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Where the runway meets the street

Everyone knows model casting is a world of couches, compliance, and corruption, right? Well, not the way we do it.

Our reality is a series of insightful five-minute conversations with good-looking people who have just as much going on upstairs as they do on the outside.

To give you a glimpse into this world, three Highsnobiety regular contributors — casting director Sarah Bunter (who shares her thoughts on each model below), photographer Alex de Mora, and Highsnobiety Fashion Editor Atip W — are here to introduce a selection of their most inspiring beauties and let you sit in on the conversation.

Julia / Storm

Julia woke us all up at our first casting together – within five minutes, she had broken down and assessed the bizarreness of such a short interview process and the oddity of the role of a model as a whole. She had us captivated. Her portfolio is more like that of an actress, with every shot portraying a new and fascinating character. Julia values the collaboration process of a shoot and believes a “portrait is a very special thing to give someone.”

On her love for fashion…

“I’ve been making tapestries since I was 16 which has crossed over into textiles and fashion – it’s still something I work on daily.”

On her heroes…

“The fashion industry has always been shaken and built on the courage and fragility of interior battles – the likes of Alexander McQueen and Jean-Paul Guiltier were true pioneers in this sense.”

On her generation…

“This reality television/live-stream generation is used to consuming other people’s personal experiences and that’s why things like depression and anxiety are more openly discussed. There’s a lot more to do, but what’s most important is that our generation’s progress is intersectional and wholly inclusive.”

On diversity…

“Our hearts bleed for white, able-bodied, famous models breaking the silence, but we laugh at Kanye West…and worst of all, drag women of color online for their perceived mental instability. Propaganda has no place in the fight against insufficient support for mental health and it cannot be colonized by the young, gorgeous and privileged.”

“I would like to see more racial and body diversity in shows and campaigns. I would like models to engage and enjoy their careers on a creative level and be taken seriously in their capacity as contributors.”

“We can only affect change [in fashion] from the inside of every shoot and every casting and every agency. I’m passionate about the potential this industry has for empowering women.”

On London…

“Every day that I wake up to my life in London, is insane to me. I’ve been so privileged to work on all the projects I have. I’m very grateful.”

Emma / Models 1

Emma had a fascinating start to her career. Beginning as an actress and evolving into photography, she has a real understanding of what goes into making a great picture from all sides. She’s very engaging and appears to be on a non-stop learning mission. Hopefully, Emma represents a new wave of models where energy and confidence are key.

On politics…

“I don’t usually follow politics…but man what a shit show!”

On Advice…

“The best advice I’ve had is ‘never forget to be motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others’.”

On acting…

“I had the greatest times as an actress and featured in a few Hollywood films, but after a while, I got lost in acting and realized that I wanted something more. I wanted to learn about the different crafts and roles within the creative industries. I became drawn to the amazing talents behind the camera, so I began to study the art of photography.”

On being herself…

“Through studying, I had a better understanding of myself and what I wanted to do creatively. I needed to create and tell stories, whether it was through pictures, film or performing. The funny thing is, my modeling career started because of all these experiences I’ve had through image-making. I never thought I’d be a model…ever! But now modeling goes hand-in-hand with my work as a storyteller.’”

On mental health…

“Based on my encounters with mental health, I think it is not something that can be brushed aside or seen as “bullshit”. Mental health is real and has to be taken seriously. No one suffering from it should ever feel embarrassed or lost when seeking help and I truly believe that the creative industries are starting to support this. My friend has started a great new project called “Crazy Creative Cool”; which is an online community for women in creative industries, who suffer from or are affected by mental health. Seeing positive changes like this, just proves that together, we can be better.”

On her greatest oment…

“My favorite moment so far was when I received a personal email from Nick Knight, saying he really liked my fashion film titled “Nothing But Her.” I was working in a pub at the time when I got the email; I literally screamed and read the email to this older Irishman drinking his Guinness. He had no idea what I was on about but he jumped for joy with me anyways.”

Hannah / Select Model

Hannah appears to have so much confidence while working – though when chatting, we can see a little shyness too. Her book shows this positivity and strength mixed with a distinctive sense of subtlety. This versatility of great energy balanced with her serenity makes her a model with a long future ahead.

On standing up for something…

“It’s really great to see a lot of big influencers speak out publicly to defend rights of many people of color and LGBTQ communities. These subjects directly affect people like myself and so many others who all play a part in the creative industries. We are showing the world we want to move forward.”

On her teenage tears…

“It’s weird, but I found being really invested in a certain fanbase like during those awkward teenage years was a kind of safe place. I found so many other like-minded people from all over the world and eventually even managed to meet with some of them. I have so many memories filled with a lot of different emotions from those times and I realized only recently how much bonding with others over something we loved, has really helped me through a lot of things in life.”

On current affairs…

“I try pretty much every day to have a little catch up on world news. I’ll also browse Twitter & Tumblr to see how people are really reacting to what’s happening worldwide. However, reading so many opinions and arguments in one place can be overwhelming.”

On her future in fashion…

“I’ve always been quite into fashion so working with designers, brands, and models who I’ve admired and read about since before I was even modeling is quite surreal for me. Now, I’m actually working in the industry, I’ve realized that I’d also like to study the business side of the industry as a way to be even more involved.”

“I would give my younger self the heads up that I’m going to worry a lot about my sexual identity. But also that’s just the way it’s gonna have to go because I just worry too much anyway!”

“For example, I’m pretty worried about the world right now, how we treat each other and how we have impacted our planet. I know I’m not alone in this. Okay, there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect world’ (or perfect anything) but I do have hope that we can achieve a happier, more peaceful one in our future.”

Lily / M&P

We have been very intrigued by Lily for some time. Brought up in NY, she has been in London now for almost four years. She’s a political activist and constantly works to inform herself on how to get involved and make positive changes. She also has many great fashion show stories including her “shoulder socket popping” story which turns me green every time I think about it. Looks like she’s been in great form since, though.

On politics…

“I think politics and the perceived threat of globalization are the biggest things that I notice in the UK and in my own country, the U.S.”

On media…

“I’m quite picky about what media I consume; I read the BBC and the New York Times online every day and I highly recommend the online NYT subscription. I’m also a massive fan of podcasts, I would recommend This American Life, BBC Documentary, and The Axe Files with David Axelrod.”

On the fashion industry…

“I’m not sure if it’s because the industry is really changing, but I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with very inclusive clients. I think designers like Ashish, Kanye West, and Becca McCharen at Chromat really understand how the world really looks and they aren’t afraid to showcase that.”

On her love for travelling…

“Strangely enough, one of the countries I find the most interesting is Canada. I’ve never been there, but I’m fascinated by how on the surface, it seems so similar to the United States, but there are some really stark differences. I’d like to visit to find out more.”

On Brexit…

“In terms of Brexit, I feel like things will be alright in comparison to Trump being elected in the US.”

On self-care…

“By moving to a new country and taking myself completely out of my element, I was able to find out my interests and get a better idea of who I am as a person.”

On the future…

“I hope that in the near future, critical thinking skills be valued more than popularity.”

“While I think things are slowly moving in the right direction, but we still have quite a long way to go when it comes to understanding mental health. Especially in regards to treating everybody’s experiences equally. I hope that those with influence realize they can use their platforms for good. I will happily talk endlessly about it to anybody that will listen!”

Tiffany / PRM

Tiffany is like a walking artwork. At a recent casting, she sat and explained her intended route through life via her modeling and education. It’s no surprise that she was the star of Vivienne Westwood’s FW16 campaign shot by Juergen Teller. Tiffany thoroughly enjoys her work and this emanates from every image.

On learning…

“Studying business has helped me going forward with modeling – it’s taught me to open my eyes and dream big.”

On her favorite place…

“The most important countries to me culturally are Jamaica and Africa. The most interesting place to me at the moment is probably Milan, Italy.”

On diversity…

“I have seen some improvements with diversity in fashion over the last two years, but I hope to see a lot more changes in the next two years to follow.”

On self-care…

“My friends and agent have been a great help to me. On a personal level, I’ve found yoga and meditation extremely useful, especially for staying calm during hectic times.”

On keeping informed…

“I learn about the world through social media. It seems like there is a huge increase in crime and violence, though maybe we now just have more ways to learn about it now.

On the next gen…

“I would encourage the generation coming up to be independent to try your best in life. I hope we can all be better role models for those who follow next”

On her greatest moment…

“Having the opportunity to work with Vivienne Westwood, her husband and her entire team, was a real dream come true for me.”

For more Auditions, check out the last installment here to get to know more of the industry’s freshest faces.

  • Photography: Alex De Mora
  • Styling: Atip W
  • Hair: Takuya Morimoto using Bumble & Bumble
  • Make-up: Andjelka using M.A.C cosmetics
  • Casting Director: Sarah Bunter @ Buntercasting
  • Assistant: Sophie Estelle
  • Videographer / Photo Assistant: Blue Laybourne
  • Models: Hannah @Select, Julia @Storm Management, Tiffany @PRM models, Lily @M&P Management, Emma @Models 1
  • Fashion: Fyodor Golan, Champion EU, Qasimi, Our Legacy, Kenzo, Cacharel, Casely-Hayford, Ivy Park
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