The Truth: Fashion through the eyes of a male model
“It took me a while in the beginning to get used to being viewed as an object. It’s funny, sometimes, during casting they don’t even look you in the eyes, and do this up-and-down scan. I feel like a race horse (laughs).” – Jasin
Beauty is pain, and for an ambitious male model, it’s also a struggle. With travel for photo shoots, appearances at fashion shows, and constantly wearing/receiving free designer clothes, it might seem like male models are living the jet set life. But interviewing LA fashion model, Jasin, currently based in Shanghai, he shares with us his story and opinion on Modeling in China where we uncover the positive sides of modeling but also some of the ugly truth: Being a male model also comes with a cost.
Due to the stringent age requirements of modeling, the turnover rate of models is often high since their career is essentially futile past a certain age. Modeling agencies know this and know how hard it is for a model to land a job lucrative enough to pay off their debt. Unfortunately, these models are new and young enough to be taken advantage of.
Men from all over the world—arrive in the worlds Fashion Capitals (NYC/Paris/Milan/London) to launch their careers in the blinged up fashion business. With many, many men all competing for the same jobs, getting noticed takes a unique blend of looks, management, and luck.
“Cutting weight to fit in sample size clothing has been tough moreover, the competition is cut throat; usually we have to wait in line with hundreds of other models for only a less than 10-minute audition. But I actually get a thrill off competition so it’s not the worst part. It did take me a while in the beginning to get used to being viewed as an object. It’s funny, sometimes, during casting they don’t even look you in the eyes, and do this up-and-down scan. I feel like a race horse (laughs). Nobody talks about the business of modeling, but like anything else, a model has to be business savvy and understand what their role is, how to expand their brand, and manage their relationships with agencies and clients. It’s not easy.” says Jasin
With Europe suffering from a severe economic crisis, more Asian models are being showcased on the brands international modeling platform, maybe not because they want to but because they have to.
“In my opinion, many western brands aren’t keen on using Asian male models. Of course, they have been using them, but I think that’s more from a marketing incentive. With a bad economy in Europe, where do the “Houses” make a lot of their money? One major place is China. If you think about it, a French or Italian brand designer is influenced from classic tradition and heritage. I don’t think they visualize an Asian-face wearing their piece when they come up with the concept. Imagine an old-country Sicilian inspired collection with an ad of a Chinese dude looking like Michael Corleone. So, in the end, sure, they’ll use Asians, but I think it’s more like, “Let’s make sure he’s hot or famous in his country” to make it more commercially viable. It would probably be the same if Asia was leading fashion design, but vice-versa.” says Jasin.
Speaking with Jasin about his personal style
“I’m from LA and probably have the most scars of any model. I walked runways with a broken knee before, and I love to eat…I mean, if we’re out partying and my friends are busy picking up chicks at a nightclub, I’d probably sneak off to go hunt down a pizza or burrito. My personal style is more laid-back, comfort is important and don’t like wearing anything too tight. But my attitude towards fashion is more about developing my own <style> rather than following the latest trends.”
Jasin also walked in first fashion week in Beijing where he gives his opinion on the differences between SFW / BJ FW and how China’s current standpoint compared to the international standards.
“After walking for Dirk Bikkembergs in Milan Fashion Week last year, I think Shanghai and Beijing are lacking in production and quality, but at the same time there is progress. Shanghai and Beijing are emerging fashion markets, so it is unfair to compare. Even a great Japanese designer like Yohji Yamamoto still prefers to premiere in Paris. This season was my first time doing Beijing Fashion Week, and there are definitely differences between Shanghai and Beijing. The venues are noticeably different, with Beijing having some more luxurious big shows but also some less impressive ones as well. Shanghai is always at Xintiandi, and they have remained relatively clean and organized. I did notice more artsy and performance based shows in Beijing, as well as more celebrities (since many live there). Beijing has more media coverage, and is actually known as Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week. They have an award ceremony at the end of the week for things like Best Women’s Designer or Best New Model, which I think is totally deserved, but it did feel kind of like a beauty pageant, which I thought was funny.” says Jasin.
A male model’s success is often narrowed down not just to his looks, but how “relatable” /commercial his looks are. Agencies have broken down their ideal requirement to “boyfriend handsome,” a model that both men and women can relate to. That kind of model can enjoy a fruitful career for about 10 to 15 years. A “look on trend” is too specific and not sustainable.
Trends in the modeling industry fluctuate, often dependent upon pop culture and fashion. Often, agencies are looking for a very specific look, thereby compartmentalizing beauty.
“For men I noticed a general trend of male models being younger and thinner, more boyish and skinnier. The androgynous look seems to be in still <like is that a boy or a girl?> I think every market has their individual preferences but those are some trends I’ve noticed. I’m just waiting for the masculine manly train to come back” Jasin laughs.
My last question to Jasin was what it takes for new emerging talents who aspire be models to successfully enter this industry.
“ I think anyone can be a model. First, there are all kinds of models, not just fashion. But if you’re talking about being a fashion model then usually you have to be tall and thin. Your cheek bones really come out when you shed that body fat (laughs). It is a tough job though with a lot of sacrifices. There is a lot of competition, which means it’s tough to make money in the beginning. It takes time and determination to build yourself, but if you are persistent and consistent with your work ethic it is possible to make it a career. Emotionally, you have to be ready for the highs-and-lows, and get ready for a lot of rejection in all shapes and forms. There are moments of sheer joy and glamour, there are opportunities to travel to places you never thought you would go, but one of my favorite things about modeling is all the passionate, interesting, and great people I have met along the way.”