ANOTHER SIDE OF EROS. Supermodel Brian Shimansky shares his secret to making it in the fashion industry, his passion in woodworking and his true self with Gabriela Yosefina
Outfit by Louis Vuitton
Brian Shimansky is basically the fashion industry’s equivalent to Superman, both in terms of physical appearance—blue-eyed gaze, sculpted body hidden in loose clothing—and of his dual identity. When we met in a restaurant in Jakarta, the model donned a simple T-shirt and appeared all relaxed and approachable. This attitude was not too far from his usual habits. Back in the States, Shimansky keeps himself busy in the garage, building strong furniture out of wood and metal during his free time. But once he steps onto a photo shoot set and takes off his work coveralls to reveal his supermodel identity, that ruggedness of his transforms into a seductively virile appeal, dominating the editorials and campaigns with one sexy pose after another.
Despite being the face of two Versace Eros campaigns, he has a truly down-to-earth personality that might come across as quite distant from how he’s usually depicted in popular fashion imagery. Nevertheless, instead of being disappointing, his realness proves just how successful Shimansky is as a model. It exemplifies his ability to enliven one persona over another, effortlessly translating creative direction into stunning visuals. That magic happened when the DA MAN Style fashion team captured the New Jersey-native in a series of photoshoots in Bali: There, under the blazing tropical sun he delivered his best performance yet while wrapped in a superb selection of pre-fall and fall pieces.
Gabriela Yosefina: Hi, Brian, welcome to Indonesia! What keeps you busy these days?
Brian Shimansky: I have been traveling to Europe and India for a couple of modeling jobs, but recently I have been pretty busy with my furniture work. During the free time that I have, I also coach baseball at my former high school.
Gabriela Yosefina: Have you always been into designing and making furniture?
Brian Shimansky: Truth be told, I have always enjoyed building things, from model cars to woodwork. Thanks to some great mentors and teachers back in high school, I have the confidence to try creating things when I find myself surrounded by tools—starting from drawings to the finished product in three hours.
Necklace and Bracelet by John Hardy
Gabriela Yosefina: Was there an “a-ha” moment, a time when you suddenly realized that foraying into furniture is what you wanted to do?
Brian Shimansky: It started with shaky tables … you know, those tables you find in restaurants? I thought to myself, I know how to build something better than this. From then on, I wanted to create the most stable furniture. That will really drive me onward because you understand the power of creativity, workers, tools, materials … to try and to fail. And now you have a platform on social media and friends who are supportive, which are invaluable.
Gabriela Yosefina: And The New York Times profiled you for your woodwork.
Brian Shimansky: Yes, it tells you that there is something there, and people are starting to notice. It’s incredibly special and it feels tremendous. In the past six months I have found some great resources and materials, great people who can execute metal work for me, guys with specialized skills that I don’t have the capacity for. I cannot put those machines in my garage, for instance. That said, if you can think of something and have people who can execute your plans, it’s fantastic. These guys make this happen for me.
“Film has become a big element of my fashion work, and I will allow that to evolve”
Gabriela Yosefina: Before that, modeling happened to you. You’ve been working in the industry for quite some time now, fronting two campaigns for Versace fragrance. How’s the been experience so far?
Brian Shimansky: Every year it has been better; overall it has been a nice, constant ride. To get that second call from Versace was more than I could ever ask for. The first one came out of nowhere, and to have performed well and to get the call for the second one is a complete blessing. It is something so special. Outside of that, I have a network of agencies that support me from all over the world. I am also able to keep traveling with great support from publications. It’s incredible to step back and think about all of these.
Gabriela Yosefina: Do you consider yourself sexy given that you are working with a “sexy” brand?
Brian Shimansky: No. [Laughs]
Gabriela Yosefina: I’d sort of expected you’d say that! I saw your Instagram account and there were a lot of your modeling photos as well as your photos with your friends and girlfriend. There’s certainly a contrast between you in real life with you in the shoots …
Brian Shimansky: There is no doubt that people out there see that I am sexy. But being a day-to-day person, I don’t think it is something you walk around with. It is just something you become aware of, an element of your personality. It is a part of who you are but it only defines a small part of you. There is a world out there that put a lot of value on it because it can generate a lot of attention, and at the same time a huge part of the population will think that it doesn’t have anything to do with them.
Watch by Tudor
Gabriela Yosefina: How do you tap into your sexy persona in front of the camera then? Do you have some kind of switch that brings out that side of yours?
Brian Shimansky: Yeah, you can say it’s kind of like a performance switch or maybe an “entertainment” switch that you turn on when you understand that you can go explore that other sphere. The [fashion] industry provides us with a platform for a lot of freedom. It is very enjoyable to tap into it.
Gabriela Yosefina: Does posing in front of the camera come naturally to you, or do you practice?
Brian Shimansky: No, I don’t practice. It’s a great moment when a photographer sees something and pushes you to where they need it to go. And I think that it is a part of that performance zone, that entertainment switch, whatever you call it. A good photographer or a good stylist can see that part of you—they know we can create this feeling together, we can capture this image. Being receptive to that is a big part of the job. It is also important to understand how to translate that while having fun. You have to be able to be a goofball and keep it loose.
Outfit by Louis Vuitton
Gabriela Yosefina: What is the hardest thing to get used to in modeling?
Brian Shimansky: Early on the first few years, it is hard getting used to the rhythm of it, which is nonexistent. I have to get used to the randomness, getting used to being ready and staying at the drop of the hat. You have to be ready to shoot anywhere, and after a while it still keeps you on your toes. You just do your best.
Gabriela Yosefina: Can you still recall the most challenging project that you have ever been in?
Brian Shimansky: For my first test shoot, I brought a suitcase full of clothing. I had no idea what I was doing, because apparently I had to be in my underwear all day for the shoot! There was a certain challenge with that. [Laughs sheepishly] On another note, there have been some grueling overnighters and long-stretched shoots, but at some point you understand that this is what you’ve signed up for.
Gabriela Yosefina: What about projects you haven’t signed up for … a dream project you want to pursue, maybe?
Brian Shimansky: From day one, it has always been a dream to book a fragrance, and that doubles itself because I am the face of two fragrances now. I am taking everything as it comes, working hard, making myself available and seeing what’s next. There is a whole bunch of markets that I have not been into. I would be up for the opportunity if an agency in South Africa or in Australia wants to rep me. I think that is a great part of the experience—discovering different parts of the world. To continue that is a part of the dream. I’ll just take it as it comes.
“Nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow, so you have to stay ready to shoot the next day and stay healthy to get where you want to be”
Gabriela Yosefina: Will you venture into other creative fields? Acting, maybe?
Brian Shimansky: Absolutely. Film has become a big element of my fashion work, and I will allow that to evolve. I can feel my career shifting toward the film and TV world, and I’m prepared for that moment.
Gabriela Yosefina: What kind of movie do you want to be involved in?
Brian Shimansky: An explosion of ideas come to mind. I absolutely loved “Rush” by Ron Howard and Peter Morgan. The story, the action, the cars … I’d love to work on a film like that. Or to really bring out the Jersey accent in a character directed by Martin Scorsese.
Gabriela Yosefina: So what do you do to stay competitive in the industry as new faces keep popping up?
Brian Shimansky: Always be ready to deliver your best product. Nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow, so you have to stay ready to shoot the next day and stay healthy to get where you want to be. The key to staying competitive in this industry is staying ready without being stressed out. Just live a healthy lifestyle, maintain a good exercise habit, and stay happy.
Gabriela Yosefina: How do you maintain your health? Do you follow a certain diet or fitness regimen?
Brian Shimansky: I love to play sports; I play baseball. Aside from that, just swimming, biking, running, hiking, anything and everything weather-permitting … down to table tennis, surfing and volleyball. On the nutritional side of things, I make sure I consume lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. But I am not sticking to strict diets. I prefer finding different recipes and keep my menu interesting.
Gabriela Yosefina: That means you also cook?
Brian Shimansky: Absolutely. I love to cook. My favorite thing to cook is chili. I will put together ground beef, beans and chili, try to get the spicy and sweet going, and finally kick everything in a really nice flavor by topping it off with avocado or cheese.
Gabriela Yosefina: Who do you consider your support system in life?
Brian Shimansky: Family and friends back home. I am so fortunate to live at home and close to my career, and I keep in touch with the guys at home. They are the people who understand my work and can make fun of me for days for the crazy pictures I take. I can talk about anything with them when I am back.
Gabriela Yosefina: How do you balance time between work and those relationships?
Brian Shimansky: Stay close to the phone; stay close to the car.
Gabriela Yosefina: How would you describe your personal style?
Brian Shimansky: The industry has taught me to always be ready to walk into a cocktail lounge and have a tailored appearance, as well as always be ready to take it to the mountain and keep it real: build fire with your hands, crack beers and hike for 20 miles. So my style comes from learning about fashion and applying it to what I love to do on the outside. I am always ready to take a coffee, always ready to drink a glass of wine, always ready to roll in the mud and start a fire.
“The industry has taught me to always be ready to walk into a cocktail lounge and have a tailored appearance, as well as always be ready to take it to the mountain and keep it real”
Gabriela Yosefina: How would you define Brian Shimansky in real life?
Brian Shimansky: I am right here. [Pauses] A lot of people who are familiar with my work wouldn’t be able to comprehend how mellow and boring I can actually be. I can sit around a campfire; I am low key. But I can also be explosively comical and out there.
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Photography Mitchell Nguyen Mccormack
Styling Alexa Rangroummith Green
Styling Assistant Triska Putri
Styling Agency Celestine Agency
Grooming Yeanne and Team
Model Brian Shimansky/Soul Models
Location The Edge, Bali (mesahotelsandresorts.com/theedge)
Photo Agency Artmix