The Boy in the Striped Suit

25 January 2017

Photographer Natalie Eloise
Interview Cecilie Harris
Introduction Katerina Cuprova
Model Sam at Supa Model Management

Transition. The mysterious space where past and future blur into an amber mist. Sam finds himself in between two worlds permeated with Saturday detentions and diverse interests. The elements within the unknown lazily crystalize to turn him into a new person. Yet, nothing is more important than the current moment - teenage years when "you have to devote yourself as much as possible". The stage of fascinating awkwardness, where change is at the heart of everything. In the repetitious process of getting lost and found, in the transcendent place of limitless possibilities veiled in warm shades. He has the freedom to become anything and everything, emitting confusion as well as power.
Within Sam at Supa Model Management, poetry meets boldness and inexperience meets thoughtfulness. At 17, when altering your school uniform is this generation's youthful bravery, the shy rebel philosophizes about the world, while a creative force burns within him - enjoying being in front of the camera and hoping to be the one behind it someday. In an intimate story by London-based photographer Natalie Eloise, there is an atmosphere difficult to grasp, a rawness woven into the innocence of adolescence. The need to rush into the new, yet not feeling quite prepared for what there is to come. Breathing as an exposed actor on stage of a one-man act, who hasn't rehearsed his lines - yet with a head beaming with intriguing thoughts.
Melancholy and nostalgia are inscribed into his skin, hidden under a cheeky curtain. A time of being intrepid yet defenseless, where vulnerability is tucked into fearlessness and the thirst for adventures keeping you awake at night. The boy in the striped suit admits; 'I'm not great at thinking about the future', but yearns for the unknown. He is ready to spread his wings for the first time: to set off on a long journey into unexplored territory, to feel that indispensable thrill that scares us a little bit, feeling homesick for places we've never been.

Who’s Mr. Six?
Yeah, that’s my cats name. There's this this little kiddies book about a cat who has six different owners and none of them know, and the only time they find out is when he gets sick and they take him to the vet and everyone turns up. It's my little brother's favorite book, so I have a cat called Mr. Six now. It's a bit embarrassing to tell everyone, but yeah.
It's a good start to this interview. Let’s start by introducing yourself into my phone.
I'm Sam, I'm from Supa Model Management and I'm 17. I live in Kent, near Bromley and I'm still at school. I'm at Sixth form. I'm doing art, philosophy and English, and I have no idea what am I gonna do next year. I might take a year out and see what happens.
Maybe you can philosophise about it?
Yeah, exactly! All my friends are going straight to uni, and I don't wanna do any more formal education for a little bit. I obviously love the fashion world in general and I've got three of my parents in fashion. My mum is a stylist, my dad is a photographer and my step-mum is also stylist, so I wanna help them on shoots and assist them. That's actually how I first got into modelling. One of the photographers said; 'can we do something, are you a model?'. I said no, and he said; 'can I use you for a personal thing anyway?' and I said 'yeah, sure.' Then at the end they were referring to me to SUPA.
Sounds like you're kinda like born to do it! That was cheesy, haha.
That puts a lot of pressure on me. I love just being in front of the camera and then hopefully one day behind it maybe.
This is not your school uniform? Genuinely?
It is. I promise. Yeah, I get told off. I've had a Saturday detention for it. They're not very happy with me, but I just said; 'I do art, please let me get away with it'. You're allowed to wear a suit and then a tie. And then I keep my case for a bolo tie so much and they always tell me to take it off. So a lot of the time I switch to this and a normal tie.
So you're the one that is in the stripy suit?
You're allowed to wear like stripy or checked I think, but you can't wear a bright suit. If it's like plain and black, navy or grey. I'm in Sixth form, so you can choose and buy a suit. They just don't like my accessories and stuff. And they didn't like my hair either. The school rule says you can't have any unnatural colors. I went to a hair show for Tim Hartley and I came to school with like full peroxide, not even with roots and everything was blonde and they just said 'go home'. And I was like ‘I can’t even fight my case?' and they said 'no, just go home, you have to come when you've sorted it'. So I got Saturday detention, missed two days off school and then had to done my roots back to get back in. I will pass teachers like this (gestures with his hands to his side).
What about your tie solution today, have they approved that?
No, it's Friday, so I thought I'd wear it. Some days I do, some days I don't. I have normal ties, obviously as well, but I love bolo ties. I have like eight or nine bolo ties and I just really like them so any excuse to wear them.
And black nail polish.
Yeah, they have to allow it, because they allow it the girls. Like every single girl has black nails. I make myself sound more eccentric than I am.
I find it interesting, because I grew up in Norway and we don't have school uniforms there.
I think the argument for England is that you have obviously public schools and even in grammar schools you have such a big gap between people who have a lot of money and people who don't, so if the people who have a lot of money are wearing all those brands every day and they have so many clothes and the people who are not as well off are wearing the same clothes again it will just create even more of a gap.
You have a great fashion sense. What do your peers say?
Thank you. A lot of them do as well in their own sense, but I get the piss taken out of me quite a lot. I get away with it, because people just say: 'It's Sam', which is what you're aiming for isn't it? People will stop. I have friends who follow more sort of sportswear and skate brands like Palace, Supreme and that sort of stuff, which is a very different world to what I like. I'd say my favorite fashion has got to be Saint Laurent. But they would all go with Supreme.
We're big big Saint Laurent fans. Why is that your favourite?
I've always loved the silhouette especially and I loved Hedi Slimane as a person, photographer and creative director. I really liked him at Dior and then I really liked him at Saint Laurent, because the cut of it is just an amazing silhouette. Skinny. And I think that's more me than any other thing.
When did you get into modeling and what's that experience been like so far?
I've been doing it since February, and it's been really fun. I've had busy weeks, especially before fashion week when you're going to castings and everything, you’re pinging about from place to place and that's quite hectic, but apart from that it's just been like really fun experiences and I've met some really cool people. I've met Tim Walker.
If you could choose a dream profession, would you then go down the stylist route or the photography route or art direction or different?
I'm not great at thinking about the future, everyone's always telling me to. Bring deadlines on it and everything, but I don't know. I used to want to be a writer or a journalist or something, but that was a long time ago. I think now I would want to be a photographer, although that dream sort of... I mean, everyone does photography now don't they.
But not everyone does it well.
Yeah, it's such a competitive market, it's one of the most competitive crazy markets isn't it. So maybe something more like a stylist or even a fashion writer. Something creative definitely.
What else do we need to know about you?
That’s difficult without sounding too pretentious, when I talk about interests and stuff. I like reading, I like poetry, I really like music and my music taste is quite broad. Although I have sort of obsessive phases where I really like someone or something and I find out everything about them and listen to all their music. At the moment I've been listening a lot to Tribal Quest, but then I also used to love Pete Doherty and The Libertines and Babyshambles and everything. Musically I’m quite open-minded. I always wanted to be able to play an instrument, but I never really went that far. I think I put a guitar on a Christmas list once and then took it off a few days later once I saw how hard it was to learn. I think I regret not learning to skateboard and not learning to play the guitar. Those two things.
So instead of talking about the skills that you don't have...
I think I'm quite good at seeing people in the way that they want to be seen and so I love portrait photography. I like to bring up something that even they didn't know. I did a series of portraits with my girlfriend inspired by Corinne Day's diary, and I also shot some really cool images of my friends. It was inspired by Ryan McGinley as well, I basically like just took them to a a place where they feel comfortable and let them do stuff, just let it be. I got some amazing portraits of my girlfriend and she was; 'I don't recognize myself in this, but I really like it, do you know what I mean?'
Do you have any of those pictures on your phone or something? I wanna see now. I'm curious.
I've got my laptop. I haven't got the full range of the pictures but she's posted some of them. But yeah this is my project, but do you know David Carson, the graphic designer - it was inspired by him.
Have you designed this?
Yeah. It's just layout.
Whaaat? That's good stuff, you didn't tell me you could do design!
I just use Pages really. Pages and Corel Draw.
Ohhh, you need to get into your InDesign.
Yeah, I know. Everyone is always telling me that. I've got the programme downloaded and everything.
You have? Oh you silly boy! haha
I just opened it, looked at it and thought 'I don't have time for this' and went back to Pages. David Carson, who did Ray Gun magazine in 1970s until the early 2000’s is the inspiration. It's all experimentation.
No, it's cool, I love it!
And then, this is the one of my girlfriend (shows an image).
Nice, and it's all your photography? This is so cool.
This is all Art A level. I love to take pictures. I love taking pictures of my friends and stuff.
So you're basically doing all the elements. Maybe you'll be an editor one day. Just throwing it out there.
Yeah, I don't know if I definitely want to go to uni, but I think it's probably the best thing. I think like I think that I'm definitely gonna do some short courses next year for film and graphic design and photography, and then see if one of them is what I definitely want to go into.
You've got your photography, there's your words and writing and there's your design.
Yeah, my first project I wanted to do sort of David Carter and stuff like that and then my second project was all like clean white and everything. Like architectural photography, I did loads of that as I like to experiment with different styles of graphic design. But I don't see it as a core thing for mine, I didn't think I was that good at it.
It was really engaging to look at. When you're young you experiment through different styles, and then you find your own voice.
You draw inspiration from other people and then you come up your own stuff. It's all very overwhelming to think about that.
Did you get good grades at school with these projects?
Yeah, yeah, I got an A for my last project and I got all A* at GCSE. I haven't handed in the one that you've seen yet. I'm handing it in in January. I'm strruggling a little bit with English at the moment, 'cause I haven't read all the texts. The teachers are just not very happy with me and that's the way it's always been. I've stayed at the school and the school is quite an elitist school - they kick you out if you don't get the good grades. So I always stayed there, but the teachers always kinda wanted me to leave, 'cause I was what not and uniform and everything.
You're such a rebel!
I'm a rebel in the most unpretentious way possible, but I'm not badly behaved.
You also mentioned that you like to read?
I like to read whatever I fancy. I've read 'A Million Little Pieces' by James Ferry, which is quite a good book about a girl with drug addiction, and I've half-read 'The Picture of Dorian Grey', it's quite heavy. And then I was reading 'Jack Kerouac's On The Road' and I was reading Cormack McCarthy as well before that. I probably don't read as much as I should when I'm doing an English A level, but I can't engage with something unless I find it interesting. That's why I did badly in science, but I guess that's everyone's excuse isn't it.
And you mentioned poetry as well? Do you write?
I do little bit of both. I mean I don't show people, cause I thought it’s so pretentious showing people. Like 'look at this poetry I write', but yeah. Just occasionally. Just sometimes.
What do you write about?
Anything. Just not high concept stuff, but things to do with me and my life. The things that affect me and how I'm feeling about things. I've been reading a lot of Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar as well, and I used to read Pete Doherty - even though he obviously has all the drugs and stuff associated with him, he's an amazing poet, so that revived my love for it. I started writing a few years ago and then I stopped. I don't do it regularly, but I go through periods of writing lots and lots and lots. I have them all saved on my computer. I used to delete them a few weeks after I wrote them, but it's quite nice to do.
What makes you feel emotionally satisfied?
I love looking at photographs as well as taking them, and if you look through Corinne Day's diary you feel a proper sense of what she was trying to convey, but as releasing from oneself, I guess writing stuff? I don't talk to people about a lot of things, people are always the ones telling me stuff, so that's how it's been with my friendships. So I guess I just write stuff. If you're not showing it to anyone, you don't have to care about whether it's good or not. I love writing, I love photography and if you're getting something out creatively, it's just a bonus, isn't it?
What is it like to be 17 today?
In an academic sense I feel it's quite a cliche saying this, but I think it's a lot harder. There is a lot more pressure on us at school and they want us to make that as big a part of our life as we can, and so that obviously questions a lot of people's outside interest and things. So if you're 17 you're still at school and they want your life to mainly be about school, 'cause that's what benefits them and benefits you and everything. But, I mean, being a teenager at 17 is not bad, we have a lot of freedom don't we? Especially if you're middle class you've got so much freedom, with the internet and communication and everything. Probably the best time to be a 17 year old I'd say.
Any challenges growing up today?
Yeah, I've got so many friends who are always saying they can't wait to grow up and I find that so sad. People always have dreams and they wanna be fulfilling those steps and going to wherever. No, I love being young, it's great. I mean, I haven't got that many responsibilities. I don't have a job, I mean I earn some money from modelling, but I haven't done any like proper Tesco's jobs that my friends were doing. I feel like I'm still as free as I can be at 17, and not having as many obligations. It's definitely a positive thing that you can give time to yourself, 'cause I guess teenage age is when you have to devote yourself as much as possible. You are finding out about yourself. More so than you ever could before, and that changes who you are when you're older. Growing up and being a teenager is, or can be, the hardest time. I'd probably stay around this age forever if I could.
Sounds so Peter Pan.
Any life advice that you'd like to tell the Boys By Girls readers? Is it too early?
I'm only 17 and I don't feel in a position to give advice, but I think; express yourself as creatively as you possibly can.
That's a nice one.
That's the best. That's all I've got, really.

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