Being a successful model is all about marketing. Starting out in a crowded industry is a daunting prospect, but knowing your own value and how to market that is half the battle won. If you take a look at some of today’s high-achievers, what they all have in common is a finely-tuned sense of personal style. Kate Moss is the most obvious example. Her knack of blending vintage and designer has made her a millionaire, but you don’t need to look much further to see that knowing your own style can get you results.
Freja Beha [pictured] may be versatile enough to go from H&M to Chanel, but her tomboy chic is in every editorial and campaign. Not so much so that is interferes with what the client wants (her look in the latest ads for Louis Vuitton renders her almost unrecognisable), but you look at any photo of Freja you get a very clear picture of the person she is. It’s the same with other top models: Raquel Zimmermann = bold, grown-up sensuality, Sasha Pivovarova = quirky, artsy femininity.
If you know who you are, selling yourself becomes that much easier. Think about your likes and dislikes – not just in fashion, but music, art, films, everything. Your tastes often dictate your style. A penchant for ballet pumps can often be traced back to repeated viewings of ‘Roman Holiday’.
When you’ve narrowed down what you do like – as well as the things you definitely don’t – think about how this has shaped you as a person. Our sense of style soaks up virtually every influence around us: you may be surprised at what, and who, has made a lasting impact.
Whether you’re a tomboy and proud of it, or the quintessential girl next door, this will have an effect on everything you do and the way you do it. From how you interact with clients, your strengths, your weaknesses – even the way you approach working the runway. The models that do particularly well at runway have a walk that’s not only distinctive but is as individual as a fingerprint. It works because they’re doing what feels right for them. They may tweak it for certain shows and designers, sassing it up for Dolce & Gabbana, or hitting the slow-burn for Prada, but a good walk is the bedrock of a model’s personal style. You can watch up-to-date runway footage on YouTube for technical pointers – but a catwalk style is ultimately a process of evolution: keep at it and your walk will eventually emerge.
For most models, this is where it all goes right – or horribly wrong. The best defence is a good strategy – and this means dressing the part. Most working models adopt a ‘go-see uniform’. As you get more experience, you will figure out what you need to take with you and what’s surplus to requirements, but as a starting point, your basic go-see kit should include these things:
- A spare set of underwear (nude, as this works best all colours) - Pair of heels (plain stilettos / platforms) - Smart phone or current A-Z if you’re feeling more traditional. - Water / snacks (especially if it’s a day of back-to-back go-sees. Passing out is never chic) - Small grooming kit (concealer / hair bands / grips / hairspray or wax)
When it comes to the actual go-see uniform, think clean and streamlined. The key to self-presentation for a go-see is to let the client see you without crazy colours or tons of accessories getting in the way. A white or neutral-coloured vest and a decent pair of jeans should be all you need. If a client wants something different to this, you will be told in advance.
With make-up, approach it from the client’s point of view. They want to see you, not your skill with a foundation brush. A light day moisturiser should be enough – with a touch of concealer here and there if your skin needs a little help. A light-diffusing concealer is ideal as this will photograph better. Clients often take a Polaroid shot as a type of visual note-taking. Prepping your skin the night before is a fantastic idea: a good skin scrub will give your skin a quick overhaul, but reserve any mask treatments for after go-sees: most masks are designed to draw out impurities. Don’t be tempted to try a new product the night before a go-see. When you’re stressed, your skin can behave in unpredictable ways: don’t give it an excuse to flare up and stick to products you know and trust.
There are occasions when as a model you might be invited to an industry event. Whether the invite comes via your agency or a client, there’s definite subtext. An event like this isn’t just a party with great cocktails and fancy nibbles. It’s also an opportunity for you to get yourself noticed.
Scan any tabloid after the weekend, and celebs will give you a comprehensive lesson in how not to impress. Think of it not so much as a party but a job interview with heels and appetisers, because that’s potentially what it is.
Dressing for industry events can be a minefield: you want to glam it up; make an impact, but there’s a fine line between glamour and glo-worm. When in doubt, head back to your personal style.
Regardless of whether your fashion tastes run to the bohemian, or you’re more of a classicist, one tip is to ditch the black for one night and go with colour. Parties, especially where the stakes are high, are notorious for quashing people’s fashion instincts and have them scurrying back to black. Wearing colour will not only make you stand out in a crowd but it will project confidence, even if you’re feeling nervous. It’s a good way of faking inner-calm and serene self-confidence when you’re feeling anything but zen. Think of it as sartorial smoke and mirrors!
Style: getting personal
Knowing how to present yourself for go-sees or events is part of the process, but the key to being successful (and happy) while modelling is knowing to present yourself from the inside out. Modelling is all about self-projection. You don’t have to be the most vocal person in the room, but being able to put across your personality, whatever it is, goes an awful long way.
Thinking about your style – the way you walk on a runway, how you talk to clients, will give you an insight into the model you’re destined to be. There’s no point in trying to squeeze yourself into the glamazon mould if you’re more of a girl-next-door type. Think about how you interact with friends and family – what would they say your best qualities are? It sounds a scary prospect, but you could ask them – another person can often provide a fascinating insight – highlighting plus-points you never thought you had. Maybe your listening skills are the best thing about you – perfect for deciphering briefs from photographers and clients. Or perhaps it’s an ability to mix well with others – absolutely essential for the modelling business.
Your personality, more than any physical attribute, will inform the type of modelling career you will have. Going into the industry knowing not only your personal style, but your style of personality, will make the whole process that much easier. If you’re that girl-next-door type and you’re sent on a swimwear go-see more suited to glamazons, being turned down for the job won’t feel like a personal rejection but just a client making decisions about what’s best for their brand. That’s the secret to viewing rejection: it isn’t personal at all.
Modelling can be a very tough business, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t know what to expect. But if you start on firm foundations, you will have a clearer vision of where you want your career to go, and any journey’s quicker when you have the right map.