GO WITH THE FLOW. Fronting numerous campaigns with a big dose of confidence is Dutch model Wouter Peelen. For this issue of DA MAN Style, he opens up about his first photo shoot, the importance of social media for models and the key to being healthy but happy
For model Wouter Peelen, it all started with a suggestion from his girlfriend that led to a thrilling experience in the fashion industry. After sending some test shots to a model management agency, project after project fell into his lap. Perhaps it was his nonchalant yet virile look that won the heart of a lot of brands; perhaps it was his utter confidence in himself that attracted casting managers. But even from the start, the brunette model showed the world that he had always had a natural talent.
“Luckily they told me I had a natural talent—those compliments help you get in the flow”
His easiness and the versatility of his poses in front of the camera eventually landed him on a lot of campaigns: Hermès, for one, along with Ermenegildo Zegna, Salvatore Ferragamo, Canali and Loewe, among other respectable brands. Interestingly, he is almost always pictured as a strong but suave and approachable man, an ideal figure that best describes modern masculinity. In contrast, Peelen is a fun and chatty person in real life. When he mentioned that he likes drinking beer with his friends, we immediately knew that we would also want to crack open a cold one while hanging out with him.
DA MAN: A lot of models went through unexpected starts in the industry. What about you?
Wouter Peelen: On a holiday, four years ago at a beach in France, my girlfriend Iris told me, “You should be a model.” Back then I didn’t believe her, because that’s what your girlfriend should tell you, right? [Laughs] But after we sent some digital shots to Tony Jones Model Management in Amsterdam—I’m from Holland—it all went fast, and I slowly started to believe this job could be something for me.
DA MAN: Do you still remember what happened during your first professional photo shoot? What challenges did you face back then?
Wouter Peelen: Definitely! One of my first jobs abroad was with photographer David Sims and model Emily Didonato. Back then I didn’t know either of their names or what they meant to the fashion industry, but I could totally see that those people knew what they were doing. They were all super professional, and the result on the computer screen was stunning. At first I couldn’t believe it was me on the screen! The most challenging part was attempting to pose as they (client and photographer) wanted me to. I was new in the business and I had to learn all the tricks to make a pose look good on camera. Luckily, they told me I had a natural talent—those compliments help you get in the “flow.”
DA MAN: If you compare your experiences then and now, what lesson have you learned in making it as a model?
Wouter Peelen: I think it is all about confidence. Being relaxed and being yourself are really important in this business. Don’t take the critics too personally—feedback is always welcome, though—and be confident to be who you are. I do that by accepting that there will always be someone faster, stronger and smarter than me. If you can do that, you can be yourself. That’s what I’ve learned during this period of being a model.
DA MAN: Out of all projects you’ve been involved in, which one was the most fun? And which one was the most challenging?
Wouter Peelen: It’s hard for me to say because I enjoy almost every project. If I think back I’ve had so much fun with so many different people. For example, the shoot for Vogue Hombre’s cover was a very relaxed day at Long Island with an amazing team. Meanwhile, the most challenging part of being a model is the traveling, waiting and being flexible. Not the shoot itself, though, because I always enjoy working with new people.
Outfit by Baja East
DA MAN: Speaking of working with different people in the fashion industry, is there anyone you look up to?
Wouter Peelen: I don’t look up to other people. That is one of my strengths, I think: Being relaxed among “important” people and actually treating them as humans, while other people see them as superstars and act differently when they are around.
DA MAN: You’ve also worked with a number of fashion brands. Do you have any favorites?
Wouter Peelen: I don’t really have a favorite. I like every brand I’ve worked for—one might have very humble people, another would really take care of you with a nice hotel and dinner, and others might take you to the most wonderful places in the world.
“Don’t take the critics too personally—feedback is always welcome, though—and be confident to be who you are”
DA MAN: What would you consider your biggest assets as a model?
Wouter Peelen: Being patient and respectful.
DA MAN: With that in mind, how do you see yourself in, say, five years from now? Will you stay in modeling or will you try venturing into other fields?
Wouter Peelen: Since I was a kid, I have always had the feeling that I could become an entertainer, singer, actor or whatever … I still think there will be a moment when I will continue to another field. Who knows where this all ends? I always dream big, and that makes life interesting. [Smiles]
DA MAN: A lot of models are nowadays “judged” by their social media presence. Do you think that it is important for models to have an active online presence across multiple platforms in order to book jobs?
Wouter Peelen: Actually, I never wanted to have a Facebook or Instagram account because by doing so you spend so much time doing “nothing.” But nowadays it has become a personal marketing page for models. I think it does help [boost your career] sometimes, but on the other hand, if you’re good at what you’re doing, I think clients will also work with you without having ever looked at your Instagram profile. I do post sometimes and my friends think I’m in love with myself because I post a picture of myself every day. [Laughs] Last month I switched off my phone for the holidays and I felt alive. I had time to read, to do sports, and to stay away from the screen … Heaven!
DA MAN: In your lnstagram account, your bio says, “Mens Sana In Corpore Sano.” How is that motto of yours actualized in your daily life?
Wouter Peelen: I painted this motto on a wall in my house. I think balance in body and mind is something very important to stay healthy. Sport is also very important for me—soccer, beach volleyball, fitness, running, I do it all. Besides that, I try to eat as healthy as possible, but also I am not too focused on it. I drink a beer or eat snacks once in a while, since that keeps your mind happy.
DA MAN: What do you usually do when you are not working?
Wouter Peelen: Currently, I’m organizing a charity dinner for a youth hospice in the Netherlands. We’re trying to make the “longest dinner table” in my hometown. Actually, I never sit still when I’m home. My girlfriend has an event company that organizes weddings and parties, so when I’m not working I like helping her with her company. Besides that, I play soccer, drink beer with my best friends, or visit my family.
DA MAN: How would you describe your persona?
Wouter Peelen: Relaxed, friendly, always in for a joke, open-minded, supportive. I also talk a lot. I talked a lot more than I listened in the past, but I have started to learn how to become a better listener.
DA MAN: What do you have songs on your current playlist?
Wouter Peelen: Michael Jackson feat. Justin Timberlake’s “Love Never Felt So Good,” Vance Joy’s “Riptide,” Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” and Habana Con Kola’s “Vente Negra.”
DA MAN: If you can switch your life with someone for a day, who would you pick?
Wouter Peelen: A soccer player like Ronaldo, Messi, Zlatan or Robben, scoring a goal in a World Cup final. It’s a dream of every little kid—sometimes I’m still one!
To see more exclusive pictures of Wouter Peelen, click here to get the magazine!
Photography Peter Ash Lee
Photography Assistants Erika Long and Jeff Rose
Styling & Art Direction M O S E S TM
Styling Assistant Mitchel Brumsted
Makeup Aya Kudo at Seitomoko
Grooming Michiko using Bumble and Bumble.
Model Wouter Peelen (Vny Model Management)
Shearling Coat by Salvatore Ferragamo
Us-Based Editor Mitchell Nguyen Mccormack