British model Harry Rowley chats with DA MAN about Fashion Week, New York, and the day-to-day realities of being a successful male model.
Growing up, Harry Rowley never really saw modeling as a serious career option. Not that people around him didn’t float the idea from time-to-time, mind you, considering his looks and physique. But all that’s history and today the British model can count the likes of Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren and Dolce & Gabbana as some of the brands that he’s worked with as he continues to travel the world for even more exciting experiences.
DA MAN: Bring us to the beginning—how did you get started as a model?
Harry Rowley: I started out back in my hometown. My next door neighbor had a daughter who was modeling with Models One in London and it was always something that they kind of tried to push me towards. But growing up I was always more of a rugby player; I was not too keen on those kinds of things. Obviously, you already have all the stereotypes associated with the industry. Still, I decided to give it a go. I wasn’t the most confident guy at that time when it came to it, so I went along to see a few agencies in London. I went to Models One and they showed an instant interest in me, which was nice. They welcomed me straight away. I saw a few others as well, but I didn’t really get the same vibe that I got when I saw [Models One] and I signed with them since then.
DA: What would you say did the casting director of Models One see in you back then?
HR: I think I just fit all the right categories. At the same time I just turned 18 and I was six foot two (1.88m) already, so I had the right measurements. I think they saw that I had potential as I grew and they thought that I could progress quite well in the industry. It’s been good from that point, really.
DA: Do you remember what it was like on your photo shoot?
HR: It was pretty nerve-racking because, as I said, I wasn’t confident. I took me a while to grow into it. And they throw you in the deep end. Like, no one teaches you how to be a model or how to act in those situations. Suddenly you’re in front of the camera and you have all these people telling you to do things.
DA: What is the biggest change in the way you approach your job now compared to when you just started?
HR: I think that now I can switch it on a lot easier. It takes me a lot less time to relax and feel comfortable with photographers and people. You know, I’m used to meeting so many people now that it becomes normal to me. I can be thrown into almost any situation.
DA: What would you say was the photo shoot, campaign or show that really put you on the map?
HR: I would say shooting with Tom Ford in London. That was kind of the biggest thing for me. It was the first time where actually I worked for him and I was an extra in his campaign.
So, I saw all the production and everything. Then a few months later I ended up shooting with him directly, just me and him. It was just one on one and it was just the craziest experience, you know, to be with this icon of the fashion industry. Everything else then grew from that. Then it was always my dream to kind of do Fashion Week and do Milan and everything like that. So, I went there and ended up walking for Dolce & Gabbana, which was my kind of the peak of what I wanted to achieve, because that was always the dream for me—to work for that brand. They were my favorite brand from the beginning. So, at that point, I was happy, you know? Everything from that point was just a bonus.
DA: Speaking of Fashion Week, what do you think do most people get wrong about shows of that scale?
HR: I think a lot of people just don’t see what goes on behind the scenes, because it’s the craziest time. The Fashion Week season is absolute madness. You’re running around; there’s so much going on. You’re going to like a hundred castings in a week, pretty much. That’s what it feels like, you know. Especially in Milan, it used to be absolutely crazy. It’s kind of calmed down a bit more now, but back when I first started doing it, it was just a crazy experience and you kind of get sucked in. It’s really stressful: You’re not sleeping, there are a lot of things on hold, you don’t know what’s going to happen. So, it’s quite exciting and I think people miss that. All they see is the 15 minutes of the actual show and everything else is kind of left out.
“People are always selling themselves above where they are, you know? It’s kind of faking it until you make it, in that sense”
DA: How does casting for a big show in Milan work? What do they look for, actually?
HR: They look for a lot of things. I think, like many other things, confidence is key. The way you’re carrying yourself is important, because you only have a few seconds, really, to impress these people. You basically walk up and down once or twice, and that’s basically it. They see you in that split second. And, you know, there are a hundred other guys in line who might be similar to you. It’s about making an impression as quickly as possible and kind of leaving your mark somehow.
DA: Speaking of making a quick impression, how important social media and your online presence?
HR: It’s absolutely massive now. Really, it’s kind of talking over the industry, especially in the last few years. A lot of the major campaigns now are shot through influencers and social media. That’s the way it’s gone. It’s no longer just about how good a model you are or your success in the past. It’s very much if you have a big fan base, if you have a big following, then you can reach a larger audience. So, people find that even more valuable than your work. So, it’s not just about your achievements now, but it’s how you market yourself. People are always selling themselves above where they are, you know? It’s kind of faking it until you make it, in that sense.
DA: How do you personally use social media? What kind of stuff do you usually like to post?
HR: I just try and share my personal experiences. I try and mix it up. I show a lot of my lifestyle; I think people are really interested in what kind of goes on behind the scenes, kind of. All the traveling stuff is very interesting too. For me, that’s the best part of my job. I love being able to experience all these new places and meet amazing people. So, as much as I can share that with people, that’s what I think people care about the most. And also to show my work as well and my progression as it goes on. I think people really engage with that.
DA: So far in your career, what has been the most exciting locale you’ve ever visited for a shoot?
HR: I think when I first went to New York that was kind of the biggest experience for me. The minute I landed in New York I just kind of felt you’re part of something big and there’s so much going on and suddenly it’s this different, crazy world. And you know, that’s kind of where the heart of the fashion industry is now. Everything is kind of gravitating over to the States, and especially to New York. It’s kind of where every model aspires to be, especially European models, because it’s quite a progression. And it’s quite hard to get visas, so when you finally get there, it’s an exciting time.
DA: Moving from what you have accomplished to what lies ahead, what would be your dream project?
HR: I do a lot of fashion stuff, as well as commercial modeling, but it’s just kind of seeing how far I can get in the industry and also traveling as much as I can. So far, I’ve worked on three continents. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve achieved in that time and I feel like I’ve done a real variety of jobs. While working in Asia I was tasked with working in TV commercials and suddenly there’s another dynamic to it—acting, all that kind of stuff. So, I want to progress and do some more acting—maybe, in America. And also to do, obviously, magazines. Do a bit of fashion if I can as well.
DA: We’ve always wondered, but what is typical work day for a model like yourself ?
HR: I think a lot of models will wake up pretty late, but you have to be able to kind of switch it on when it’s called upon. You just expect to switch it on at any moment. And you find out your schedule late at night, the night before. Then suddenly you could be flying off to some exotic place. Like me, I ended up in Jakarta and I didn’t expect that. I was just working in Singapore. It very much changes by the day, so you got to keep in shape, you got to kind of exercise when you can and sleep. Trying to keep everything together while living this lifestyle of never knowing what’s going to happen.
DA: Knowing how hectic your work can be, what is it that motivates you?
HR: My motivation is just to be a better version of myself. I don’t think that I would ever try to be anyone but myself. A lot of people try and change. You know: I could be skinnier, I could be bigger, I could have this ego, kind of carry myself differently. But I think the most important thing is basically to remember your identity, because that’s why people chose you, that’s why people liked you. And your personality is a big part of it.
Styling Assistant Primawan Hakim
Location BoConcept Jl. K.H. Wahid Hasyim
No. 55A Jakarta +62 21392 1901 luxeliving.co.id, and Mise restaurant Jl. K.H. Wahid Hasyim
No. 55A Jakarta +62 2395 1648 misejakarta.com