If you were asked what it takes to make it as a model at London Fashion Week, it might seem like a pretty easy question. But to say something as simple as "good looks" is to underestimate the grit and graft that goes into being a face of the world of fashion. It's an industry that's perpetually underestimated, but anything that contributes £32.3 billion to the UK economy was never going to be easy money. You only need look at the revolving door of fashion designers at major brands to see that a stylish life isn't always straightforward.
For models, fashion weeks are huge opportunities — they're a chance not just to walk the runway for major fashion labels but to help set yourself up for the months ahead or cement the reputation you've been building over previous seasons. The catwalk shows are just the glamorous conclusion to a lot of hard work. For models fashion week starts with castings and ends with after-parties, in a cycle that — if they're lucky — repeats over and over again. It's often the most fast-paced and exciting time in any model's calendar.
To find out what it's really like to be a new face at London Fashion Week, and celebrate the launch of their Tech Pack Collection, Nike partnered with Fashion East and followed models Ibukun and Deba during their busy schedules of late nights and early starts. Taking in catwalk shows, after parties, and everything in between, photographer Lily Bertrand Webb captured their experiences in a series of raw, behind-the-scenes portraits.
Ibukun moved to London five months ago to pursue a full-time career in modelling after winning Nigeria's Next Supermodel in 2017. She feels London has given her career a real boost, and finds fashion week in the city a challenging but enjoyable experience. “I feel I have grown so much since moving to London — to me it is a city full of adventures. This is my second season here, and it was really fun! It was also stressful at times, but I got to work with some really amazing designers and I was so excited to walk for them,” she told me.
In typical day at LFW, a model like Ibukun might attend multiple castings. "You go to castings, meet different designers. Hopefully you get booked. I had like 20 different castings one day. It was totally crazy." But despite how busy it can be, for Ibukun it's all worth it. "Walking on the runway [is my favourite type of modelling]. I'm Nigerian and you don't get this opportunity there. You don't get this opportunity everyday. I love the runway. I feel very confident up there. The spirit up there, I can't describe it."
And as she's now a Londoner, Ibukun says fashion week in the capital is not just beneficial to her career, but a fun experience among friends. "I find it easier at London Fashion Week. I'm close to my bookers, they look out for me like they're my parents. [Fashion week] helps me personally. I used to stay quiet and just watch but it's made me more open and friendly. I socialise now. It's opened a lot of doors for me, given me a lot of opportunities."
Deba, who is just 17, recently walked for Vetements in Paris and hoped to snag a spot on the catwalk for another major brand at London Fashion Week. She explained that the city, which is known for its focus on fresh designers and more cutting edge style, inspires her. “London motivates me to do better and push myself. I’ve never actually ‘done’ London Fashion Week before now," she says.
For many models it's not always a case of instant success, and for new faces, who are early on in their modelling careers, fashion week can be more an opportunity to meet those with booking power and start getting their name on the right lists. And when London's done, it's off to Milan to do it all over again. Deba comments: "Although I don’t always get booked for the catwalks, I don’t let it get me down. Meeting casting agents and designers is super exciting for me, and I’m looking forward to walking my second major runway in Milan”.
So next time you're scrolling through Instagram and see snaps of your favourite model jetting around the world for runway shows, you'll know a lot of hard work goes into achieving that enviable lifestyle.