A Model Life - Part One

Derek Zoolander, the iconic caricature of a male model by Ben Stiller.

What does it take to be a model in Van City? Sure we’ve all heard and seen the images of beautiful people in advertisements, editorials, catalogues, online, offline, on TV, the catwalk and film but what would it be like to be a model? How does one become a model and what are the reasons people become models? Well I’m not the type of person to simply ask others, so I thought ok what is it I have to do to spend the day as a model in Vancouver?

It began with a trip to the Joe Fortes and the City Libraries and did what any good journalist does – I researched. I flipped through fashion magazines, looked at the poses and stances and got an overall idea, then I rummaged through the fashion section and found Roshumba Williams and Anne Marie O’Connor’s  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being a Model 2nd Ed (yes, I know) to find out what modelling is all about.

Inside Nygard's flagship Vancouvver store

For example did you know there are actually four different levels of modelling? Hobby, Local/Secondary-market, Big time and Celebrity and that the majority of work is within the first 2 categories? Well I didn’t, but now I do.

Hobby models are usually the girls at the starting line working for little or no money – these girls maybe too young or not ready to leave the nest, but interested in the industry and so build up their portfolio and confidence by doing local work for experience only. This was what I was looking for and thus jumped on the holy-grail of Craigslist to find a suitable post.

I came across a listing asking for size 10 models and applied with a dodgy self taken headshot of myself. I wasn’t expecting a response but hoped at least to stand behind the scenes, watch, mingle and report about the event. To my surprise, stylist Banafsheh Tabrizi replied 30 minutes later asking me to come down for an interview, discussion about the show and compensation. I was going to be a model for a day – wow, never thought I’d put that on the list of things I’ve done, but there it was an invitation.

The next day I slopped through the rain at 1pm to 980 Cambie Street and was directly presented with the bright futuristic store that is Nygård Fashion.  I had no idea what I was expecting, the outside was a shock and yes the lighting hurt my eyes, but inside I was very sweetly surprised – Nygård has some really nice stuff, though I’m not sure the apparel and décor are completely in tune. Having forgiven the front, saturnine light fittings and bright blue signage all over the place I’m happy to say the fashion is stylish, timeless and perfectly suited for conservatives looking for casual day and evening wear.

I was welcomed by the manager Jessica, a bubbly Swiss expat who was very proud of her flagship store, before being introduced to Banafsheh. She was already with a younger girl by the name of Neha, of Middle-Eastern decent with olive skin and a charming smile. Neha’s measurements – bust, waist and hips were taken then we were both led around the store and showed what clothes were going to be displayed at the Tuesday event. It was explained that each model had 2 outfits - the first a day to night ensemble followed by something to wear for the holidays taken from a combination of Bianca Nygård’s line, Peter Nygård’s line and the Nygård Collection.

After this Neha left and I talked with Banafsheh. She took my measurements and informed me I was “tiny – no more than a size 6” being from Australia, having arrived only a month ago this was the first time I’d encountered North American sizing as I’m usually an Australian 8 – 10 or size 4-6 here.  Ah, man you’ve got to love international conversions and the smaller numbers gave me a self esteem high for the rest of the day. I was then told, what I’d already guessed that Nygård is aimed at women 25 years and older, and had lines like Miller’s back home. To me, so used to mass-produced teen wear and true Grandma Chain stores, I saw classy contemporary age-timeless design, with young elements. Older women are treated with fashion respect in Canada, it’s a nice change and one of those stores where you’re bound to find something to fit and mix with the rest of your wardrobe, regardless of age or size; Nygård provides for all types of women seeking closet staples.

Banafsheh also told me about her own company called Violetta Designs which has formed from her passion for costume design, born out of her love of history and escaping to her “happy place” of LA where the fashions are less conservative than Vancouver.

So I grabbed her card, keen to see her studio before popping on my big white outwear coat and heading back off into the pouring rain. The entire process was over in less than 10 minutes. I had just successfully gained a hobby modelling gig with the next stop self education in all that is Nygård. What a crazy, crazy day!

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