In conversation with Walter Pearce

If you don’t know who Walter Pearce is, you are not paying attention!

Walter by Bill Taylor

We meet at Hotel Grand Amour in Paris. It was roughly around 11pm, there was wine, there was whiskey, and there was this strange, a bit schizophrenic, connection of two young adults trying to be professional, but at the same time trying to have fun.

Walter is without a doubt one of the best (if not THE best) casting agents working today. He is also one of the most entertaining people I ever meet and there is something very magnetic about his presence. When spending time with him, you can see straight away his abrupt, open, pleasant and very individual characteristics. His work is an extension of his own nervous system. Everything he does is a combination of abandon and selectivity. He is the guy that put Wolfgang Tillmans on the runway for HBA show. He is the guy behind Helmut Lang S/S 18 (Seen by Shayne Oliver), casting. He is also the guy whose face Rihanna wore to Starbucks, just because John Galliano decided Walter would make a great Margiela sweatshirt.

Walter is a wild kid with a distinctive eye, his own casting agency (Midland), and a life that mostly spans between Paris and New York.


Katja Horvat: Walter, let us start with love. How long have you been married?

Walter Pearce: Longer than I’ve known her. We’ve been married for six months now, but I knew her for two months beforehand.

KH: You had a reception at Lucien, right? A second home for all of us.

WP: Yes, and my dad was not invited because he was shit talking about our marriage.

KH: Uh oh, family issues, we all have them! Let’s rather talk about Paris. When did you first get here?

WP: The first time was with Gosha for his first runway show, which I walked.

KH: Did he cast you through Instagram?

WP: Yes. At the time, I was staying in some weird place on the 19th floor with no bathroom, and now I am bitching all over Hotel Grand Amour. Times have changed (laughs).

KH: Changed super quick! How did it all happen for you? It is nuts as you are still so young, but you have the experiences of an old man.

WP: I interned for DIS magazine when I was fifteen. I interned for Shayne (Oliver, HBA) when I was sixteen. I knew nothing about fashion back then, I just though HBA was cool. And then while with Shayne, he said I should start street casting, did that for a while, took over HBA show, etc.

KH: You were the one who put Wolfgang Tillmans on the runway, right?

WP: Yes, I did that and some other publicity stunts. After all of that, I started a company called Midland.

KH: Which city do you like more – NY or Paris?

WP: Skill or money wise?

KH: Look!

WP: It is different, cant tell, really.

KH: Ok, then skill.

WP: NY is the only place where young people are doing nice things all the time. With other cities, it switches all the time. London had that guy, what is his name? Rick Owens daughter?

KH: Gareth Pugh?

WP: Yes, him! So London had that, and then it switched. New York (now) has Shayne, Vaquera, Telfar, etc.

KH: What about Paris?

WP: Paris is weird because it switches every season. There is nothing really steady here.

KH: What did you do this past season (workwise and in Paris)?

WP: I did André Walker who just showed for the first time in years. I did Dumitrascu, etc. I am also working on a porn shoot, I am not allowed to say much, but I am basically casting vaginas.

KH: That is kind of a natural switch – from fashion to porn.

WP: That is what everyone has been saying, and I am like, “What the fuck do you mean? Why is this switch so obvious?” Regardless, I must say, I like it, a lot!

KH: What is there not to like? What are some other things you like doing in Paris?

WP: Lately, I’ve been buying a ton of knives. Three blocks from where we are just at, there is this shop that has best knives, and guns, and all of that.

KH: Can you buy a gun here?

WP: I cant, but you can, I think!? You know what is the difference between Paris and NYC, or just Europe in general? In upstate NYC let say, I can run around with a handgun like a crazy person and no one will say anything. NYC, the six knives I have in my room now, two of which I got as a romantic gift from our friend Gio (Forbice)… Well, if I get caught with them, its a felony, I can get locked up for that. So basically, I can run around with a gun, but I can’t have knives

KH: What are you going to do with all these knives?

WP: I called my dad and asked if he wants some, he said no. Either way, I am sending my knives to him. I live in Chinatown, I cant send them there, he lives out of the city, it’s easier, whether he likes it or not.

KH: Walter, where to party in Paris? Knives got me thinking about nightlife (laughs).

WP: I like Silencio because it is the dumbest place ever. Le Carrousel was good while it lasted. I had my birthday party there last year, and it was a huge disaster. They had to close down the place, police came, etc.

KH: What happened?

WP: I dated a model, let’s leave her nameless, but her name rhymes with many. Anyhow, we were two psychopaths that got together. I was mad at her, I don’t know why, probably just because. Anyhow, I left the party and ended up in a brothel, totally by accident, though. After I left (Le Carrousel), the DJ that I flew in poured drinks on something he should not have. Consequently, things got out of control, they called the police, the party was shut down, etc. It was a huge fiasco!

KH: Who is your favorite person in Paris?

WP: Lotta Volkova by far. I also like Pierre-Ange, Clara 3000, etc.

I am going to buy these shoes too!

KH: What are you talking about?

WP: Your shoes. I really want them! Did they bring my ginger?

KH: Did you order ginger? I just know you ordered butter.

WP: I asked for ginger way before I asked for butter. Can I pee now, can we pause the interview?

KH: (Walter comes back) Should we talk about fashion now? What is the worst thing about fashion?

WP: That is a heavy question to just dive into, especially with no butter.

I like having a lot of control over my work, and I am really blessed in a sense that with a lot of jobs I have a complete freedom and control over what & how I do things. I made my work recognizable – when I do something you know it was me, and that kind of freedom is rare for a casting director. But when I don’t have that control and freedom, that does not play out well!

KH: How do you do what you do?

WP: It depends on the client. I do a combination of street and agency casting. But when I street cast, and Instagram is a part of that, I am not interested in 50 thousand followers, I want someone that has none and is just random.

KH: How do you pick them, though? Ren Hang once said he chooses his models based on whether he wants to sleep with them or not.

WP: My idea of beauty is very perverse. I mean, the easy way would be to cast someone that is well known and walks every show, but I have no interest in that. I rather find girls that are completely off, and then work with them the same way as with any other (well) known model.

KH: Can we break down street casting? People are very narrow, usually, when you say street, they actually think of the street, don’t you think?

WP: I have a very weird relationship with the term, as it is very dumb and generic. But street casting means anyone without an agency. Also, with me, there is this stigma that I hate agencies, and I only love street casting. That is a lie! I love models. I love, love, love models. It is just that I cast a bit differently.

KH: What is one thing people may not know about you?

WP: I am obsessed with furniture design. I have Mies Van der Rohe’s chair tattooed on me. That said, is the fashion talk over?

KH: I mean, do we need more fashion? Ok, tell me everything you need to tell me.

WP: You are a terrible interviewer (laughs), you just want me to talk shit.

KH: No, but talking about same stuff over and over again is boring.

WP: True, I am always presented as this casting guru, always the same. It’s a boring industry we work in, everyone is boring. The press is boring, people are boring – except me (laughs). And you know what, I am not trying to be crazy, but I’ve built an empire that is not boring!!!!

KH: That is actually true. Ok, for the end, who is someone you really, really want to put on the runway?

WP: I want Chris Cunningham, badly!

KH: Walter, me too! Me too!

Interview: Katja Horvat

Photos: Courtesy of Bill Taylor and Midland Agency

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