John’s MFW Diary: From Castings To Shows

1 July 2014

We are becoming somewhat addicted to the model diary of John Wesselingh (Independent Men/EstablishedModels), and here is why; with a unique insight into his model journey with his clever wit and charming ways of documenting it for us to all experience with him, we sit at the edges of our seats as we learn about his first fashion week experience, walking the catwalk for the first time, catching up with his model friends and experiencing those dreaded casting queues we all see pictures of from castings. At his first fashion week experience, he got his slice of pie and ate it.

Historical nights often make the mornings after unusual, and so was the morning of Saturday the 14th of June. I woke up on my balcony, alone. A cold breeze comforted my hot skin as I tried to find my senses. Headache – probably had some drinks last night. Then it hit me. My beloved Orange, the Dutch national team, had crushed Spain in the world cup with a stunning 1-5. In a brief moment of utter happiness I try to laugh only to find out that it’s not possible because my voice is gone – another confirmation that last night was epic. Suddenly the phone rings. It’s my booker.

“Erm, I’m at ho..”
“Yes I do, but that’s not..”

This chaotic brief conversation made something I had heard all week very clear, again: my first fashion week was coming.

Basically it goes down like the following: From Monday until Friday there would be uncountable castings everywhere around the city. As a model, the city is your office. You know your way, know where to get the best coffee and you greet your “co-workers” (other models) in the street even though you do not always know them. Models from every corner of the world flew in town just for the castings and the shows, which would be from Saturday until Tuesday (fashion ‘week’ is only 4 days long). In the days leading up to that first Monday, I saw a lot of faces that I hadn’t seen before in the streets. I’ve been here for 3 months and during that time, I kind of started to get used to the regulars at castings. Now, it felt like I was new all over again. Everyone trying to get a piece of the cake with all that work up for grabs during fashion week. Some get a big slice with a cherry on top, some get none. I’m happy to say I got my tiny slice, with some chocolate on top.

Au Jour Le Jour: The Casting

The casting for Italian brand Au Jour Le Jour took place on the first day of the castings, Monday. I had been running around town all day. I was tired and maybe a bit overwhelmed by how much was going on already. I stepped through the gates of the building and walked right into the biggest waiting line I ever faced while modeling.

As my friend Norman Funk once posted on Facebook: “Sometimes modeling is about being a Buddhist: we wait a lot.” All models going in one by one to show their book, do a short walk and possibly do some quick polaroids. It took about 45 minutes before it was my turn. Luckily, I ran into some fellow Dutchies who I watched the Netherlands game with last weekend, so time passed quickly as we kept on blabbering about it.

We were in a bit of a joking mood when I had to step up and show my book. The casting director asked me to walk, and as typical as it is, I had to walk straight up to my friends who were pulling weird faces. Remaining serious in those situations is not my strong point, but luckily for me it was still good enough to fit the bill. On Tuesday I got the news that I was picked for the show, which would be held on Thursday in Florence. Could my week start any better?

Au Jour Le Jour: The Show

Wednesday night was the night of the second group game of Holland, this time against Australia. Another win, and thus another party. I slept for two hours before I had to get up and get a taxi to the train station from where a bus full of models would departed towards Florence. I was tired, but worked up at the same time. On the bus there were a lot of models I had either worked or hung out with before, so you can imagine it was just like going on a school trip. I was so excited!

Just about 50 kilometers north of Florence we drove through a beautiful mountainous landscape. I don’t think I can describe it without getting all cliché and cheesy about it. I have always had an enormous wanderlust and a rich fantasy. I was never the most ideal kid in class and I wondered a lot about when the day would come that I could finally be something that would give a fulfilling feeling. This was that moment. Sudden realization, eye opening. How in the world did I ever get to this point? It showed me that with just a little initiative and passion you can achieve many things. It was beautiful, and I even still had to do a show later that day!

Au Jour Le Jour’s Spring/Summer 15 collection is very school-like inspired. The space in which the show took place had been decorated like a huge classroom. Every visitor had to sit behind a little colored desk, which we had to walk past and show the upcoming collection. A little ironic, considering how I dropped out of university to become an actor. The first show I was going to do took place in a school setting. My teachers would laugh if they read this.

After rehearsals, make up and a big press gathering backstage, the time was finally there. I was about to walk the walk. First time, ever. Fourth in order. I was nervous, my shoes weren’t really the kind of shoes I was used to. Doubt entered my mind, but once the show started the truth is that there is just no time for thinking too much. Before I knew it I was walking already towards a sea of photographers. It went quick and fast, in and out, no more than 40 seconds maybe. It felt good. Really good.

Etro: The Casting

Tuesday was a day even busier than Monday: 10 castings. One of them was for Etro. I didn’t know the brand, but I soon learned that it was a pretty big one. I arrived early at the casting just outside the centre of Milan. Models often speculate about a certain time that is best to arrive at castings. Not too early; if there are 50 models after you, the casting director might forget you. Not too late either; chances are that the casting director has made his choice already or he might be tired and doesn’t pay you a lot of attention. I don’t believe in this. I think that if you are really good, the director won’t forget you no matter what. My theory proved right this time, as I was second to go in and I got the job.

Etro: The Show

On the third day of the shows, Monday, the Etro show was going to take place. This time in dear old Milan. The venue was huge. The runway was long. It kind of made me think of a sort of concert. The music during the show was provided by Hang Massive, a Swedish/UK duo who played their ‘hang drums’ live during the show. They were sitting in front of a huge screen, which showed pictures of the new Etro campaign. It was a really impressive stage to walk on and I was happy to do so.

What I like about shows is that everything is there, but then more of it. There is food for you to take just like during a shoot, but then more of it. There are photographers, but then more of them. There are make-up artists and other models, but 20 of them. It really makes for a nice atmosphere and you meet a lot of cool people.

After an hour (!!) in hairstyling it was time to go to the space behind the stage from where we would enter the walk. There, everything is perfectly lined out for every model. Your clothes are hanging nice and neat on a clothing rack together with a little present and someone to dress you (always women). There are photographers constantly taking pictures of the outfits you’re wearing. At one point, me and my friend from Wisconsin, Trevor Olson, were just standing and socializing when suddenly a group of photographers lined up in front of us to take our picture. Of course, it’s all about the clothes. But still it feels so weird that in contrast to your daily life there’s such an interest in how you look all of a sudden. This contrast was also portrayed nicely when I walked away onto the streets after the show. 15 minutes before 1500 eyes were upon me, now: 0.

Hang Massive kicked off the show and Dutch model Ton Heukels entered the walk first of the bunch. I soon followed and just like the other show it’s over before you know it. I don’t even think of anything when I go. Backstage a short little rush begins as you have to quickly change into the other outfit you’re doing. I did and again, before I knew it I was walking again. Closer and closer to the sea of photographers.

That was my fashion week. In between the shows I did countless castings as well, so I guess you can imagine that it’s pretty tiring. When I get tired, I can only think of one thing and that is home. It has been a long run since the 17th of March when I moved to London to Milan. Now I’m at the end of it. This weekend I will do my last catalogue job in Naples before flying back to Amsterdam. One month rest, then on to Asia. If every trip is going to be as fun as this one was, then good times are ahead of me. Going about your own really makes you rich of experience. The shows were great things to have done, but the journey to get there has even been more fun. It goes to show that hard work will be rewarded eventually. James Dean once said: “gratification comes in the doing, not in the results.” I have lived and realized that now.

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