The Marlowe Press Story

by Barbara Molyneux - Model Journal © April 1989 


“I’ve got to see a lot of photographers this week,” she whispered, “and I’m almost out of pictures to give them”.

It was early one winter morning in London and for Peter Marlowe this news meant that as his girlfriend had no time, she wanted him to visit several of the studio’s like Barry Lategan’s and order two dozen prints of her recent photo’s. This was 1965, and in those days models used to give away a real photo with their name, measurements and agent’s name and telephone number hand written on the back. Modelling then was in it’s infancy, with only 50 or so good fashion photographers supplying the 10 London agencies with all their editorial bookings. Not only was it time consuming to have to keep ordering photos which were always paid C.O.D., but it was monotonous to have to write all the information on the photos, and EXPENSIVE!

Left to ponder this for the morning, Peter Marlowe decided to solve the problem once and for all. Taking the best photos out of her portfolio, he proceeded to work on a layout, and later that day ordered 100 copies be printed on a litho’ machine. This was the first time anyone in Europe had used a printing machine to reproduce photos for models’ publicity. The present turned out to be a surprise for both Ruth and Peter, however, since she was one of the stars in the Peter Lumley Agency, no sooner had she shown it to other models at Lumley’s than a whole stream of them descended on Peter’s flat every morning. It was the end of a degree at London University for Peter and the beginning of the composite card business.


Within a few months, Twiggy arrived at the new offices at 216 Fulham Road. She sat cross-legged on the carpet whilst Peter worked on a layout of some sensational Barry Lategan photographs.

Agents in those days had no interest in either contributing to the ‘look’ of the publicity material the girls brought in, or financing it. In fact, those early days were a nightmare of bouncing cheques for the young entrepreneurs of the fashion business, and many went under because of it.

By 1967 Peter Marlowe & Associates had a competitor called Sebastian Sed. The composites of the 60’s were all printed to an A4 size on paper stock and ranged from a single sheet in black and white to a 24 page booklet in colour, depending on how the model felt about her own promotion. There were some girls who each year would spend nearly the price of a mini car to produce their 32 page colour composite, and wouldn’t hear of anything less.

By 1968 Peter had created the first ever ‘Model Book’ for the Jean Bell Agency and the first ever ‘Head-Sheet’ for the Gavin Robinson Agency. The other Agencies followed in the same competitive spirit, so that by 1970 Marlowe’s were producing Head-sheets, Agency Books and model’s composites for all the major agencies in Europe.


“Being the first to invent model promotion gave me an incredible advantage,” recalls Peter Marlowe. “Firstly, I had the best client list – that meant I had all the top agents and models who could afford to pay the price for top quality work. I have never tried to cut corners on quality and I was happy to work 7 days a week for the first 12 years to develop my business.”

Always creative, Peter Marlowe published the first London Agency Book for A.L.M.A., The Association of London Model Agencies. This was a leather bound book of the top 8 London agents and their 490 models including Jill Hammond, Jill Kennington and Jean Shrimpton, which was produced in 1968.

Other agencies such as Penny’s still preferred to be independent and she had Marlowe’s publish her book every year bound in suede.


In 1971, the Association of Fashion and Advertising Photographers (A.F.A.P.) called Peter Marlowe and Sebastian Sed to a formal meeting of their Association. They proceeded to explain that they considered themselves the real ‘clients’ of the composite publishers, and that they wanted to enforce a new standard of sizes for promotion material, easier to file than the paper A4 versions which were piled waist high in most studios. They proceeded to show them the C.I.D. filing system, which was a single A5 horizontal sheet on card stock with boxes along the top edge for coding. This was so that 500 models could all be stored in a small box where the photographers could with ease find, for example, all the red-heads with good legs that could ride a horse.  Initially Sebastian Sed agreed with Peter Marlowe that only printing single black and white cards would ruin their business, and that they would not accept this new dictatorship. Within a few weeks, however, Sebastian had launched his ‘Sed-Cards.” The name has been corrupted over the years to ‘Set’or ‘Z’ cards, but the standard size was changed over the next two years and by1974 Marlowe’s had persuaded the whole of Europe to use a single A5 card system. The cards were initially launched too cheaply at £12 per hundred, and so Sebastian Sed was soon out of business. Marlowe’s had moved to 124 Knightsbridge in 1967, and most of the models from the 60’s will remember their huge 12 roomed offices next to the Knightsbridge Barracks. By the mid-70’s Marlowe’s were supplying over a million composites a year and were providing many agents with Ring Binders for their cards. Studio’s often had a ring binder for each agency, and that worked efficiently for many as a filing system.  


By 1975 Peter Marlowe was living in and running the Paris office. It was there in Paris, whilst delivering some composites to a sick model, Jeanette Christiansen, that he met her future husband. This chance meeting with John Casablancas quickly turned into a strong friendship. The two young men were both professionals at marketing, and were to change the history of the model world dramatically in the next few years. The Art Director of Marlowe Press designed the Elite logo, and after John had established the Paris agency the two men set about attacking the New York market.

New York was almost impregnable and was controlled by three Giants – Fords, Wilhelmina and Zoli. John asked Peter to go away and think of something original for Elite’s New York launch, which he did. “To my utter astonishment it took me just minutes to convince John that he should persuade all his models to order a composite simultaneously,” remembers Peter. This created the possibility to print a book which Peter had designed specifically to be capable of being re-printed with ease as a single black and white card for each model from their page. “Lesser agents would have faced a riot at such a suggestion, because in 1977, models, especially top models, were not used to being told when they should have to order and pay for a new composite.


“In Elite’s first year in New York we published 3 such books. The effect was explosive – for a whole year we flooded New York with hundreds of thousands of composites and each season the clients had a really up-to-date catalogue of all Elite’s models. The Americans just loved the efficiency of it all, and appreciated our efforts to offer them a service the likes of which they had never seen before. And so the monopoly of the ‘Big Three’ was broken and Elite got into America.”

Although Marlowe Press have had offices in London and Paris since the 60’s, the Munich and New York offices have only existed since 1984. Throughout the 80’s Marlowe Press have published 80% of the models cards and agency books for New York and Paris and  London agencies. This accolade is to a model agency publisher what being Yasmin Le Bon or Paulina Porizkova would be for a model. It is the ultimate confirmation that Marlowe Press has the best production team for producing models publicity. The staff includes Art Directors, Graphic Designers, Re-touchers, Litho Printing technicians and management that work around the clock to keep all systems flowing on schedule. If an agent's promotion is a boring design, or badly printed, or full of mistakes, or late, it costs the agency and their models hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost bookings and reputation. Hence the top agents will not risk that for a cheaper publisher or a nearer printer on the corner. 

The credits : ‘Printed by Marlowe Press’ or ‘A Peter Marlowe Composite’ carry a certain guarantee of professionalism that is considered worth paying for.


“The significant changes I have witnessed since the 60’s are the networking of the agencies and the international work-mode of the models,” says Peter. “Marlowe Press frequently deliver a model’s order of composites to three different countries. Model agents still have the same problems today that they had then to get to the top. These have always been firstly to find good talent, then maintain a very good relationship with a  handful of the top up-and-coming photographers who will test free, to keep at least two top bookers who can handle raids from foreign agents who are anxious to persuade their top new girls to leave town, and, to maintain efficient accounting services for the models.

“This role of the professional agent interfaces with Marlowe Press where the agent needs us to produce their publicity material to the highest standards to create the ‘look’ of the agency. For just as the model has a ‘look’ in her photographs, an agency has a look affected by everything that is printed for it, from it’s logo to the models’ cards, the head- sheet and the agency book. We act as something of an ad’ agency at times, producing layouts and art work to continually try to improve the client’s image.”


“Over the years, one problem has always been nagging at the back of my mind,” says Peter. “Two years ago I decided to address the problem. Simplified, it was this question…How can you produce VERY QUICKLY and with a HIGH QUALITY of reproduction, a SMALL QUANTITY of cards for VERY LITTLE MONEY? There seemed to be no answer, until new technology could provide the answer. The people who had the problem usually came from three sources : Photographers who wanted to try a small mail shot to ad’ agents, make-up artists who needed high quality colour, and brand new models.”





by Barbara Molyneux - Model Journal © May 1989 



When you enter the quiet elegance of Marlowe Press at No. 24 Gunter Grove, you instantly notice the impressive display of International Model Stars. Jerry Hall vies for wallspace with Paulina Porizkova, Kelly Emberg and Iman, while Laraine Ashton and  Twiggy provide echoes of a different age. Peter Marlowe was taking a call from a well-known agent when I arrived… “We’ve just had a top model switch over to us – how quickly can you produce a colour announcement card?” “Is tomorrow fast enough?” Peter smiles. “MAGIC!” The agent replies. “We’ll send the photo by courier so you’ll have it by mid-day.”  “Fine, then the cards will be ready by tomorrow afternoon…”

Despite his busy schedule, Peter found time to talk to Model Journal about his latest, though by no means new, venture.

“This service has been a long while in the making and a major investment,” explained Peter as we got down to looking at the development of “Go-See’® cards.

The story goes that, whilst developing Marlowe Press in New York, Peter shared a studio with top New York fashion photographer Marco Glaviano, who was constantly visited by young models trying to launch their careers. Unfortunately most of these girls only had photo copies to leave behind, which really put them at a disadvantage.

“Whatever a new model leaves with a photographer is his momento of their first meeting,” says Peter. “That could be the most important meeting for the model. “The personal contact is very important in itself,” he continues. “Ten times more effective than a mailing, and I really believe that a photographer needs to become acquainted with the personality of a new model. This has traditionally been known as doing go-see’s.”

At the end of every week at Glaviano’s studio, the accumulated pile of photo copies, laser copies and polaroids would be tucked away in a suspension file – probably never to be seen again. They were unprofessional and did not fit the normal card filing system. Many studios just threw them away.

 “Likewise with advertising agencies, when casting models for a commercial, the agency would select the best cards to send to the client,” Peter says. “They would not dream of sending a Xerox.” One might have thought that agencies would ensure that all their models had a card before going out on go-see’s, but apparently this is not so.

“The majority of these new models are still at school,” says Peter, …“so not only is the expense of a composite card a problem, particularly a colour one, but there is a large amount of wastage as the minimum order is 500-1000 copies. A different hairstyle and  the card is useless! The time involved in  printing a colour card also makes it prohibitive as these girls only have short holidays in which to develop their career.”

So, having established the problems, how did Peter go about solving them? “Well, we set about researching the available technology to see what would enable us to produce small amounts of high quality cards in a very short time (less than 48 hours). We had to employ special technicians and buy vast new machinery – the rest was trial and error! However, being a photographic system, it is fast, produces small quantities in every size up to A3, is relatively cheap per copy and has fantastic quality,” he enthuses. “ A model can have as few as 100 cards within 48 hours for just £80 including VAT and express delivery, and anything more gets progressively cheaper”.

Because ‘Go-See’® cards are actually colour photographs the quality is superb. And making a black and white photo more interesting is easy with ‘Go-See’® cards. At no extra charge the photo can be reproduced in blue’s, purple’s, brown’s or any one of 100 tints – and every conceivable type of lettering is available. All in all it has to be the best £80 worth of publicity material around.

It is worth mentioning here that a ‘Go-See’® card is NOT a ‘composite’ or index card. It is intended to be used more as an announcement. “I believe that there are no more than 100 people in any given city that have the power to make a model’s career take off, and the ‘Go-See’® card was invented for those people”, Peter explains. “Therefore we needed a system that could make small quantities of 100-250. It is simply the best way of leaving one photo which incorporates all the model’s details (like a mini poster or flyer) with the people who, hopefully, will be impressed enough to call back to do tests at some future date. It is the photos from those tests that become the model’s first ‘composite®’ or index card. But a model may never get that far without leaving something worthwhile on the first visit.”

The big question is, are the cards proving successful?  “I’m delighted to say that they do seem to be,” Peter says. “For example, in just the first few months of her career, a ‘Go See’ card for Frederique, of Models 1 New Faces, was all she needed to reach the big  time on the agencies main board. In fact we developed our first mini head-sheet in full colour for Models 1 New Faces, which was mailed out to a carefully selected client list along with an introduction letter. 

The result was tremendous and the success rate of converting these schoolgirls to professional models was probably unsurpassed by any other agency in 1988.”

Apart from new, young models, who else is using ‘Go-See® cards?

“They can be used for many situations,” Peter explains. “For instance, big models like Patti Hansen and Yasmin Parvaneh (Le Bon) do not need to make a new composite card when they move from one city to another or change agencies. They simply send out an announcement card to a few important clients and the rest of the country finds out right away from the magazines. “But it’s the specialist market that really benefits from the ‘Go-See® card. Photographers use it to exhibit their work or to announce that they are with a new agent. Hand models, make up artists and stylists will mainly use it as a hand out to potential clients and runway models will send 100 copies to their show agent in Paris or Milan. They are also ideal for glamour models.

“Many make-up artists and photographers were thrilled by their first ‘Go-See’® card because the colour is so fantastic, no details are lost and even the really small type is crisp.”

As Peter points out, the likes of hand models particularly need top quality reproduction, as do photographers. “After spending hours lighting a picture perfectly, orange skin tones are just not good enough,” he says.

Because their looks change so rapidly, child models are yet another section of the industry who have welcomed the ‘Go-See’® card, because they never did need 1000 copies. “It is much better for beginners to update their card regularly than to print 500-1000 cards and throw half of them away,” Peter says, making a faint gesture with one hand. “That is a waste of money.”

Trying to obtain the quality they now have was agonizing, and not without some  strange results. However, more and more photographers are now putting their trust in them, and that has to be the highest accolade of all!

“All in all I think I have succeeded in solving an important and major problem for the photographic and modelling professions,” says Peter. “In the two years since I started we’ve changed the equipment several times and invested a lot of money which we don’t expect to recover for quite some time. But we do believe that ‘Go-See’® cards are here to stay and have been internationally welcomed by the industry. Many clients have been so pleased with them that they have switched over to using them almost exclusively.” 

Over the past 25 years Peter Marlowe has made an outstanding contribution to the modelling business. As a student back in the sixties he devised the first ever ‘composite’, and by 1970 he was producing head-sheets and books for all the major European agencies.

“After all these years we’re still dedicated to improving the industry by providing better services and original ideas,” he says. “And to come up with something like this is really exciting.”

*    ‘Go-See’®  and ‘Composites’® are trademarks of Peter Marlowe.