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A day in the life of a male fashion model

By Simone Preuss


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Modelling - many connect this term with a glamorous profession that allows those working as models to travel the world and wear fabulous clothes. FashionUnited has taken the opportunity to speak with Himanshu Singh, a Mumbai-based print and catwalk model, to uncover some of the myths around modelling. He has four years of experience and has worked with designers and labels like Rishta by Arjun Saluja, Archana Rao Label, Huemn, Little Shilpa and others. The versatile professional is also a theatre actor and an intermedia artist experimenting with photography, film and performance operating under his pseudonym 'humhu'.

FashionUnited: How did you get into modelling?

Himanshu Singh: I worked as a photographer right through college and was at fashion-related shoots, thus getting introduced to the fashion circles of Mumbai. More and more often, I would casually be asked to model for test shoots. Though free, this work made me feel good and allowed me to put together a portfolio, which helped me to find paid work and start a modelling career.

Is there anything specific to the modelling industry in India? Any specific challenges?

The Indian fashion industry is currently undergoing a major identity introspection. It is struggling hard to find its identity as it has been aping for many decades what goes on in the West, particularly in Europe, with fashion trends in Bollywood mirroring European fashion. But for the last ten years, the Indian fashion industry has been moving towards its own identity, which has benefited the models too. Indian models are finally being favoured, in India as well as in the West, and the obsession with typical Caucasian skin and body type seems to be coming to an end.

Then of course, there is the huge wedding industry with its own specific wedding attire, which is a challenge to wear with its rich and heavy materials that can also be very delicate. It is also unrealistic, especially when it comes to the weather. Men have taken on a western formal attire and a three-piece suit, for example, which is awfully hot in India's predominantely humid climate, whereas not much value is placed on a good cotton kurta or a nice linen shirt, which could be as formal but better suited to the weather.

In terms of personal challenges, I get labeled as "unconventional", an "odd beauty" or a person "with character", which can be quite a USP but can also make it hard when competing in the commercial market with more conventional beauty. I really need to go out there and sell myself and of course, it is easy to get bogged down by a lack of appreciation.

What would be your advice to anyone who wants to break into the fashion industry as a model?

Get creative. Learn the essential skill of representing yourself in a creative and unique way. Be fit, also network, get the word out and talk to photographers and stylists.

What would a typical day look like?

Well, as important as the work day - the day or days with the actual shoot - is the prep day, in which I prepare myself. This means having the right diet, drinking enough water, resting enough and dealing with any other issues before a shoot. On the day of the shoot, there is usually an early call time, lots of time spent in hair and make-up, lots of waiting time but you still have to look fresh and give your best in front of the camera. A shoot is tiring but also creatively satisfying. As a model, male or female, you give a lot, so that after the shoot, you have to find out what gives you comfort and restores your energy. You need to balance yourself and recharge. That's very important.

Are there any challenges for men in particular in modelling/the fashion industry?

It is sometimes hard to remain cheerful in view of the unequal pay between men and women, with the fashion industry being one of the few industries in which women make more than men. This can be up to 50 percent more, which feels especially weird for men in the patriarchal set-up we are dealing with and can be demotivating.

What about the amount of work?

There is a good amount of work in Mumbai and India in general, for male and female models. Especially with online retailers coming in who need pictures for their e-commerce sites and product pages, there has been an increase in work over the last few years.

Last but not least, what is one of the prejudices about modelling that you would like to do away with?

People think that modelling is very glamorous, very different but at the end of the day, it is the same as any other job. A model is an entrepreneur and has to market that skill in the best possible way. Modelling is not as glamorous or fun-filled as commonly assumed. Plus, unless you make it big, money is tight and it is a job like any other.

During the month of August FashionUnited will focus on Work in Fashion. For all reads on the theme, click here.

Photo credits: Homepage photo: John Smedley SS18 FOH, by Shaun James Cox, British Fashion Council, Photo 2 Lakme Fashion Week / Ashish Shah / Taras Taraporvala

A Day in the Life