Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Model Christmas

Christmas for the children (Liz Lee, Anna Bayle, Lulu, Dianne Dewitt and the children of the orphanage)

It is Christmas time and all is quiet where fashion is concerned. European designers are gearing up for their couture collections in January and the New York designers are preparing for the ready-to-wear shows in February (In my time, New York collections came after the European collections in March. The fashion calendar has since changed.) Still, there is a lot of work to do for seasoned models. There is catalogue work and trunk shows for designers in big department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorfs in New York.

For popular models, there are really no long holidays. They have to deliberately book out and tell their agencies that they are not accepting work for a set period of time. Models have to take their vacations when they feel they are not missing a lot of important work or considerable revenue.


Plastic cups with champagne line the runway, Tokyo
One of the most memorable Christmas moments for me was in Tokyo, while I was working for the Big 4. Hanae Mori invites 4 international designers for a week of shows in December. There are intensive dress rehearsals and 3 shows in a day to accommodate all the viewers.

I remember being there for a week-long trip falling on my birthday, December 6. My 'then' boyfriend had already taken the week off so we could fly off to some vacation spot and have a break. However, my agent in Paris called me for the Big 4 which was with some designers who I work with all the time. The lineup that year was: Lacroix, Moschino, Vivienne Westwood, and Hanae Mori. I felt really bad changing the plans I made with my 'then' partner but it was a substantial sum of money for a week’s work. Since modeling is like a consulting business (where you never know when you will be booked for the desirable jobs), it is better to take them when they are offered to you.

During my time, a model’s lifespan was about 2 to 3 years. As Heidi Klum would say, "One moment, you are in, then the next moment, you are out." I have been very lucky to have worked such a long time, actually, almost 25 years. One of the reasons for my longevity is because I never said no to work.

So there I was in Japan, completely jetlagged and all alone on my birthday. At 5:00 a.m., I was wide awake and feeling really displaced and lonely in my hotel room. At 6:00 a.m., when it was light outside, I decided to walk around the empty streets of Omotesando in search of a wine shop. With no family... nor friends for a birthday party in Tokyo, the least I could have on my birthday was champagne. I found a store that I went back to during a show break.
Before the last show, I opened the bottles and passed plastic cups to the girls who were around me in the dressing room. I did not mention that it was my birthday but we had a small toast. It was comforting to share a drink with my fellow fashion soldiers, other models who did the whole circuit (Milan, London, Paris, New York, Tokyo). Tokyo is the last leg before the holidays and the frenetic activity and energy during the collections is winding down. Soon, we will be home.

Big 4 Christmas party for crew
On the last day of the BIG 4, there was a party for the whole crew, including models and designers, given by the producer of the fashion shows, Kohei Katsura. Coming from backstage, we saw to our surprise, both sides of the entire length of the runway were lined up with white plastic cups filled with champagne. The audio system for the show was playing “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. The song brought near tears to my eyes and I am sure it affected the other models, as well. We have been away from home too long.
It is always a welcome moment when people in fashion kick back and relax. And if only for that moment, we remembered we are all alike (no divas, no goddesses, no catwalk queens)- just normal people sharing a tradition.


Personalized Dior Christmas scarfs from Monsieur Marc Bohan
When I was working at Dior, we also had our holiday toasts but I always loved receiving the personalized Christmas gift from Monsieur Marc Bohan. The whole atelier and probably, the whole house was given a different Dior scarf each year. Another tradition was the celebration of Three Kings Day on Jan 6, where we ate these special cakes decorated with gold crowns.


Dinner at Oscar's house in Santo Domingo (Diane Dewitt, Anna Bayle, Shaun and Oscar dela Renta's friends)

When I moved to New York, one of the Christmas traditions that I looked forward to was Oscar dela Renta’s Christmas trip to Santo Domingo. Jack Alexander, a former male model who handled the booking of the models would invite us to Casa de Campo, the hotel that is part-owned and designed by Oscar. Every year, we did a charity fashion show in an open air venue for the orphanage that Oscar de la Renta founded in his hometown. Oscar even adopted Moises de la Renta, a boy from the orphanage. Moises was probably 4 or 5 years old then. He is now working with Oscar, designing his collections.

Though we were allowed to bring our boyfriends, husbands, children, etc., I never availed of it. But most of the girls did and it was a family affair. It was good to meet the family and friends of the other models that we work with each and everyday. The models' masks of efficiency and professionalism are off in this different and more relaxed setting. It felt good to be normal and not posturing all the time.

Fun and Laughter
We were completely spoiled by Oscar; we each had our designated rooms and were free to use the facilities of Casa de Campo, a vacation resort. We would go horseback riding, golfing, drink pina coladas and lounge by the pool and we were provided with mopeds to explore the whole resort. Gallivanting in the compound and out in scenic spots of nearby towns with the other models was always fun.

We’d be invited to lunch or dinner at Oscar’s house by the sea or the houses of his friends in Punta Cana and it was always merry and filled with laughter. We would pile into the minibus and arrive at Oscar’s, where we are serenaded by the Dominican equivalent of a mariachi band. The romantic music, in keeping with the exotic setting of flower filled gardens and balmy, breezy weather puts all of us in a very relaxed mode.

The generosity and hospitality of Oscar dela Renta is unmatched. Oscar dela Renta is a ‘giver’; he is one who would gallantly share his good fortune, in a very unassuming way. You could say that Mr. dela Renta nature is characteristic of Latin people, but I know otherwise. Mr. dela Renta is a very special person and it is an honor for me, as a model, to know this man.

During dinner, there is a lot of laughter and teasing as Oscar is quite mischievous. For instance, he would ask me who my boyfriend was. I would reply. Then Oscar, pretending to know the person, jokingly would say, “He will take you to the cleaners”. He charms all of us with his sense of humor and once in a while he would sing. I loved it when he sang, as Oscar is a handsome and seductive balladeer. Sometimes, his friend, Julio Iglesias would sing for us, as well. During one Christmas trip to Puerto Rico, we were all in a dinner table with the King of Spain.

After dinner, we would all pile back into the minibus, Oscar and his friends included, and we would go to some local club and dance the merenge. The gentlemanly husbands of his friends were kind enough to teach us the dance, while the wives applauded and urged us on. There was always a good time for everyone involved.

We were free to stay for a day or a week. I would cancel other paying jobs to do this show. Sometimes I would just fly in and fly out after the show. It was my ‘Christmas sharing thing’. I felt very good each time I did this show, knowing that it would make a lot of children happy. After all, what is Christmas for, but for the children.

There is really no rest for models. It is a brief respite. For immediately after Christmas day, the thought of the couture collections loom ahead. After partaking of our traditional Christmas delicacies with our families and loved ones and drinking excessively in celebration of the holidays, the scale awaits.
In less than a month, one has to be in top form. THINK THIN was pasted over my refrigerator door. (Qualifier: Think thin is not to be equated with Look sickly.) There is no time to waste; those extra pounds gained during the holidays must be shed. After all, beauty is a business.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

what an insight...truly as a model you have mastered the rigors and flow of this profession..not ever forgetting to enjoy the joys of living and the privileges of the wonderful people you work with ( accepted as they are offerred, not demanded and you sound like you earned to be in their intimate family as you have earned their respect)..and not ever forgetting the demand you subject yourself to to comply of what is expected from you as a model model (i believe, they expect only the best from you...if to put it are quite an apparition in the now becoming generic/ catalog look and/or image of what is to be a model nowadays..and it seems that the designers now tend to create a particular blank body/ face/personality..think Karen Elson..Guinevere van Seenus..even Giselle Bundchen is a one category look kind of a MODEL..."IT MODEL" is so stretched now for the lack of character..i love these gals but they come out as "flat personae"..another steamed asparagus on a nice ANNA BAYLE...its bout time to get your show going ...let's see if the industry will truly heed its need..
AL de las ARMAS

3:23 PM  
Blogger Last Day Emails said...

Wow! I just found your blog by way of DFR... I am SO excited. Not only are you a role model for me (I would love to be the next Anna Bayle) but you are also soooo generous with your posts... offering insight and inspiration with such detail! I love that you are not afraid of lengthy posts and your advice is so careful and caring. Reading your posts feels like studying, but in a good way! ;)

Thank you SO much for maintaining this site. You can be sure that I will be a regular visitor.

3:52 AM  

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