’s MADE fashion events. “Virgil [Abloh] came up through MADE," he says of the DJ/design star, who started off working with Kanye West, before launching his own Off-White label and has now been tapped to lead Louis Vuitton's men's wear. "We’re going to be looking for the next Virgil. He’s a modern designer in that it’s not just design, it’s music, culture and architecture. It’s a combination of all those things. I would be extremely lucky if, in an incubated events platform, we found someone like that.”

IMG’s MADE L.A. fashion event, which has happened the past two years at L.A. Live, and featured runway shows from Jeremy Scott, Opening Ceremony and other WME/IMG designer clients, has been cancelled. So IMG's next big fashion event will be New York Fashion Week in September, which Bart says is already well underway. “I don’t know if you will feel a tremendous impact right away," he says of his influence. "I’m getting to know the team, meeting one on one with designers, and hearing their expectations. That’s my first order of business. I am coming at this very humbly. I hope I’m able to make a difference and unite the industry.”

Bart will also be in charge of LENS, which manages new image makers across art, film and fashion, including Jen Brill, directors Santiago & Mauricio and photographer/director Sebastian Faena, among others; and M2Mthe brand’s streaming video channel that features fashion films, runway shows and original series, such as the recently announced talk show coming in September from flame-haired Vogue editor Grace Coddington, He will oversee this business alongside Mike Antinoro, senior vp at IMG Original Content.

“Ivan has proven himself time and again a truly creative and collaborative leader, and these businesses could not be in better hands moving forward,” Mark Shapiro, co-president of WME and IMG, said in a press release. “I am thrilled to see his portfolio expand and look forward to witnessing more of his creativity at work.”

As part of the transition, Leslie Russo, formerly senior vp fashion sales and marketing, has been promoted to executive vp fashion partnerships and marketing. Russo will focus on securing new and expanded commercial partners, branded content offerings and marketing activations. She and Bart will work on the business and creative oversight of MADE. 

IMG’s global portfolio of fashion businesses also includes The Wall Group and Art + Commerce, which represent stylists and beauty professionals.

[UPDATED: May 23 at 9 a.m. to reflect the cancellation of the MADE L.A. event.]