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Project Runway: how models survive fashion week

February 18th 2015 / Anna Hunter



Glamorous though it seems, modelling can be a tough gig. Meet the model support squad...

Models may seem like the luckiest folk alive to you and I, gifted with exceptional beauty, gazelle-like limbs and occasional designer freebies. Most of us are aware of the darker underbelly of the the fashion industry, but on the whole a model’s life seems like a polished, privileged one. It only takes lurking backstage for a few shows to realise, however, that actually, it can all be a bit stressful, or on the flipside, really boring. In the words of industry veteran Erin O’Connor: ‘The mantra of a model is to hurry up and wait’. Combine this erratic timetable with the simmering, and sometimes downright callous, pressure to fit into sample sizes and sail through fashion seasons without a spot or stress-out to speak of and you have a recipe for potential burnout. Luckily this lot help to put them together again, or indeed prevent them from keeling over into a pit of exhaustion in the first place.

The Savvy Psychologist

Elaine Slater is resident psychologist and life coach for The British Fashion Council, and as a former model herself, she’s well placed to understand and empathise with the rigours and responsibilities that come with the day job. She helps models to feel calm and confident amidst the chaos of London Fashion Week, encouraging them to voice their feelings and concerns during a time when others are focusing so intently on their outward appearance. New faces and fashion icons alike seek her counsel during fashion week, and many go on to become lifelong clients.

The Top Model Trainers

Dan Roberts may have 21 years of international coaching behind him, but don’t go thinking that that makes him hard as nails. He’s results driven, there’s no doubt about it, but his experience and expertise training models goes far beyond helping them to shed crucial pounds. Weight loss is a happy byproduct of his Methodology X programme; the focus of his 21-day home workout plan is getting models healthy and feeling better about themselves. Dan manages to take the focus away from looks and the “perfect” physique and puts emphasis on having fun and mastering new skills (‘your body is an instrument, not an ornament’). His work with eating disorder charities, his #loveyourbody campaign and his self-acknowledged feminist philosophy make him one of the world’s most revered model mentors. Model agencies worldwide would concur.

As founder of the Skinny Bitch Collective, or SBC as it’s known, Russell Bateman’s all-guns blazing approach to health, wellness and fitness has quickly gained him megafans in the modelling world. The SBC’s ‘Come Play With Us’ tagline conveys something of Russell’s wit and sense of fun- ironically the focus is far from getting skinny and much more about training in unusual, highly effective and often hilarious ways. You’ll be having crawling competitions and burpeeing against a tree in no time, and Russell’s dynamic drills have proved so popular that he’s a resident British Fashion Council fitness expert for S/S 15.

The Skincare Saviour

With 17 years of skincare expertise behind her (not than you’d guess it from glancing at her flawless complexion), Teresa Tarmey creates bespoke treatment plans for discerning, often depleted top models. Her highly effective approach combines cutting-edge innovation with a holistic leaning; it’s rare to find a facial that’s both relaxing and reaps tangible rewards. Teresa’s advice for frazzled fashion models are nuggets of wisdom that could benefit all of us during weeks when your schedule goes wild:

  • Lots of water! Even when tired, the skin looks a lot more refreshed when it’s hydrated

  • Gentle exfoliation will always leave the skin looking fresh and clean. I advise an at-home steamer too. I'm not a fan of harsh exfoliaters, especially microdermabrasion. In fact I hate it! It leaves the skin dry, irritated and strips the skin of all its natural oils. I do love peels though, as they melt away the dead skin as opposed to dragging the skin.

  • Practice simple lymphatic movements to drain away puffiness and toxins. If unsure, google and get glowing!

  • I’ve recently been been using a drink called Skinade, and l have to say, it's really giving me a nice healthy glow. It has all the vital vitamins needed for skin. Aside from this, it's great to try to maintain a balanced diet. By this I mean to avoid foods that can cause bloating. When I eat dairy, I bloat so tend to avoid it when I know I'm not sleeping much. I also tend to stay away from alcohol too as I ALWAYS wake up with a puffy face.

The Wellbeing Warrior

From ironing out niggles to shortening labour, Keah Lan’s curative powers and therapeutic expertise have soothed, calmed and rejuvenated her loyal client base for over 15 years. She’s discreet (Poppy and Cara Delevingne are fans - although she’d never dream of discussing it), focused and highly intuitive - basically, you need her. Models call on her for her top-notch reflexology and Pilates sessions, not to mention her general expertise in natural health and Chinese wellbeing methods. Sit back and soak up her wisdom:

“A model is on their feet all day and has very little time to centre. When working with models the thing I notice most is tired feet and ungrounded energy from all the travelling they do. Tired feet equal tired bodies and an ungrounded energy means an unsettled mind.

“More models are seeking alternative therapies to feel more grounded and relaxed - one such therapy is reflexology. What can be more grounding than starting from the feet up?!

“Your feet carry you for life so it’s important to take care of them! Models welcome a foot massage on the go too as they live in high heels.

“The minute hands are laid on the feet the person already feels back in their body. I work effectively with breathing before my session, to calm the sympathetic nerve system. For models, daily life brings a myriad of stresses that activate the SNS. Loud noises, flashing lights, constant travelling and eating on the go all activate the sympathetic or ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ mechanisms in the body.

“By breathing and relaxing, one learns to switch the parasympathetic nervous system on, which reduces blood pressure, slows the heart rate and breathing after a stressful day. Additionally blood flow is redirected to the digestive and reproductive organs and lymphatic system, the body is then better able to extract nutrients from the food you eat and more effective at eliminating toxins thanks to an increase in blood circulation.

“In general alternative therapies are great for calming down the system, and go hand-in-hand with exercise and meditation when it comes to rebalancing your mind and body.”

The Model Nutritionist

During her career as a model Rosemary Ferguson featured in campaigns and on catwalks for the likes of Chanel, Versace and Prada, but it was after having her children that she really developed a hunger, so to speak, for nutrition as a discipline. With homeopathy and a holistic interest in health in her blood (her grandmother opened one of the first health food shops in the country), Rosemary took herself off to The College of Naturopathic Medicine and never looked back. Now a qualified naturopathic nutritionist, Rosemary creates tailor-made nutrition plans for the likes of Kate Moss and gives models and private clients alike the tools, know-how and knowledge they need to maintain and boost their health as well as their looks. Her advice is down to earth and she’s changed the lives of many stuck-in-a-rut former dieters by encouraging them to nourish themselves with fresh, energy-boosting food in the long term, rather than resorting to extreme measures. In short, this is about as far from the diet coke and cigarette regime of old as you could get.


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