Model Life – A day of castings in London Fashion Week.

Posted on September 18, 2010


Models. Such an easy life, right? All they have to do is look beautiful and walk up and down a runway a bit. How hard can that be? And they get paid a gagillion dollars to do it, don’t they? Well, it’s not as simple as that, as I discovered recently.

London Fashion Week is officially in full swing, hot on the (designer) heels of New York’s. If you’re a model and you’re planning to do New York, London, Milan and Paris’ Fashion Week, you’ll be in for a heavy schedule of castings and shows. It’s not unusual for a girl to get as many as 20 castings in one day during and in the lead up to Fashion Week. When you consider that a casting is essentially a job interview (and most of us find a job interview stressful enough) I’m sure you can imagine how trying it is attempting to squeeze 20 of them in one day.

Castings are typically held in all parts of the city, often overlapping with one another. It’s not surprising models have a reputation for being late. This isn’t down to some ditsy, lackadaisical disregard for time keeping. Sometimes, it is literally impossible to make it to your next appointment on time. Models can be kept waiting at castings for hours and one delay can wreak havoc with the rest of the day’s schedule.

Another thing to bear in mind is that models are in competition with a lot of other candidates. For last week’s New York Fashion Week there was estimated to be some 2000 girls in town for the shows, each vying for a spot on the catwalk. It’s also worth bearing in mind ,too, that these girls are paying their own way here. Flights, accommodation and transport are all coming out of their pockets. Certainly there are models who will make good money during Fashion Week, however, some models will be lucky to break even. Some shows pay fairly decent money. Others might pay you in “trade”, meaning you might get to keep that pair of shoes you’ve just walked in. Sometimes, the payment is indefinitely deferred.

So, imagine you’ve done New York Fashion Week. You’ve not had a day off in 14 days, you’re already exhausted, and you have to jump straight on a plane for London. What’s in store for you when you arrive? I spend a day with a catwalk model, as she goes to and from her various castings, to find out.

  • 09:40. The flight arrives. Once through customs and baggage collection, it is straight into a car waiting to be taken directly to the agency.
  • 12:00. We’re into the agency to drop off  the bags and for a quick freshen up. From here we pick up and discuss the all important daily schedule. It’s important to prioritise the castings based on the time they’re held and their location, otherwise you’ll be running around like a headless chicken. It’s also important to see if any of your castings will conflict with prior bookings.
  • 13:00. We’re off to a casting for the Ashley Isham show. The casting is between 10am and 4pm in N1. That’s just around the corner from the agency, so not too far to go. Then it’s a quick walk to the bus stop for the next casting.
  • 14:00. Next stop is a casting for the John Rocha/Simone Rocha shows. The casting’s held between 10am and 6pm in a studio in N7. My guide slips out of her boots and into a pair of heels that would give an Amazonian vertigo. Just another essential in a model’s arsenal, along with the book (portfolio), water bottle and iPhone. The iPhone is perfect for this kind of job. It’s got maps, you can check your schedule and emails from the agency. We’re done and we’re off on another fair old walk to the tube station and on to:
  • 15:00. Casting for Ashish show. The casting’s between 10am and 5pm in W1. Quite a quick casting so there might be time for:
  • 15:20. Lunch on the go! Before we know it we’re back on the tube and on to Bethnal Green. Then more walking to get to:
  • 16:00. Casting for Ann-Sofie Back held between 10am and 5pm in a converted warehouse in E2. Another walk back to the tube station and then it’s off to Old Street to make it for the:
  • 17:30. PPQ show casting in Old Street, between 11am and 6pm. The casting’s going well and it’s looking very positive. My guide is getting fitted into outfits, which is a fairly good sign. Everyone at PPQ is lovely. However, we’ll need to get our skates on if we’re going to make it for:
  • 19:00. Casting for Hannah Marshal between 4pm and 8pm in E8. It’s mercifully brief. Now it’s another walk followed by a bus followed by a tube to Marble Arch. At this point I’m wondering how models keep a smile on their face when they go into these castings.
  • 20:00. Casting for Osman Yousefzada (between 7pm and 10pm.) Post code W1. So, the end of what I am assured is a pretty easy day. The schedule for tomorrow is 17 castings and 2 catwalk shows (Ashley Isham and PPQ.) That’s right; many models will do a show and head straight out for another casting.

Now, I’ve only had to follow our model about. I’ve not had to engage with the client. I’ve not had to try on any of the clothes and show off my walk. I’ve not had to get my kit off in front of strangers. I’ve not already had two weeks of doing days like this without a break under my belt. I’ve not had to deal with jet lag. Nor have I had to be doing any of this in competition with other people. I’ve had none of these additional stresses, and yet, after one day, I feel exhausted.

So, next time you feel like giving models a hard time, have a little think about just what their days are actually like. It isn’t all glamour and glitz. It’s hard slog and blisters. Whatever money they get paid, trust me, they earn every penny.