Last week’s UCC Fashion Week may have been a first, but its statement piece is a staple event in the college year. In what is now firmly the highlight of UCC’s fashion calendar, the Finale of UCC’s Next Top Model proved once again to draw the crowds.
Eleven contestants had a break-neck introduction to the world of modelling, being featured in spreads in the Irish Examiner, Cork Independent, Hi Magazine and yours truly over the duration of the competition. Thursday’s fashion show in the Savoy Theatre was the final challenge gave the contestants the opportunity to show the crowd, and judges, what made them Top Model potential.
Designers on show included collections from Cork locals, Amity, Samantha Kennedy and Turquoise Flamingo for the girls, with the male models boasting ensembles from Sallinger, all showcasing looks at student friendly prices.
The judging panel consisted of Miss Ireland organisers Séan Montague and Brendan Scully as well as Cork based makeup artist Noreen O’Connor and Eileen McGrath from Edge Hair Salon. Their deliberations, which required a walk-off between three girls Leah, Jennifer and Amber, finally saw students Leah Mc Namara and Vafa Lightfoot declared UCC’s Next Top Models.
Eighteen year old Leah is studying Drama and Theatre Studies. Her interest in performance prompted her to enter the competition. “I suppose I’ve always been interested in fashion and I’ve also been interested in performing and stage and modelling definitely has caught my eye so I decided why not? What have I got to lose?” This experience confirmed for her that she wants to pursue a career in modelling, thought she has also learnt that it is harder work than it first appears.
“I’ve learned that there’s a lot more to it than someone would think. You look at a photo and you just don’t take that much notice of it but now any time I look at a photo I actually think how many hours, hair and makeup and costumes all for one photo, it actually takes so much time.”
Canadian Dentistry student Vafa beat two other males to the top spot. His friends first suggested he enter and when he was scouted by the Fashion Soc on campus “I figured I might as well go for it.”
Vafa agrees with Leah that the process has been a learning curve. “I have learned that modelling is a lot harder than it seems! It was challenging to learn to express emotions basically through body language. It definitely helped to have the stylists around and Michael O’Sullivan is an amazing photographer and very patient, so being able to take notes from him made me more confident with each project.”
After the show, I spoke to judge and Miss Ireland organiser Séan Montague. With a varied portfolio in the fashion industry from model agent to event producer he was acutely aware of what to look for in a Top Model.
“I was looking for someone who is more bookable for a client so I was thinking if you’re a client are you going to book this model for a show or a press call and who’s going to give that little bit more. Who’s going to maybe light up the camera that little bit more and Leah did that from the word go.”
“The guys were very fun. They were three very different guys but again, Vafa just stood out. It’s harder for guys in Ireland to get jobs. It’s much harder for guys than it is for girls. So I was again thinking, if you were a client booking a Jack and Jones gig, a Tommy Hilfiger gig, a press call, who would you book?”
I was intrigued to know about the opportunities available now for Leah and Vafa that they have been booked with Pulse Models Cork for the next 12 months. It seems that with limited job opportunities in Ireland, flexibility in look and talent will be the key to success. Fashion has been hit as much as any other industry of late, and in a relatively small market, models are finding that they have to work harder to stand out and book jobs. As Séan says, Irish models must, and do, “wear many hats”.
“The work isn’t as fluid as it is in other countries unfortunately so [models] take what they can get. It’s interesting if you break it all into fashion model, ramp model, editorial model, press call model where in Ireland a lot of girls cover it all, so tonight that’s what we were looking for- girls and guys that could do those roles.”
Finally, on entering the modelling profession, Séan told me that most people he works with have fallen into modelling as a sideline to other pursuits. “It’s a bit of fun, a bit of money and it opens up avenues to them that wouldn’t have maybe opened up as quickly beforehand so they use that experience and those contacts to benefit their career.”
This seems to be the approach that Vafa in particular is planning on taking to his newfound sideline; “I think that it would be a fun career if the right opportunities come up. I’ll definitely keep up with it as much as I can, maybe someone has a need for a model/dentist in the future, I’m sure that niche hasn’t been filled yet.”