Can an interview with a fashion model change one’s opinion about the industry? It surely can. Ola Adeyemi, a British model, is more than just another handsome face. Well-spoken, articulate, observant and discerning when talking about the fashion world, he strongly represents – sadly still underappreciated – people of colour. Signed with one of the most prestigious modelling agencies in the world, Wilhelmina London, as well as the German agency Beyond and Soul, he comes across as a model that can effortlessly inspire others regardless of people’s age. Often engaging with his followers on Instagram, he shares his thoughts on life and how to deal with complex issues such as depression, as well as offers quality advice on how to find personal inner peace and improve yourself as an individual. His motivational talks are genuinely encouraging and prove that the fashion industry is filled with sharp-witted models as well.
Recently, in an interview with View of the Arts, Ola shared his views on fashion and life in general as well as his plans for the future.
Ola Adeyemi for Ben Sherman SS18 © Wilhelmina London
Do you remember the first moment when you felt that your future should lie in the fashion business?
I do, I was having a conversation with a friend and he proposed a business idea to me, and in order to learn about this business, I needed to be working in a creative industry. I made a decision that the quickest way to succeed in the creative business would be modelling and from there I could venture to other things if they interested me. After making that decision and thinking it through for a couple of months, I started to create a plan, made some changes and started to think about what I’d achieve as a model. And I began pursuing that goal and dream.
You have been modelling for some time now, has modelling changed other aspects of your life?
Yes, it’s given me a lot of time and freedom in order to pursue my goals and dreams. It’s made me more conscious about what I eat and how I choose to spend my time. It also made me aware of how modelling business works. I’ve also met some quality people and built some amazing relationships with many different people whom I have met through this industry. It also allowed me to prioritise myself, something that I didn’t have the ability to do when working in the conventional setting 9-5.
Photo © GUAP
How would you describe your own fashion style? Considering anything or everything from colour to historical eras and more?
For me, I just go with what I am feeling and what’s relevant for me for the occasion. I do like to feel comfortable, because – as you know – in the fashion world you always wear other people’s clothes, designs, you bring ideas to life, sometimes you have to change 30-40 times a day so if I am going for a job, I just like to wear something comfortable and quite casual. If I have an event or an occasion, that I’ll dress up for it accordingly, a suit or tuxedo. In terms of colours, I just go again with the feeling at that time and what I like at that time. Sometimes, I will be wearing all black, sometimes I can be wearing purple or green and gold, but it depends on the outfit.
Fashion trends change rapidly, no matter the country or style. What are the fashion trends you love the most this year?
Luckily enough, I don’t follow fashion trends. I just wear whatever I feel like it, I can wear something that’s not in fashion sometimes, and I broke many fashion rules. I just wear what I want and do not particularly care what people think about me – I just want to be myself.
What does fashion mean to you?
To me, I believe fashion is an expression of the way you feel, what you are thinking, what energy you want to project, what you want people to interpret about you – that’s for day-to-day fashion. In terms of viewing fashion, it is something which you get to see, the creativity of someone’s design coming to life. I believe fashion can also influence the way people think and interpret you. It is very personal too and, in my opinion, it’s about who you are and how you want to express yourself. It is another form of art.
Ola Adeyemi for Ben Sherman © Ben Sherman & Wilhelmina London
Modelling requires you to be in top form, what do you do to stay in shape?
I practice yoga on a regular basis, and as of now, it’s my main form of exercise. I love walking, I love being in the sun, going on hikes, being in nature, and I also go to the gym. I am quite an active person. And I love travelling, it keeps you active and healthy. It keeps you on your toes. And if I am with cool people, I like to play sports.
Is there any habit you follow before you walk on the stage or in front of the camera for a fashion shoot?
I do have a set of rituals that I do on a regular basis, it consists of stretching, reading books that empower me, meditating, and doing things that enhance my well-being. After all that I am ready to go; when it’s time to work and do some modelling, I am well energised.
Which part of your job as a model do you find the most difficult? And which one is the most rewarding?
I think waiting can be challenging, not being working every day can be a challenge. And in the past, not getting a booking or not getting answers from the clients you expected to get, that’s sometimes difficult. Working on an amazing location, with a great team and having a photo shoot feels amazing, especially when you see the results afterwards – when a project comes together, I find it really rewarding. Also, spending time with quality people is a good thing too.
Partly, I coach and help people, and from time to time, I bring some of that work to the creative industry, to the fashion industry and because I enjoy doing that, I spend time with a lot of people, helping them naturally through a conversation. It also allows me to prioritise myself and when someone comes back to me and says that our conversation helped them with a shoot or helped them to change things in their lives, this is the most rewarding thing ever.
Ola Adeyemi for Napapijri © Napapijri & Wilhelmina London
What do you think is your greatest strength as a model?
I think for me it’s my mind and how I use it to create; if its not creating a piece of art or creating an image which would sell a product, it is how I create relationships and friendships, experiences and situations.
What’s your favourite thing to do on your day off?
It’s working on myself, to develop myself to be a better person. And if it’s not reading, then I listen to something positive, work out, work on my health. Improving my environment, travelling and doing things that enhance my life. And doing things that help and enhance other people’s lives and experiences.
Alexander McQueen once said “Youth culture now really looks back and embraces the past, but keeps it contemporary but not sticking to one particular style.” It seems like younger generations seek inspiration from the past, how do you see your generation when it comes to fashion?
I feel like we are now influenced by the 1990s, the 90s culture. You can see that now in the fashion that’s been out there for the past decade. I also see a lot of the 80s culture coming in the next decade as well, specially for the first five years up until 2025, after that, I personally feel like fashion is going to become customised and personalised, and I also think technology will be integrated into it. For now, it’s the 90s and 80s that are the main influence.
Photo © Ola Adeyemi and Model Management
The modelling industry is known to be harsh; how do you perceive the British modelling industry? Is there anything you really wish you could change?
Yes, the fashion industry can be harsh. I feel being educated about the industry itself would help people to understand the business, negotiation process, persuasion skills etc. I think there should be more transparency and clarity from both agents and designers. I feel that the modelling career span should be longer – many people are brought into the industry at the young age and they get overwhelmed; they might be high school students, Uni students, they get into the fashion, are thrown into the deep water of Parisian catwalk etc, and after 18 months of intense work, suddenly it becomes quiet. They are left with money, but they often don’t know what to do, what options they have afterwards… I also feel that there should be more opportunities for males in the fashion industry as the business is female-orientated – which is amazing – but it would be great for us. There should be more collaboration between men and women of different ethnic backgrounds as well. It would also be great if there was more opportunities for people who are overlooked by the industry.
As a modelling career is relatively short; do you have any plans for the future when you leave modelling?
Yes, I do. I feel like I am already living these plans. I’d like to be in this industry for as long as I can be. I really enjoy working with people, working with different clients and before even getting into the industry, I was already thinking how I could bring value to it, how I could leverage being in this industry and do other things, and how to bring value to the society. I am already working on some projects, and those who follow me and know me personally already know about them, so as time unfolds, I hope all goes well.
Ola Adeyemi for Napapijri © Napapijri & Wilhelmina London
We would like to thank Wilhelmina London for their assistance with the interview and Ola Adeyemi, who kindly answered our questions.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Transcribed by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Ana Zupancic
Featured photo © Ola Adeyemi & Smedleyshots
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