Industry Leader Profile
Paolo Buonfante: A Visionary In Beauty
By Alona Abbady Martinez
It is hard not to get lost in Paolo Buonfante’s eyes. They are the color of your favorite pair of jeans, the ones that are worn-in and super comfy, and make a stark contrast with his cropped white hair. But the Vice President of Operations at DAS Model Management is much more than a pretty face. A force in the fashion industry for the past 30 years, Paolo has his sights set on making DAS an international boutique modeling agency offering its signature personalized service in a worldwide network of offices. Given his drive and past achievements, it’s sure to happen, and fast.
Buonfante, 50, has the fashion industry in his DNA. His grandfather made his fortune selling fabrics after WWII. By the time Paolo was born, the family owned a successful wholesale textile company throughout Italy. As a young man, Paolo worked in the family business, learning every aspect of the trade. He served a year in the military and then pursued a career in modeling. He felt it was not the right fit.
“I like more the management part, the behind the scenes,” Buonfante said.
The Pioneering Scouting Trip
Paolo volunteered to do an unpaid scouting trip to the U.S. for a modeling agency in Milano. There, he discovered Trish Goff, a 16-year-old girl from Orlando who would go on to grace the cover of Vogue Italia and shoot for high-end fashion campaigns like Valentino.
“That was the first scouting trip of my life, and I found one of the top models in the industry.”
His goal was to return to Miami
“I fell in love with Miami the first time I came here to study English,” Buonfante explained. He is referring to the year he spent in North Carolina prior to working in the family business.
Today, DAS’s office is lined with floor-to-wall windows framed by alabaster sheer curtains softening the bright light of Miami Beach. Paolo glanced outside as a sports car whizzed by.
“I remember I was in Key Biscayne, looking at the sunset, and I saw dolphins in the bay, with these coconut trees and the white sand, and then, I heard a sound, turned around, and there’s a Lamborghini convertible speeding behind me. I felt like I was in a dream! Between the nature and the lifestyle, I just lost it! I said, ‘I’m moving here! I love it!’”
Hello Magic City!
Paolo did return, seeking a position in every Miami agency. When there was none, he offered to work without pay for one month at L’Agence Models, a branch of the Metropolitan modeling agency based in Paris and New York City. In less than six months, he became director, working with the biggest names in fashion like Claudia Schiffer, Eva Herzigová and
He also worked at Elite Model Management for 11 years, where he was responsible for developing some of today’s most iconic names in fashion, including Kate Upton, Christine Teigan and Nina Agdal.
His rise to the top has always been fast, thanks to a rock-solid work ethic and his natural gift of discovery.
“For me, passion is critical for the success of anyone. It doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s about how much you love what you are doing. And your dreams,” he emphasized. “We always have to have dreams.”
His secret for success is surprisingly simple
“Everybody asks, ‘what is the new trend this season?’ I’ve been scouting for the same all my life: I’m looking for a natural look, the girl next door, but the most important thing is to have a positive energy.”
Paolo joined DAS in 2016 and is excited with, what he calls, “this new adventure in my career.” He’s particularly proud of the mentoring program. “We do personal management, which starts from interviewing a girl that never modeled before. We offer a professional photographer service with no charge and do all the development for free. No agency does that.”
Rasheed Alli, founder and managing partner of DAS, is excited as well
“Paolo’s philosophy is very much aligned with how I think a modeling agency should be, just from the way he treats the models respectfully, paying them on time, not taking models we can’t book,” he explained. “He’s a genuine person, an all-around man of his word.”
In his spare time, Paolo flies his Sportsman Glasair seaplane, the current and third aircraft he has owned.
“In the summer, I stay in my Key Largo home and fly to work every day. It’s amazing!”