We meet Karolis Inokaitis (Supermodels) in his home country Lithuania, where the architecture is gothic and the forests are beautiful. In the midst of a move, Karolis is contently singing to himself as boxes are piled up around him; as if they are almost a premonition of this charming boy’s wanderlust personality and complete inability to stay in one place.
“I am someone who cannot sit still. If I didn't go travelling, I would still get into some adventures or change things up in my life to freshen up a bit.”
We talk to Karolis over a cup of tea to get to know the boy behind the catwalks and cameras – our favourite! He tells us all about growing up by the sea, his love of onions (and dancing dragons) as well as his vivid fear of dying in a plane crash. Obviously a natural storyteller and creative, he even tells us a couple of funny anecdotes, including an explanation of why he is on the front cover of a Turkish book about the mafia! Below begins the story of this out-of-the-ordinary traveller.
What are you up to now, how's life going?
I am currently studying Creative Industry Design in Lithuania, going into my 2nd year. I've been modelling for 5 years now, and was the youngest male model at the time in Lithuania, as I started when I was 15. I was already 189cm tall then, so I got sent to fashion weeks in Paris and Milan straight away, although instead of doing the shows I ended up doing shoots for various magazines.
How exactly were you discovered?
My ex-girlfriend wanted to become a model, so I went to her casting to keep her company and got scouted instead.
Where has modelling taken you so far?
It will be my second time in China, I've been to Paris five or six times, once in Milan and also London.
How's work different in different cities?
People are very different in each country. The work I do in Paris and Milan is always very creative, but I also like that in Asia they have drivers for models and it makes things easier. I remember once in Milan during the fashion week in winter there were so many models for a casting that a lot of us had to wait outside in the cold, because people didn't fit inside the building. I got sick that time and had to skip the rest of fashion week.
Was there any particular occasion that really made you happy when people recognised you or you got some positive comments?
There is this one picture of me that's going around on Tumblr and that has something like 10 million notes already. My name is not even mentioned anywhere in that post. I came to China and had that image in my book and everyone gathered around "OMG is that you?? I have this picture saved on my computer!! Is that really you?". Completely random people would come up and ask if that's me in that picture. It's always really cool. Even now I went to one casting and saw people looking at that picture and chatting among themselves.
You have a lot of fans from Turkey, why is that?
Well something like half a year ago this girl contacted me asking if she could use an image of me for a book cover. I just thought to myself that it's not a big deal, so was like alright, use it if you want to. I get messages like this a lot, people want to use pictures for various projects, so I didn't pay much attention to this one. A couple of months ago I got another message from her saying that the book is already going to the printers and will be out soon, she also sent me some pictures of the book. Then I realised that it's a real deal. As far as I know it's already been released, but not sure if it has been officially presented yet. I should be going to Turkey in September or October to do some book signings. It's crazy - I haven't done anything, it's just a picture of me on the cover and I'll be signing books! I literally have done nothing in the process and I'm the one getting all this attention.
Do you know what the book is about?
As far as I know it's about mafia, but I'm not entirely sure. I got the books sent to me and some presents too, but it's in Turkish, so…
Is that when the Turkish fans discovered you?
Yeah…even a bit before I realised that suddenly all these Turkish people started commenting on my social media and I didn't understand what it was about. Then there were more and more people and then I got the message about the book. I think they've got some internet forums that share information about the book in, it all started from the day they published my social media account names there.
Tell me more about your childhood, growing up in Lithuania. You're from the seaside, right?
Yes, I'm from Klaipeda. Ever since I was little I was into arts, though to be honest I was into everything. I've tried so many things, but in the end I mostly kept doing arts. Even my primary school teacher suggested taking me to this special art school and my mum saw that I really liked art too. I got into that school and studied there until 12th grade, that is also why I went to study Creative Industry Design at university, I've been doing art for so long now. Those are my two passions - business and art and Creative Industries is a subject that has those two combined.
How was school for you, did you like it?
It was okay. I didn't really spend much time there to be honest, I was quite surprised that I managed to graduate okay. In 11th grade I only went to school for around 3 months in total. I always had to do all the tests and assignments all at once to catch up. I was supposed to study while travelling, but it was difficult because obviously when you're travelling it's hard to focus on studying. I do feel that I've taken all I needed to take from school and learnt the things that I needed to learn. I won't need such things as the Pythagorean theorem later in life, I think.
So then you travelled a lot because of modelling?
Yeah. I am also someone who cannot sit still. If I didn't go travelling, I would still get into some adventures or change things up in my life to freshen up a bit. My recent change was moving from Klaipeda to the capital city Vilnius. Back then it was the same, I just couldn't go to school properly for the whole school year. It all started with my first trip abroad when I started modelling, when I felt how amazing it can be, travelling without your parents and feeling that freedom. I was 16 when I went abroad on my own for the first time and during that first trip I was already offered drugs. That is also when I realised that I need to be responsible for myself, choose my own path and make my own choices. The first trip to China was also very memorable, because it's the other side of the world and everything is different.
How have you changed during all these travels and constantly being on the move?
I think I have changed a lot and I think that I've changed for the better. I've started seeing the bigger picture and think in a less restricted manner after seeing things I didn't even know existed. I don't have those limitations in my mind, when you stay in one place and see things only in one particular way, spend time with the same people and especially if those people are not trying to become better at what they do, you're eventually going to end up the same, stuck in the same place.
Tell me a couple of things about yourself that nobody knows.
I'm terrified of flying. So terrified. Every time I know that I will be flying somewhere, I try to get myself exhausted, either not sleeping the night before, or just doing anything that would get me so tired that I would sleep throughout the whole flight.
Are you afraid of taking off and landing or the whole time flying?
I'm just scared. I just get on the plane and I'm like 'okay, that's it, I'm gonna die today'. If the plane shakes a bit, I just sit there thinking 'it's over'. I get used to the idea that I'm dying every time I fly. I imagine very vividly what it's going to look like, my imagination quickly paints this picture of us crashing into water and what happens next…I'll blame it on my artistic side, my imagination runs wild.
How do you manage though? You must be flying so often for work.
Yeah and every time I'm convinced that I'm going to die. Travelling is a passion of mine, but I'm terrified of flights. To be honest I'm also scared of any kind of transport. The only means of transport that I am not scared of are buses. Everything else - trams, metro, everything…so scary.
Has it always been like that?
I don't know, maybe I've got a feeling that eventually I'm going to die in some car or plane crash? I don't know. It just always feels like 'it's coming, the death is coming soon'. I get scared even when going to castings - not even for myself, but for others. I look out of the window and think that someone's going to get into an accident. Especially in China, where everyone drives like crazy.
Anything else that nobody knows about?
Let me think. Oh I know. I love onions. Any food I make, I always put onions in. I buy them in these huge bags. Everything goes with onions for me, everything tastes better.
I do the same with sesame! Salty or sweet, I put it everywhere.
Haha, same! Onions are great. I went shopping today and didn't buy any onions and later thought 'what's wrong with me?'
Anything else that's strange about you?
I'm allergic to mint chewing gum! I always sneeze if I have some. Some of my friends know it already and give me some strong mint chewing gum on purpose, to watch me sneeze. Nothing else mint triggers that, just chewing gum.
What about your future, what plans have you got?
I'm really attached to Lithuania and living here. I was supposed to study in London, but decided to stay. Maybe I'll go to London for Masters, but not sure yet. I'll see where the wind takes me. I will do modelling until I can and by that time I'm sure I will have even more plans and ideas than I have now - and I have a lot already. Will be something connected to art and business for sure.
What do you do if you're feeling down?
Nobody really cheers me up if I don't do it myself really. I know myself best and I know what makes me happy. Actually, do you know they dance these dragon dances in China? When they wear this dragon costume and do all those shapes during festivals? I don't know why, but I always find those very funny. I just watch a video of those dragons on Youtube and laugh. So I guess when I'm sad and just turn to Youtube for help (laughs). But I'm not really someone who gets sad easily, I'm quite a positive person. I always look for what's best for me and do those things. I stop to think if I'm happy with what I'm doing and move forward depending on what I feel. I'm not a perfectionist though, but I'm used to being a leader and in that way having things under control. It's the same when it comes to my own life.
Photography and Interview by Ieva Blazeviciute.
Words by Molly Baker.