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I moved to Paris shortly before Fashion Week started, which gave me enough time to panic about not being important enough to get into shows, and then plot how to still get a glimpse of the caffeine-and-sushi-fuelled fashion frenzy. After trawling through blog posts and job sites, I finally happened across a few internship applications on Indeed.com (would definitely recommend). They weren't for any brands that had shows on that week, which meant no free passes, however they would allow me to see what is arguably the most important part of Fashion Month: Market Week.
Ah yes, Market Week. The less-popular-but-still-pretty little sibling to sparkly Fashion Week, where major retailers get dibs on all the best looks hot off the runway, looks that peasants like myself can only dream of buying one day. When I received the email back from Zac Posen, I was ecstatic. Not only would I get a chance to see firsthand all the dresses I'd already obsessively liked on his Instagram account, but as a recent émigré (i.e. a potato with only two friends in the city), I was really looking forward to making some new friends.
The email stated that the dress code was black and smart, and I thought "darling, I already am," (chortle chortle chortle) but then I had to get serious because I owned very few black items and I'm not adult enough to do my laundry that often. Luckily for me, unluckily for the environment and my conscience, I was able to get enough pieces from Missguided and H&M to cover a whole week of black clothes.
The showroom was located a five minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe, in a beautiful courtyard that gave you the feeling a man with a violin was about to step out and serenade his lover perched by the window on the third floor. I entered the building and climbed up the lavishly-carpeted stairs, trying to pretend I wasn't breathing heavily just in case I bumped into someone on the way up. Nervous but determined, I breezed into the studio with all the grace and poise I could muster (after having tripped up the stairs and taken a minute to stop breathing like a horse). I stepped into a bright and spacious apartment that had been converted to studio space. The two main showrooms were filled with boxes and cases, and a few other interns were already steaming the dresses on racks that lined the walls.
I greeted the first people I saw with a "Bonjour!" only to be met with a quizzical stare and a Scottish accent (thank goodness it was all in English, I was too nervous to form coherent sentences in French at that point). The other interns were from Scotland, England, Italy and New Zealand, whereas our bosses were from the USA. I'm glad that we ended up becoming good friends, and I've had some fantastic memories in Paris with 'the gals' (although that sounds much cooler when it's said in a Scottish accent). I walked further into the showroom, and I was greeted by one of our bosses, who asked "Hi! Are you one of the models?" Ah stahp, I'm blushing! I wish!
The casting for the actual models started an hour after I arrived, with bright-eyed and long-legged girls wafting in and out of the showroom. Behind the scenes, it was a nightmare trying to zip up the gowns on the various models, who were already very tiny, mind you. I couldn't even fathom how slender the fit-model in the New York studio must be, but I can imagine she could easily wear a choker as a waist belt. One of the models, who had a wide ribcage but not an ounce of fat on her, nearly burst into tears when none of the dresses zipped up. She can't have been older than eighteen and she had such lovely, Bambi eyes that looked so sad it made me want to cry for her then eat a cookie (which I probably would have done anyway, let's be honest).
Our final models were called Nastya and Mariana, from Latvia and Brazil respectively. Mariana was walking for Chanel the next day (I KNOW), so she was later replaced by Celina, a gorgeous Brazilian with such a contagious laugh. She was almost comically down-to-earth, and one day even picked up a broom and dustpan and started sweeping the changing room. She also let us know, through sporadic and nonchalant comments, that she was dating a football player from Brazil called Ronaldo. She was so chill about it that it took us forever to figure out that she meant THE Ronaldo (and no "not the gay one, other one") which was very cool. If I were dating a famous football player I'd probably have it written on my CV. Then again if I were a highly successful model, I probably wouldn't have space for it on my CV anyway.
Although we never got to meet Mr Zac himself, we did get to meet the president of the company, who suddenly appeared one day and didn't let on who she was the entire time. When we found out a few days in, our jaws understandably hit the floor so hard it left a dent in the wood. The clients cycled in and out of the two showrooms (one for Zac Posen, and the other for Zac Zac Posen - there's a huge difference, don't worry about it), drinking coffee and flipping through gigantic folders filled with photos of every single piece in each collection.
Soon after arriving, the clients would start picking up pieces off the rails to be tried on by the resident models. We had developed a very efficient chain, which had two girls outside to take in new clothes and display the ones already tried on to the clients. They would pass the garments inside the dressing room, where we had a team to unfasten the clothes, help the model into them, zip up the model, and replace the clothes on the hanger, all in a matter of minutes. I don't mean to brag but I'm sure we could have been hired as ladies maids in the 1800s at Versailles, you know, if any of us were actually French. And alive at the time.
Anyway. The days in the showroom were split between absolute frenzy and absolutely nothing to do, depending on whether we had clients or not. During our down time, we would plan what we wanted for lunch (either salad or sushi, yum!) or we had a few impromptu photo shoots. I ended up getting some really fantastic shots, if I do say so myself, and you can see the full gallery here. A few of my photos received emoji-filled comments from Mr. Zac Posen himself (success!), who even posted them on his own Instagram!
The week zipped past unbelievably quickly, and after what felt like only one day, we were already packing up the showroom. I had consumed my weight in sushi and peppermint tea, and my feet felt as though they had entered another dimension, but it was the best week I've had in Paris and I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Pepper & Söl
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After living in Singapore for two years, and hearing "you just don't have the look we're going for" far too many times, I finally walked the runway for the first time here. It's taken so long to get here, but I think it was good because I still had a lot of growing to do and rejections to face before I could really appreciate what this means.
I had all but hung up my heels and thought that perhaps modelling wasn't for me, and that I'd never encounter real opportunities because, as someone once said to me, "perhaps Singapore isn't ready for black models." One of the only black models I knew here was a tall Afro-Brazilian goddess, and even she's gone now. So not only did I have diversity going against me, but I'm also 1-2 sizes too big for high fashion.
When I told people this, the reaction is often shock! Horror! The injustice! How ludicrously skinny do models have to be?! Whilst the modelling industry does have a plethora of faults and disappointments when it comes to size and body image, I also know that smaller sizes are often preferred be designers for practical reasons. It takes a lot of time, money and fabric to prepare a collection for a show, so designers make sample sizes only - both to save a bit on fabric, and to not have the hassle of fitting dozens of models. It's pragmatic to the core - they don't have time to waste so if you fit, you wear it. If you don't, you're out.
When I first received a message from one of the organisers that I should go to the casting, I politely declined because I was one size short of fulfilling the requirement and try as I might, there was no way I could squeeze what my mamma gave me into a UK 8. However, she got back to me and encouraged me to try anyway. I went to the casting and I got in! Well, everyone at the casting did, but no one needs to know that ;)
However, I was completely stunned when later in the week I received a call from a booker at NOW Model Management who had been at the casting as well. She wanted me to come into the office to talk about signing with them!
When I went into the office, I found myself staring at a wall of flawless Asian, Eurasian and Pan-Asian faces, and I secretly wondered what I was doing there and whether there was really a place for me there. It all seemed a bit surreal, and I couldn't imagine why they would possibly want me, but they told me they were super excited about signing their first black model and some other really great things that I can't repeat without sounding conceited af.
Anyway, fast-forward two weeks to the Zalora fashion show. Picture me backstage, practicing my walk and drinking milo (it has calcium or something, leave me alone), getting ready to go on and praying I didn't trip in my heels. Unlike Nancy Sinatra, my heels were not made for walking, they were made for standing and only walking to and from the cab. That's it.
Somehow, I made it though! With slightly sweaty palms and feet (not helped by wearing a leather jacket outdoors on a tropical island), I stepped onto that runway and, whilst the nerves didn't all go away, I felt like this was what I was meant to be doing. The crowd was considerably large, but I quickly spotted my friends and for what felt like the first time ever, I successfully winked! Normally I do a blinky-wink thing because I'm a bit of a spaz who can only aspire to sexiness. However, this time my wink actually was electric (according to my friends)! Yeh, watch out Megan Fox.
I'm really excited to start working with NOW when I come back from Paris in January. In the meantime, imma be up in the gym just working on my fitness (because I must confess I haven't been in the gym since November) so that when I come back I'll be toned and actually able to walk up three flights of stairs without being winded. That would be nice.
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