Irra Ariella Khi has been a model since she was 14 years old and has featured in campaigns for big brands such as Selfridges, Tom Ford and L’Oreal.
Irra is also a successful catwalk model, and has strutted her stuff for Guess and Gai Mattiolo.
To celebrate the launch of London Fashion Week, Irra gives us an exclusive insight into what it’s like to be a model.
How did you get into modelling?
I was scouted outside Oxford Circus station then lost the agent’s card on the way back to university. But it gave me enough confidence to go to agency open calls and I got signed in London a week later, and in Milan a few years after.
What’s a typical day like when you’re on a shoot?
Normally you would get on set very early, you’d have clean hair, no make up, and be very sleepy – and that’s OK because for the next 3-4 hours, someone is going to create an entire image using you as a base.
You’ll be with hair and makeup people, and with the stylist who picks out outfits for the shoot. The photographer together with the client would have put together an image they want to create – and my job is to make it work for a photograph, to move at the right angles and to present the clothes in a fitting way. You end up taking several hundred photos while playing dress up – fantastic fun!
Being a model seems incredibly glamorous – could you share one of your highlights?
The highlights for me are not glamour but pure admiration of somebody’s raw talent – for example being next to Tom Ford as he’s launching his cosmetics to world press … I felt so lucky to get the job! Most models are so used to seeing flashing lights and celebrities so it doesn’t really faze us, its just part of the job. Of course it’s nice to get the odd glamorous gift from a shoot, but what you see in a photo takes a long time to create – there’s a big brilliant team behind you: they make you look much more glamorous than you feel!
You’re working in London Fashion Week. What’s it like backstage at the shows?
Everything is fairly hectic and colourful: there’s rails of clothing being wheeled around and behind them you see lights around makeup mirrors and the models lining up to try things on. There’s a schedule pinned up on the wall, and everyone is buzzing with anticipation and excitement – it’s all leading up to that moment when you’re about to step onto the runway. There’s always several backstage photographers with flashlights going off, and hairspray clouds flying everywhere!
What items could you not live without?
- My modelling portfolio and Kirkwood heels for castings
- Scholl gel inserts for shoes as you never know what size you’ll get to wear,
- Tangle Teezer to save me from back combing and beehives,
- QuickThinking No7 face wipes, to save me from looking like a vampire on the tube home from a job
- iPod and iBooks as there’s lots of waiting around on castings and backstage
If you weren’t a model what would you do instead?
Produce films to explore all the hard work and real talent that goes into fashion. I prefer to focus on up-and-coming designers, and do in depth edgy interviews. I founded SoulOfFashion TV
How do you manage to combine being a mother with your job?
It’s fairly challenging, just last week I couldn’t get a babysitter so turned up on set with my daughter! Thankfully she is a very relaxed baby and everyone in the team loved her smiling at them. She likes being on set – we have just done our first photo shoot together for Philips, and have been asked to come back to shoot a video for the campaign next week. I’ve been lucky to have great support from my agencies – both agents in Milan and London have kept me on the books for flexible working hours, and even offered to babysit while I’m on castings.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to break into modelling or the fashion world?
- Invest in yourself – look after your skin, hair and body!
- Have a friend take some pictures and get some experience doing free fashion shoots or shows to build up your confidence
- Get some professional advice – ask agents for feedback even if they don’t sign you. Check out agency open calls and hopefully get professional representation!
Want to know even more?
Check out Irra’s Shopacde and her blog.