ldfw3: fm london model, katy sextonBack
The simplest stories are often the truest; but nobody ever believes them. They just sound too obvious. But they sound obvious because, obviously, they’re true.
Stories like: a student is spotted in a northern clothes shop, and just a few months later she’s a model on the runways of London Fashion Week. It sounds too simple to be true, but that’s Katy Sexton’s story.
Katy came to study in Leeds last year, and in April was browsing in Urban Outfitters during the Student Lock-in at Trinity Leeds. Hebe had teamed up with model agency FM London to bring their scouts in to the event, and Saacha McCracken approached Katy across the clothing racks.
“I thought she was going to ask me, where is this size of clothing,” said Katy. “I thought she thought I worked in the store! She said she worked for FM, and I was a bit unsure. I didn’t know if I wanted to do it, as well as uni and everything else.”
We interviewed Saacha when she returned to Leeds this week, and she told us that after twenty years as a scout, she just knew Katy had potential.
“I looked up FM,” said Katy, “and they’re a really cool agency, and quite a lot of models who do well are there.” Katy told them she was interested, “And they just launched me into it!”
Katy has returned to her studies in Leeds straight after a successful first London Fashion Week, with a phone full of photos of the clothes she showed and the wigs she wore. She flicks through the pictures with a mix of assuredness and enthusiasm, like someone who has been doing the job for years and is still thrilled by it, rather someone new and wide-eyed.
“The last show I did was Meadham Kirchhoff, they’re supposed to be the next John Galliano or Christian Dior style designers, and I had to wear this massive red wig, a bright red and orange wig, with curls and bows, that was really fun, but it was totally crazy. I was wearing a massively jewelled gown that was so heavy. It was supposed to be this weird, dystopian thing, all these people dressed up beautifully but with a weird twist, and the music was all apocalyptic, end of the world and scary, and we were dressed up in all this finery.
Katy scrolls through to another picture. “This was Holly Fulton, the first one I did, which was at Somerset House. I was wearing a dress made out of cork. With a cork bag! And this retro 70s hair going on. It was quite funny. And this one is at Bernard Chandran, I’ve got a circular tiara thing on, almost like the Teletubbies!
“I did five shows,” said Katy. “I had two the first day, then a day off, when I thought, ‘Oh no! I’m not going to get anymore!’ Then I got three quite big ones, so I was really happy with that. FM wanted me to do Paris and Milan fashion weeks too, directly after London, but I had to come back to uni.”
Katy is studying International History and Politics at the University of Leeds, combining a combined honours degree with her modelling career. “I did English Literature, Politics and History at A Level, and they were all my favourites,” said Katy. “I’d lived in London my whole life and didn’t want to study there too, and I got accepted by Durham but that was way too far away. And too cold and wet!
“But I didn’t really know the north and I did want to come up here, and I really liked Leeds. It was one of the only places that has this kind of degree – it’s modern history and politics, so a lot of current affairs. There’s a module on the Arab-Israeli conflict which is really interesting, the Cold War, the War on Terror, which are all really relevant.”
Being with FM London has made the transitions between student and modelling life easier. “It’s something that I never expected to get into, it was never an ambition. Lots of models go into agencies and say, Will you take me? I just didn’t have any idea. But FM are a mix between really boutique and really big. They focus on you, so when I’m there for the short amounts of time between uni, they get me a lot of work. I’m quite lucky, because I can mix between editorial and more commercial work, so I can work with cool, edgy new magazines and interesting photographs, and then get consistent work modelling clothes for e-commerce sites as well.
“FM work really hard for me. They’ve been really good about making sure test shoots are only a couple of hours, and I was doing a shoot for Glamour Magazine the day before I came up to Leeds.”
That shoot will be in their Christmas issue, and Katy senses it went well. “I don’t want to jinx it, but I think it was good!” For Katy, seeing the end results of a photo shoot is the best part. “The job satisfaction is definitely in the end shots. When you’re actually modelling you’re always thinking about every little part of you. How your body looks, what your angles are, even what your eyes are doing, what your hair looks like, what your lips are doing, what your nose is doing, everything – and you don’t actually know if it looks good.
“It takes a lot of thought,” said Katy. “Everyone thinks it must be an easy job because you’re just standing there doing nothing, having people put clothes and make up on you, but it’s very tiring. You’re constantly thinking, and your body is constantly tense.
Once the hard work is done, Katy can look back and enjoy the results. “I did a shoot with Hill and Aubrey, and they were shooting on film with totally natural light, no make up, nothing, in masculine shirts, done up to the neck. And I didn’t think it was going to look very good! But the pictures came out looking really cool. I don’t know if it was their photography, or my modelling; just the whole combination.”
Katy’s life is all about combinations at the moment, but she’s looking forward to changing the ratios in the future. “I’d like to give modelling my all for a couple of years,” she said. “It’s a really fun world, a bit of a crazy world sometimes but a fun world, and it is difficult not to get carried away. I already miss it, being back here after the summer.
“I’d still want to do an Open University masters or write for a magazine at the same time. I’ve got my degree to fall back on if it doesn’t go so well, or vice versa.
“But I’ve not had the opportunity to really give it my all – I have to turn things down during term time. There’s Paris and Milan, and February Fashion Week, and next summer I’d quite like to do New York. It’s an amazing city and really the hub of modelling, which makes it very competitive because there are hundreds of girls, but also very exciting, because all the big designers have their headquarters there, and look for their models there.”
That sounds like a simple story too: model finishes studies, goes to New York and becomes a star. It almost sounds too obvious a tale to be true. But like I said at the start, it’s the most simplest stories that are often the truest.