One thing that fascinates me about the fashion industry is the models, those long-limbed seemingly other-worldly, exquisitely beautiful women that designers would struggle to peddle their wares without.
But Russian Supermodel Katia Elizarova, 26, (seen above relaxing between shows at London Fashion week SS13) is also a trained lawyer and is the only person in her industry to have addressed the prestigious Oxford Union.
And, as well as being the new face of luxury women’s fashion house Max Studio by designer Leon Max alongside the stunning Erin O’Connor, the Kings Road, London-based model fronts the UK fashion charity movement ‘Fashion for Good’.
After being discovered at the age of 14 in her home town, Katia quickly became the darling of brands including Calvin Klein, Chanel, Valentino, Versace, Ghost, Shu Uemura, Victoria’s Secret, Toni & Guy and lingerie brand of the year Made By Niki to mention just a few.
So, as you can imagine, we were itching to interview her and we found her to be a really fascinating and inspiring interviewee. Here’s part one, part two coming tomorrow.
What was it like getting into international modelling so young?
“When you are young everything seems easy, but I discovered quickly that is not always the case and it is really important to enter into everything with support. I always found things easier and more fun when I had friends with me. Problems were shrugged off or shared, making any challenge easier to overcome. I was 14 years old when I was flown from Russia to Paris for the first time. When I arrived I was given a wake-up call when I was confronted with the realities of international modelling. Arriving in models apartments in the outskirts of town that were full of insects and with no working plumbing, the glamour was gone instantly”.
“Were it not for my girlfriends there it would have been easy to quit on day one. Fortunately for me I was with a group of young models all equally excited to see the world, meet people and get involved in high fashion, so we encouraged each other to grin and bear it. It’s easy to lose a track of right and wrong when you are that young, but I applied a strict formula of always asking “what would my mother say”, and with a satisfactory answer I would then proceed. Of course, it is extremely important to me to ensure that models don’t face dangerous accommodation or any other problems, which is why I campaign today to protect their interests in a business where all too often the glamour can hide some rather less than acceptable things. I can look back on all the great opportunities I was given, the chances to work with Versace, Valentino, Commes des Garçons etc. but will not ever forget that fashion can be a tough life-changing experience for young people when they first embark on a career – and they need all the support they can get.”
When you first went into the industry what was it like coming face-to-face and working with famous designers like Karl Lagerfeld and how did you cope with not being star-struck?
“Knowledge of who is who in the industry comes with time and experience. My first encounter with a genuinely huge name in the fashion industry was when I shot my first Italian Vogue. The shoot was in a beautiful French Chateau and Ellen Von Unwerth was my photographer. The day was fantastic and I was consumed by the process of posing and smiling. We had amazing results. But I was so naive and only just having left my home town in Russia it was only a few months later I learned just who Ellen was. Only then did I realise how honored I was to have worked with such a talented lady but had I have known about her properly before my shoot, I am not sure if I would have been able to feel as free and confident on the set as I was that day. It’s only with age and years in modelling that I became confident to be myself no matter who joined me on set, although even today there are people who make me go weak at the knees.”
Studying law and working can’t have been an easy feat. How did you balance two such important, but delicate workloads?
“I really enjoyed the challenge of doing both simultaneously. Of course nothing comes without a compromise and I had to cut back on modeling and on the trips I could go on. I died a little sometimes when I had to turn down the occasional exciting contracts because of exams, but it had to be done. With university too I admit I did have to skip some lectures, which I always ended up paying for when it came to revision time. With managing a career and studying I never found myself bored or wanting for anything to do. My grandmother taught me that the best rest is when you just change the activity you are doing, and that certainly worked well for me, constantly switching between law and modelling.”
Which designer show/campaign/magazine shoot changed your career?
“The Ellen Von Unwerth shoot for Italian Vogue was an incredible launch pad for a young girl like me. I quickly went on to shoot my first cover for Jalouse, which thanks to its quirkiness let me have some fun and show myself for my character as much as my looks. It is something that I am proud to be known for, because being chosen for your personality means a lot and that reputation was something Rimmel recognised in offering me to star with Zoe Deschanel for their fabulous Day 2 Night mascara. Sometimes in fashion small shoots lead to big campaigns and it was like that for me with an editorial for Elle Girl in the US that then introduced me to a contract with Victoria’s Secret. Making an impression and giving your all at every opportunity is really important as a model, and you quickly realise that even what may seem a very insignificant shoot could be life changing.”
How do you prepare yourself physically and mentally for fashion weeks?
“When I do participate in the main fashion weeks across the globe it can frankly be very stressful. It’s like a whirlwind of parties, catwalks, taxis and hotels. So food and sleep deprivation ends up being combined with damaged skin and hair – never the best look for any girl. I have terrible bad luck sometimes, and just when I feel like I have gotten through a season relatively unscathed, without showing signs of stress, as soon as the work is over I end up getting sick with a cold or something.
“My defense against the stress of fashion week is to prepare for it with a positive outlook and to make sure I stick with an important daily intake of Vitamin C. Having a relaxing time on the sun before and after fashion weeks is always a good idea and staying positive and excited is the key to success.”
What are the stand-out trends for you on the runway and in the front rows and streets from London Fashion Week SS13?
“Mint and peach are definitely the colours of the season. Whether it’s a dress (Zeynep Tossun), a bag (Mulberry) or even a lip colour (House of Evolution). Slouchy shapes (TopShop Unique) and long flowing skirts with unexpected cuts (Zeynep Tossun) are in along with ornamental prints (Matthew Williamson) and snake skin cropped up an all the right places. To keep mums happy, girls will have their skirts over the knee next summer and bright colours balanced by more conservative cuts.”
Keep up with Katia and her experiences in the fashion world on her Facebook page.