Fashion

How to Land a Fashion Job: Advice from Model Amber Witcomb

In our How to Land a Fashion Job series, we ask industry insiders to real-talk about what they do, how they got there and how to break into the biz. This month, Canadian model Amber Witcomb tells her story

Name: Amber Witcomb

Age: 22

Job: Model

Follow: amberwitcomb

Model Amber Whitcomb has advice for how to make it in fashion

Did you always want to be a model? 
I had always been interested in the fashion industry growing up. I used to buy magazines and watch America’s Next Top Model but never thought of it as a serious career until now. I was a theatre geek in high school, and the lanky one who stood way taller than all the boys. I definitely never pictured myself walking for some of the big fashion houses [that] I have.

How did you first break into the industry?
I was scouted by my agent, Sean Penhall from Want Management, at a music festival three years ago. It was the summer before my third year at Brock University, where I was studying media and communications, which was a priority for me. So I didn’t break into full-time modelling until about a year ago. I’m so glad it happened that way. These things definitely take time and I needed those couple of years to build my confidence in Toronto before heading to the primary markets in Europe.

What are the most important qualities a person needs to be a model? 
I think a lot of people outside the industry underestimate the amount of work models put into their job every day. It takes time to hone skills like being professional and personable in front of clients and casting directors, or keeping a packed travel schedule organized. It’s important to stand out by being the person everyone wants to work with—looks aren’t always everything.

What would you say was your first big break? Who gave it to you?
Walking in Prada’s spring 2017 runway show in Milan was my first “wow” moment. I had been optioned for jobs seasons prior and so when the confirmation for Prada came through, I was ecstatic. It’s such an exclusive show, so I was honoured to be chosen as one the newbies of the season.

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How do you balance your career with your personal life?
I don’t! I just take each day as it comes, and try to squeeze in as much as I can handle around work. Keeping in touch with loved ones is definitely a number-one [priority]. Even if it’s a five-minute FaceTime call in between castings, I talk to my parents/boyfriend/best friends almost every day for a bit of normalcy when the fashion world gets crazy.

What are some of the challenges you face with this career path and how do you overcome them?
Rejection is definitely one of the toughest aspects of the job. It unfortunately comes with the territory, and I’ve learned to not take things as personally as I used to. I try not to overthink it.

Who in your life would you say inspired you to be where you are today?
My mom and dad are pretty awesome. They are so hardworking and good at what they do. They’ve always instilled the best outlook on life in me: to chase my dream and travel the world, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I wouldn’t be where I am without their help. They get me.

What was the most pivotal move in your career to get you to your current status?
I think that timing was my strongest move. When I finished school, I travelled to Sydney to work with a boutique modelling agency that focused on image. I came back to Toronto feeling more prepared, having dealt with a new environment and gained more confidence in front of the camera. This past year has taken a lot of patience but I think that’s why I did so well for my first season in Europe: I was ready for it.

What do you do off-duty to help look and feel your best on the job?
Getting to the gym every day is extremely important to me for both physical and mental strength. It helps to clear my head of everything for a little while so I try to get in at least an hour of cardio every day. I’m no expert, but I usually do 30 minutes on the bike and 30 minutes on the rowing machine. I find this to help with overall toning, especially my legs. As far as skin care goes, less is more for me. I drink water throughout the day, and use a Dove sensitive beauty bar to wash my face morning and night. It’s so nourishing and non-chemical based. I’ve gone through phases of trying product after product, but always go back to the basics. (Dove is my mom’s biggest beauty secret and I never listened to her until now!).

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How do you use social media to help build your own brand as a model while also showcasing your personality?
I’ve only recently noticed how big of a part it plays in my job, and have switched it to more of a work account rather than a personal one. I’ll always try to have a somewhat-witty caption—then fail and end up with an emoji. I guess the most calculated thing I do is to not have too many pictures of myself in a row, although with my job that can be difficult. I’ll throw in an ice cream/Eiffel tower pic sometimes!

What would you say was one of the biggest risks you took in your career? Having Guido Palau chop off your hair this season was pretty epic!
I like to think of the haircut as a non-risky risk. Yes, it could have hindered some of my future jobs, but who says no to Guido/Prada? BTW, it totally didn’t hinder anything and I’m in love with my new ’do! [It’s the same cut she’s sporting in the recent Celine campaigns as well.]

What is one of your proudest moments in your career so far?
Hearing about my mom and dad at home in Canada (and the rest of my family in England, where I’m originally from) live-streaming the runway shows was an incredible moment for me. Knowing that [my parents] sat in my living room screaming at me on the computer screen [while I was] walking in Paris or Milan is so surreal. They have always been my biggest supporters, even when I wasn’t doing as well. Being able to make them proud is one of my biggest achievements. My mom loves critiquing all of the outfits I get put in!

What continues to surprise or amaze you about your gig?
The amount of amazing and creative people within the industry! You wouldn’t believe the size of the teams that go into creating one image. I’m always amazed watching the best people at their craft.

Who’s your ultimate supermodel icon, past or present?  
I might have to say Linda Evangelista, considering she hails from the same place I live in Canada [near Niagara-on-the-Lake]! She also had a big hair transformation.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
That it takes a damn amount of work and patience to get noticed. It’s so competitive, but have faith. I wouldn’t be where I am without the incredible team I have, made up of bookers across the world. You have to trust your team completely and the direction they are taking you in. Models depend a lot on their agencies and it’s a collective effort to get to the top.

What are you excited about next in your career?
Probably just trying to continue this little whirlwind I’m in. I’d love to make this into a career with longevity, but it’s hard. To continue to travel and get even better as a model. And I’d love to grace the cover of a Vogue magazine. That is the pinnacle for me.

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