medicine serif;”>Mary-Kate Lanigan (21) is a model with 1st Option Model Management. Originally from Kilkenny, she has appeared in Vogue Italia, Jeffrey Campbell’s Fall 2013 campaign, Folkster campaigns as well as being an in-store model for Abercrombie & Fitch. Mary-Kate has also completed a degree in Communications at DCU. She tells Tara Browne about her experience as a model in the fashion industry…

How did you first get into modelling?

I was in third year and I had started to really follow fashion trends. I was in London sauntering around Harvey Nichols and this fabulous man approached me. It had been raining so I was drenched, no make-up and just generally looked like an awkward teenager. He was the owner of a top London agency and by the time I had processed what this man was saying, I choked on my words and couldn’t even reply to the question, “Honey, do you model? I’m a scout.” We kept in contact but this incident kind of ingrained the idea of modelling in my head. Being in school and having no prior experience, I looked to the Irish industry and within a few months, I had been signed to Hype Model Management which taught me all about the business, catwalk shows and shoots.

How did you find balancing your degree and your modelling?

I studied Communication Studies and Video Production. Modelling ended up actually going hand in hand with my degree because I would work with the photography and film students helping them out with assignments if they needed a model. Communications is a course with a lot of free time so I really immersed myself within modelling working on a weekly basis. The Irish Fashion Industry is great but not huge, so from college contacts and contacts I made through my agencies, fashion actually really became a subject within my degree and dissertation. DCU Style Society awarded me the title of model of the year winning me an amazing contract with First Options Model Management. I feel this really launched my career.

Making it into Vogue Italia is such a huge accomplishment, how did the opportunity arise?

I was living in New York and one night outside a dive bar in Brooklyn, I was approached by this stunning Russian woman. We had both been drinking in the bar so when she asked did I model the conversation ended up being like a typical girls conversation heard in a toilet on a night out, “I love your shoes-lets be best friends” kind of a saga. We exchanged numbers and then parted ways. We texted each other and a shoot was organised during NY fashion week. I turned up to the location-it was all hugs and fashion kisses and I had great fun running around pretending to hail a taxi. I genuinely had no idea where these images would end up; two days later I found myself in California. Turning on my phone was the scariest experience of my life- the phone exploded with posts, tagged photos and texts. I was on Vogue Italia? It was extremely surreal.

The fashion industry is renowned for its competitiveness. Did you feel this wasthe case in your experience?

I have actually found the bigger the job, the better the experience. I have made friends for life working on jobs and, thankfully, I’ve yet to have a catastrophe on set or on a catwalk. Castings can be quite intimidating because you’re surrounded by stunning girls all hoping, like you, to get the job but thankfully First Options is like a family and we all just sit around chatting which makes most nerves disappear!

Is there any other area of fashion you would like to work in?

I am actually in the process of starting my own line/store so I guess….watch this space.

As careers go, do you feel that modelling is a rewarding one?

Most definitely! It’s spontaneous and I think that is why I love it so much. No day or job is ever the same, you are constantly meeting talented and creative people. It’s an industry that can take you around the world and back and when you get to that point your bank balance is rightly rewarded.

There are a lot of Jeffrey Campbell fans in Ireland, so that must have been an exciting gig to land last year… How did you get to be so lucky?

Shooting Jeffery Campbell’s Fall 2013 Lookbook was the highlight of my year. I entered a random casting competition on Instagram. There were over 10,000 posts being ‘hashtagged’ and I got a really cute comment from Jeffery Campbell’s Creative Director replying to my post. She emailed me and told that I had been chosen for the lookbook. When I say I nearly died reading the email that would be an understatement, I was ecstatic. I’m such a JC fan and even the idea that I would meet the brains behind these heels was exhilarating. We ended up shooting in Central Park and Chelsea Market. Seeing the up-and-coming collection was amazing but also just hanging out with the JC crew was great.

With the likes of The Devil Wears Prada and the size zero generation of models, the fashion industry can seem rather cut-throat. Have you had any bad experiences as a model?

Never. I have never been told to lose weight, or only eaten a cube of cheese just before I feel faint. Obviously the top catwalk models are expected to fit into designer sample sizes but most of those girls are naturally that size. Most models do live a very healthy lifestyle, eating correctly, sleeping lots, drinking water and exercising a few times a week.

Are you working on any fashion projects at the moment?

I’ve just finished up a Creative & Marketing internship with luxury handbag designer Pauric Sweeney. Modelling wise the season has started for me again so I’ve been busy with castings and updating my portfolio so hopefully I’ll reap the rewards if I’m booked for any campaigns or shows.

Any advice for future Irish models out there on how to break into the modelling world?

If you’re looking to become signed; before approaching an agency arrange some shoots so you have a few images to show them. Practice walking in heels- walking up and down in front a mirror really fixes any wobbles or habits. A good walk is like a breath of fresh air and there is nothing better to catch a booker’s eye. Agents like natural beauty- technically you are a blank canvas so if you manage to get yourself a meeting, wear a simple figure hugging outfit and wear minimal make-up and just ooze confidence and charm.

Tara Browne