LONDON, United Kingdom — Fashion insiders approach the coming month of shows and presentations as if they were training to run a marathon. Designers rush to finish the final looks of their new collections and public relations firms spend hours agonising over seating charts.
For London-based models, this season’s fashion week prep included heading to Mayfair’s Claridges Hotel on a cold, wet Monday morning for a “wellness” session on how to look after yourself during one of the busiest times of the work calendar.
The event was hosted by The Be Well Collective, a not-for-profit organisation founded by fashion model-turned-nutritionist Sarah Ann Macklin in 2017. Supported by the British Fashion Council and the Mohamed S. Farsi Foundation, the organisation is designed to give models practical tools and knowledge to adequately cope with side-effects that often come with working in fashion today, including stress, fatigue and not being able to switch off.
Monday’s session attracted 130 attendees, double the size of last season’s inaugural event. The vast majority were models, with model agents from all the major London agencies and journalists peppered among them.
This is all about knowledge. If you have that knowledge you can implement it.
It was important to ensure the knowledge and tools speakers provided were both practical and easy to implement, said Macklin.
“The whole point of the Be Well Collective is you’re meant to take something from it,” she said. “This is all about knowledge. If you have that knowledge you can implement it … It’s great to listen to somebody talk, but if you can’t take that advice and implement it yourself you’re not going to change.”
Macklin tapped expert speakers who understood the workings of the fashion industry, including sleep therapist Nerina Ramlakhan, Nike and Third Space trainer Luke Worthing, stress expert and former model Howard Napper and the Telegraph’s head of fashion Lisa Armstrong, to offer advice and insights into a range of wellness topics, from getting a good night’s sleep to coping with stress and living with purpose to tailoring your workout to complement your mental state. Jillian Lavender, founder of the London Meditation Centre, ended the session with a relaxation exercise.
Storm Model Management owner Simon Chambers said what set the Be Well Collective session apart from other model wellbeing initiatives is its “prevention rather than cure” approach to knowledge and education.
“Before, it’s all been done reactively to problems and in a rather piecemeal fashion,” he told BoF after the event. BWC, he said, is about equipping models and agents with a practical tool kit that they can fall back on, especially as models are often travelling alone. “It was so relevant and relatable and digestible.”
Chelsey Williams has been a booker at Select Model Management for six years, but said she had never seen a support-focused event catering to models quite like this before. “I felt like this was the first time that somebody who’s come from that world themselves has said, ‘Ok, I know how you feel, this is what you can do to help [yourself],’” she told BoF.
To know there is a support network there in order to guide the model is priceless.
For next season, Macklin is looking to host the event in a bigger venue to accommodate more guests from across the industry. She also hopes to establish BWC as a charity — a process already underway — that will provide those working within fashion with year-round support, connecting them with a relevant expert that also understands the specific workings fashion industry and subsidising treatment costs.
This kind of resource is very important, especially within the modelling industry, said Fraser Belk, director at Established Models.
“As an agent we face different situations day by day, and the truth is we are not always qualified to deal with them,” he told BoF. “So to know there is a support network there in order to guide the model is priceless.”