The model casting

Fijian models Serenia Raura, Sina Logoake, Rachel Rogers and Ana Waqaniburotu during a photoshoot promoting resort wear at the Novotel Suva Lami Bay. Picture: SUPPLIED

Fijian models Serenia Raura, Sina Logoake, Rachel Rogers and Ana Waqaniburotu during a photoshoot promoting resort wear at the Novotel Suva Lami Bay. Picture: SUPPLIED

COMMON sense tells you that the life of a fashion model, even a top model, is not all glitz and glamour. Nor is it just a pretty face (and a shapely leg).

But that doesn’t stop the many young women who think they’d like to give it a try. Over a hundred enthusiastic hopefuls turned up to the recent model auditions for the 2018 Fiji Fashion Week, to be held on 25-26 May at the FMF Gymnasium in Suva.

When I discovered the natural assets they needed just to start with, I realised not only would I never get a modelling job now, but I most certainly never would have.

Don’t snigger at the older woman model, I know a woman in her eighties who is a television fashion model. Mind you, she has always been super-slim, has great taste and sense of style, and still rides a bicycle.

But for the youthful candidate, the list of runway model requirements is still daunting.

The first and most important is height: she needs to be at least 5ft 8in, which is 173cm.

That straightaway puts the cute but short for their weight class right out of the running, along with Napoleon Bonaparte.

(There has been much controversy about Napoleon’s height, which was said to be five foot two and a bit inches in French measurement, but in imperial measure he reached 5ft 7ins or 163cm – still not enough to get him up there on the runway although not bad for the average 19th century French chap.)

It is par for the course that Models must be photogenic and be able to carry their height effectively with straight arms and legs and a good, balanced walk with an even gait.

No wobbling or lounging about. Needless to say, a physically fit appearance is also essential.

Along with, I have to tell you, balanced proportions generally a size 10.

And models do require a blemish free face as the sharp camera lens picks everything up. There cannot be any scars or tattoos. It seems I wouldn’t have made it anyway, I have a tattoo on my finger. Look out for the knock knees and pigeon toed feet as it affects the way they walk!

All those attributes are required not so the model will look so stunning, but basically so she will fade into the background.

Managing Director of Fiji Fashion Week, Ellen Whippy Knight said models needed to be what a blank canvas was to an artist.

The sole reason for their presence is to show the designer’s garment in the best way possible.

“Fashion designers sell their work for profit, it’s their career, their job and the model’s role is critical to this process,” she said.

“The model cannot draw attention to herself, the audience only notices her when she first steps out on the runway.

“People may be thinking, OK, she looked great. But then the brain tells the eye to move on to the garment she is wearing, as that’s the whole reason the viewer is there, to inspect the outfits in person.”

That’s exactly why models mostly don’t smile — not because they are haughty and don’t like you. They also try hard not to blink or twitch and keep their lips closed while trying to wear a friendly face.

Yet models are not scarecrows. What the fashion industry is looking for in a model is personality supported by intelligence.

Designers want someone who will wear their garments with confidence and natural style, give the outfit a different perspective, and make it desirable.

The perfect model walk adds “finesse and pizzazz” to the outfit. Models have to think of what they are doing while walking: “Am I walking like a ballerina, gliding along, keeping time to the music, prepared to stop for a camera grab, not swinging my arms in a way that will move the outfit awkwardly.

Ms Whippy Knight says there are walking “trends”: “There was the soldier, the plodder and the swagger, but I always use the ballerina. I want them to be firm but supple, beautiful but inconspicuous, walking but appear to be gliding, focused and determined with a delicate appearance. But most of all it has to appear to be easy and enjoyable.

The designers have much to do with the way models walk and everything else. They decide and plan the “look” in every detail, from hairdos to accessories, to match their collection. They may even ask the model to smile, especially for leisure and swimwear, suggesting they are having fun on the beach, adding ambience.

Ms Whippy Knight also emphasises the need for intelligence in a good model, along with a clear, organised mind, positive attitude, good communications skills, be a team player, versatile, able to understand instructions. Patience is a particular virtue, especially on photo shoots that take many hours, sometimes in extreme conditions.

Most successful models are street savvy and have good business acumen; they can take their career from the runway to establishing a multimillion dollar corporation, Ms Whippy Knight said. Top examples are Elle McPherson with Lingerie, Miranda Kerr with Kora Skincare, Gisele Bundchen with Haviana and Naomi Campbell for being Naomi Campbell.

But locally at least 75 per cent of FJFW models are university students and at least 90 per cent of them go on to achieve great jobs, Knight Whippy said.

“So many are lawyers or studying law, managers in training, and there are tons of models who work for Fiji Airways flight crew, both men and women, because of our training.”

There’s weeks of training that goes into the models, who are selected by audition at least 12 weeks before a fashion event. Rehearsals are held weekly for six weeks, when the novices learn to do that fashion walk effortlessly, how to stop and pose for the millisecond it takes for the photographer to get a good shot, and generally learn the lowdown on etiquette, protocols of meeting people and behaving in public. Plus training on healthy eating, regular exercise, discipline and lots of lifestyle skills.

Ms Whippy Knight says by the time they get through, shy young women come out with confidence, their self-esteem is boosted, they walk tall and they are self assured as to who they are… When in public next look around, “you can almost pick a FJFW trained model.”

* The writer is a special contributor to Fiji Fashion Week (FJFW). Views expressed are hers and not of this newspaper.