LFW – Learning the Ropes

In ART & FASHION, Commentary, HOME by Hannah Beer

I was just 5’7 when I started working as a model. I was told that I’d never be able to do catwalk.

Being told I am unable to do something always seems to make me more determined to do it. When I broke my ankle, aged 12, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to play in the final rounders match of the season at school. As a result I decided to forge a doctor’s note to my Head of Sport explaining that the hospital scans were incorrect and that I was fit to play.

PTL2My first test shoot, courtesy of Steve Read.

Taking off the cast a few weeks early and playing in that match probably wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had – but it was so worth it for my own private sense of achievement.

As far as modelling was concerned, I knew I had to be 5’9 to be put up for London Fashion Week. So in February 2011 I emailed my booker to say I’d like to be remeasured and considered for the season. I knew I hadn’t grown; I was constantly asking my mum to measure me. So to make up for it I decided to shove wooden door stops in my socks before going into the agency to be measured again.

Luckily, it worked and I walked my first season with 5’9 on my showcards. Attending castings after school, I managed to book three shows and gain a clearer idea as to how the industry works.

154567_10154778623865654_522112985412610972_n (1)LFW – Take 1.

I soon learned that experience is key. Girls who’ve been in the industry for a while tend to walk much better than novice models. They’re also often recognized and really respected by casting directors. I was very much the novice. My knowledge of fashion wasn’t up to scratch, my walk was weak and I didn’t have the confidence the girls around me possessed. *whip out the violins for shy little Rosie in the corner*

It was at this point that I was exposed to the harsher side of modelling. That season I had three fittings for a KTZ show and was held on option until 3am before being dropped for the 7am call time the next day. If I was going to take modelling seriously,  I’d have to up my game and get used to the idea rejection, something which at 17, or any age for that matter, can be pretty hard to take.

I took a year off to focus on my A Levels – I think I’d have screwed up my exams if I’d tried to break into the industry simultaneously. Then I moved to Elite Model Management for a fresh start to take on modelling full-time. I built up my book and decided to try LFW again this September.

PTL3These shots are from a shoot earlier this year with Julien Spate.

September is the ‘January’ of the fashion industry. It’s when designers debut the Spring/Summer looks of the year to come and introduce the world to where fashion’s heading next. It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of it, but this LFW started off as an emotionally draining one.

Each morning, we met at 9am at the agency and were given a printed schedule. On Monday I had 7 castings, Tuesday 8, Wednesday 16 and Thursday 19. Each casting was roughly 45 minutes away from each other – which meant walking, tube-ing or bus-ing. Normally this would be fine – but with upwards of ten castings a day, the heat of the underground was not my friend. Especially given an abnormally hot September.

Racing from place to place I became hot and flustered pretty quickly. This was not ideal when trying to impress people – being sweaty and out of breath doesn’t exactly scream ‘hire me’ to represent your brand. So I took a moment before each casting to freshen up and pause.

PTL4Some of my most recent work – photographed by Clark Franklyn.

Not that this always mattered. When I got to my castings, most directors saw my height (now 5’8.5) and rejected me there and then. Or, if this didn’t happen, some would bluntly ask whether I’d come over from New York – sadly not yet, still fairly novice – and reject me after that.

This was incredibly draining, especially since I’d busted a gut to get to each place on time. However, I found that being turned down only made me more motivated, and every rejection made the shows I actually booked even more worth it. In the end I was hired for six shows/presentations this season, and, whether high profile or not, each was as enjoyable as the next.

A personal favourite of mine was the Kristian Aadnevik show at the Institute of Directors. The show was at 11pm on the Saturday of LFW, the clothes were incredible and all the girls taking part came from my agency – it’s always nice to work with familiar faces.

10687123_10154778639455654_2197129271725799228_n-001Girls: The Elite Edition.

I had three looks that night my first catwalk nightmare – something had to go wrong with it being one of my favourite shows. As I was being changed from my second look to my third, my tights/underwear got caught in my second. As a result, I had to walk down a 30m catwalk and back again, wearing only the shortest dress – and nothing underneath.

Luckily I have yet to find any photographic evidence of this.

Wardrobe malfunctions aside, there were many other great moments of LFW. The Lulu & Co. presentation, for example, was so much fun to be a part of. Not only because I loved the hair and makeup – childish buns and bright blue eyes – but because the other girls working with me were all ones whose work I really admire. Paulina Sova, for instance, has been such an inspiration to me.

IMG_1528Working with the pros at Lulu & Co.

Of course, there are days when I question why I’m involved in an industry as tough and often draining as this one, but then I think of the shows and shoots I’ve done and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What’s more, there’s such a great spirit among the girls I work with – we all root for each other – that’s it’s hard not to want to be a part of it. They prove that the hard work involved really does pay off. A girl from my agency has just covered the latest issue of iD magazine and a friend of mine has just been signed to an agency in Paris. Who knows – if I continue to put the effort in, maybe I’ll be next.

As it stands, I’ve just booked flights to New York in December to meet with agencies and hopefully be represented out there. I’m currently staying very open minded though as to how long I will pursue modelling. I still can’t believe I actually get to do it. I have a place at UCL to study Art History next September, and ideally I’d love to be able to study and work at the same time.

That being said, if Vogue, Mario Testino and/or Natalia Vodianova come knocking on my door, asking me to defer studying and work with them, I won’t be saying no.

Rosie Viva

Rosie is a model at Elite Model Management, London. Her favourite type of music is classical and her favourite composer is Einaudi. Oh and she likes Banks and Kwabs too. Rosie smiles and talks a lot; she is often the annoying person on public transport who speaks to you. And, as a child, Rosie wrote to Parliament every year asking to be considered for Prime Minister. She’s yet to receive a response but is happy modelling in the mean time.

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