Milan & My Experience...Not a complaint but an observation with fashion model Annabel Smit
Cafés, books, castings, tea, zucchini, dirty dishes, new friends, bored and impatient facial expressions, this basically sums up my 6 week modeling experience in fashion capital Milano.
Making the Leap
These 6 weeks in Milano were my first working trip as a fashion model and I’ve got to say the last 5 of them were a lot better than expected. Over these 6 weeks I have met so many incredible, talented and inspiring people. It didn’t matter if I met them on set, at the agency, in the ‘model apartment’, at the bookstore, on the city’s streets or at my favorite café, they all made my experience an experience I’ll never forget and worth sharing. Doesn’t matter if you’re a model or not. This is a story of life experience and an open invitation and recommendation to travel abroad. A story of a girl, not necessarily a model, gaining confidence and more awareness. A girl that’s now less afraid to walk up to strangers, enroll in conversations, speaks up for herself and someone who became aware of her fortunate position in this tough world. I’m not talking about the ‘modeling world’ (because yes, believe me, the modeling industry is situated on a different planet, a different universe perhaps) but about the real world. I’ve realized now more than ever that I’m so fortunate to have grown up where I grew up, to have the family I have and to have given the many opportunities for a happy and successful future. I feel like especially in the fashion industry people have worked really hard to work their way up to where they are on this day and their career journeys are incredibly interesting to listen to.
The fashion industry however really is a true hierarchy. Heck the entire city is a true hierarchy. On set you can blindly tell who has the most authority and who is the ball boy. Instead of fetching the balls of the tennis court the boy or girl, man or woman will be fetching a different pair of high heeled shoes, fixing the light or removing a smudge of lipstick with an expression of disappointment in the model (me) covering their face. It’s an interesting hierarchy. It’s also a very understandable hierarchy, because without it the industry would be in chaos. A wisdom first noted by Aristotle during the ancient times. I doubt Aristotle was surrounded by stylists and assistants beggaring about if they should go for the blue glitter dress or a silver metallic skirt, make-up artists and hairstylist disagreeing about the finished look after a (typically Italian) miscommunication and photographers who are frustrated with the stylists because they withhold them from creating a certain image they had in mind because the clothes are simply not made for stretching or because certain clothing has to be published in the editorial because the client requested it and boy, you don’t dare to ignore the big boss’s wishes. Paycheck day is just around the corner people.
I would say it’s an industry I’m both fascinated and disgusted with. Fascinated because I have never worked with so many creative, hard working and passionate people. This industry is build around the fashion capitols, so you’ll meet people from all over the world. It’s funny because although you meet people from different countries all over the world, you keep running into the same people. Models you stood in line with at castings in New York you’ll walk into at shows in Paris. So I’ve been told, I’m however just starting. To me the ‘modeling world’ still seems too large to wrap my head around. The longer you’ll be working as a model in this industry the smaller the ‘modeling world’ will be but the bigger the distance from the real world will become is something that I’ve noticed. It’s a fascinating but crazy world because as a model you get offered so many material things and experiences for free, but you also get treated differently and you never truly know what people’s intentions are when it comes down to wanting to get to know you. For instance when going out in Milano you’ll be picked up by car at the apartment, driven to the club, dragged into the VIP section (filled with pretty girls and elder men, unsurprisingly) seated at your personal table and handed more free drinks than anyone could ever count, a disability present not because I was drunk, which I was, but because there were just so many, and then driven back home. Another example; a fellow model who was invited to go on holiday with a group of people (think of promoters, models, club owners, directors and photographers) to Ibiza on a yacht, food and drinks included. It’s ridiculously crazy. These people give you the opportunities to network and have a good time, for sure; I mean that’s why it’s so appealing to many models. However it’s also one of the reasons why I’m disgusted with the fashion industry. It’s temptation and opportunities to screw up your career and personal life handed to you on a silver platter. For people with clear boundaries, such as me, it’s almost entertaining to see how easily some models fall into this trap of temptation but then again I start feeling bad for these girls because often they’re too young to have the knowledge of the consequences and because they’re not familiar with the circumstances. Often these young models come from small towns in the middle of Nowheres Land, probably somewhere in Siberia, little towns that offer no opportunity to gain such life experience to even be able to build your personal boundaries.
The city of Milano is build around creative, hard working but money driven people and since my time here I finally understand the real meaning of ‘time is money’.’ Then again I guess it’s only logical that money plays such a huge roll even in such a creative industry, just like the fashion hierarchy does.
Nonetheless so far I’ve had a great first experience as a working model and I’m very excited for my next destination and all that the future has in storage for me. Like I said to my best friend, who is currently exploring Africa’s nature and helping out the less fortunate, which really puts in perspective how superficial my job (often) is,’ every experience bad or good is an experience.’ Something that you can learn from, build from, it’s what develops your character and what opens your mind.
Learning the Lesson
So my message to the people who made to the end of this post is: go travel, go explore, step out of your comfort zone, try out new things whatever they may be as long as they mean something to you it will be worth it and go gain some life experience, put yourself out there! There’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable, feeling alone and not knowing what your next step will be. You can only learn and grow from your experiences bad or good and from the people you meet. That’s all (for now).
Follow Annabel on Instagram @annabelsmitt and see more of her travels, work and lifestyle!