With London Fashion Week upon us, we can’t help but think of the preparation and hard work behind it, and who works harder than the models who showcase the designer’s gorgeous collections? Ask anyone, fashion is a formidable industry. Modelling more so, and in the most harsh, personal way. We hear horror stories and success stories at the same rate, so it’s easy to wonder where in the middle the truth lies about this coveted and controversial industry.
One thing is certain, millions of people worldwide dream of a career in modelling, and – as we know – getting started in this field takes persistence, and growing into this career takes a supremely thick skin, but then again, can’t that be said for every job? For those of you who have your sights set on the catwalk, or even a healthy curiosity about a gruelling and glamorous profession, we’ve put together a no-nonsense rundown of what to expect, and how a hopeful should take their first steps. The walk is important, after all.
We rang up the gorgeous model Florence Kosky to answer our questions. At 21, Flo has runway shows for Dolce & Gabbana and Dior under her faux-croc belt and a whole campaign with Burberry in the statement-clutch bag. She’s appeared in multiple Vogues, travelled the globe, and she started out from a little seaside town in the southwest of England. If anyone knows how to ace the uphill grind from hometown late-for-bus sprints to Paris late-for-Margiela struts, it’s her.
How did you first get signed?
I was scouted shopping in Oxford Street with my mum when I was 12. Initially when the model scout caught up with us and said, “Excuse me, is this your daughter?” my mother thought I’d been shoplifting or something! The three of us talked, and the scout introduced me to Storm, which then became my first agency. I’ve changed agencies a few times since then, they’re kind of constantly poaching… Right now, I’m with Models 1 and I love them.
What’s your advice on spotting a bogus agency?
I’d say to first ask yourself if you know any of the models with them. Can you pick out at least one famous model who maybe has a Vogue feature? You need at least one with obvious credentials that you recognise. You can always look your potential agency up on models.com, it’s the IMDB of the fashion world. Also, if anyone asks you to give them money right off the bat, that’s suspect. At some places you do pay for test shoots, but you should be able to refuse without being dropped, and you should be asked to pay the photographer, never ever the agency. Any expenses should be covered, and then taken back from your earnings – never charged out of your pocket.
Which tips helped you the most starting out?
Google Maps is your best friend. Another thing – when I was sixteen and with Models 1, they told me if I ever panicked or got uncomfortable at a shoot (say I was being told to go topless or bleach my eyebrows) I should ask to go to the toilet and call them from there, and that’s genuinely helped me multiple times.
What should you prioritise as an aspiring or professional model?
Always have a simple manicure, blowout your hair yourself or have a professional blow-dry, and choose clothes that look expensive. You can literally have black skinny jeans, black t-shirts and black knee-high boots and get them all from Primark. Presentation is key. Past a point it’s really not what you look like so much as how you present what you look like.
What are the essentials for a casting?
Your model book, your comp cards – though I’m awful at remembering them – and a lip balm. Also, you don’t always need heels. Bring a book so you can be reading something interesting when they call your name, rather than just being sat on your phone and looking moody. Books are a conversation starter as well, and so many jobs are booked on having a good personality.
What was your first experience of work like? Were you ever intimidated, and if so, how did you combat that?
I was 12 and super scared, in my test photos even the middle parting they gave my hair freaked me out, haha! My first paid job was the scariest, but having people on set who were more experienced and therefore relaxed helped me relax and throw myself in.
Modelling has a reputation for being a stressful and often unhealthy industry – did the reality surprise you?
Any job can be really stressful, the difference here is that the commodity you’re offering isn’t your mind, it’s your body, and people tend to take that a lot more personally. Of course, it has the potential to be damaging or upsetting, and rejection can feel like a personal attack. I’ve had really rough times with my relationship with myself while modelling, but I’ve learned to separate people’s comments about me from me as a person; if you can’t separate that you shouldn’t model.
How did you stay on top of your own wellbeing while working?
There’s been times when I didn’t at all – when I was partying and working at once, which was bad, but then I think that might just naturally be a youth issue. Now I’m actually exercising regularly and eating what I like, and I’ve found that it’s all about balance. Everyone says it but it’s true, and it’s taken me about four years to appreciate that! As for my mental health, it’s been amazing learning to say ‘no’ if I’m tired, overworked or anxious. I’ve learned it’s ok to prioritise family and friends over work sometimes. People make you think you need to sacrifice a lot, but if you never reap the benefits of those sacrifices what’s the point?
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn as a professional model?
This sounds so juvenile but honestly it’s learning that not everyone finds me attractive, or has to. I’ve always been a bit of a people pleaser who wants to bend over backwards for others, and because my work offers my appearance it’s been hard to learn that there are simply people who just don’t like my face. Coming to terms with this has made me more relaxed about everything from boys to my self-image. You can’t please everyone.
Do you ever get pre-work jitters, and if so, do you have a ritual to calm down?
Not for shoots, but shows are a different kettle of fish. It’s more panic, though, and usually I don’t have time to panic because I’ll be running late, trying to grab some food, and being thrown between hair and makeup and clothes. That said, I have seen some girls cross themselves before walking, and though I’m an atheist I think it’s nice.
Which moment during your career are you the proudest of achieving?
Probably the Dior show in Tokyo when no-one told me I was closing. I saw myself at the end of the list and kind of had to pinch myself and check with the casting director. I was so happy and surprised!
You’ve been flown all over the globe for work, often alone. How did you learn to handle that?
It’s still quite shit sometimes, if you’re in hotel rooms most of your trip it doesn’t make it easy. I used to be a really nervous flyer, which I’ve overcome – so that’s good, but the best thing I’ve found is that you end up meeting so many lovely people as you go, you genuinely become less lonesome around the world!
Have you ever had to pick yourself up from an embarrassing experience on the job?
Oh god… I was on a Jack Wills shoot, and me and this boy were being all couple-y in the pictures, I guess you could see some sexual tension… the photographer asked us to kiss and we just went for it and made out, and when we finished the whole crew were like, “um…we didn’t mean that”. We all laughed so much and I literally wanted to disappear. On a more serious note though, if anything’s even remotely embarrassing at work, you just have to put 100% of yourself into it and don’t half-ass it, that way it stops being embarrassing.
How do you hope the industry progresses?
I hope that it becomes more inclusive of different body types and race. If you look at the runway stats, it’s getting better slightly, but it has been awful. I hope sample sizes stop being so ridiculously small, as well. You’ve got these girls fighting to keep their pre-pubescent bodies which is so fucked up. I think Prada need to stop with the super young teenagers on the runway too, or the industry generally needs to stop being so fucking strict with who’s gained an inch where. The images the industry puts out can be harmful to everyone looking, and fashion needs to be more responsible for that.
Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself, and other models starting out?
Go to the gym sooner rather than later – incorporate it into your life. You’re gonna be more resilient to sleep deprivation and generally stronger, and I wish I’d started going earlier. Also, be nice to everyone, that’s what keeps you afloat in the industry. Be a pleasure to work with, don’t be a diva. Oh – and if a photographer is creepy, tell them to fuck off!
Words by Esmeralda Voegele-Downing
The UK's first Career & Lifestyle Magazine for women in the Creative and Media industries.