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Alva ClaireFashion Model

London, UK. January 7th, 2021

Interviewed by Alexei Key

Photographed by Amy Lidgett

Alva Claire on beauty, representation, and the state of the fashion industry after a historic year.


 

Being seen as a role model feels very surreal but important. It drives me forward and obliterates my nerves at times. It is beautiful to know that what I am working on is so much bigger than myself as an individual. It gives me great strength and purpose to always think of my community in everything I do.

Beauty cannot be defined by any one person. But if I’m trying to put it into words, as clichéd as it sounds, it’s how I feel inside. Beauty is abstract to me, almost like an emotion, a sense of power deep down. I feel the most beautiful when I’m strong and I’m being my full self, expressing a truth. Beauty is not giving a fuck and existing as a unique individual.

I feel like I have become stronger and more confident through my work. I know how to advocate for myself better and to set boundaries, communicate without fear and trust in my gut. I used to feel like my empathy and sensitivity in this industry was a weakness, but I now know it is a power and very important. I can only be myself. There is patience in this journey, and there is always time to learn, grow and develop. I deeply value my friendships and relationships at work—and even more so with this year, it’s like a creative family across the world.

Different body shapes have been severely underrepresented in fashion, always, and they still are. History was made when I walked in the Versace show. When an iconic and respected fashion house, especially with such a vast audience, sent us down the runway, it created shockwaves.

These are watershed moments. However, over the years there have been specific moments I naively thought would change the industry for good, but they didn’t; the resistance against change in the fashion industry is real. Yet this does feel different, because it’s not just one season or one magazine issue. This is real pressure, and I will not stop. The community is strong and is here to stay. We as models have real love and compassion for each other. Words can’t describe being the person I needed to see when I was a young teen. That’s how I know the impact, because I know how it feels.

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For models of color, I want to see a place where we can feel safe and respected on set and taken care of physically and emotionally. And it goes beyond models holding space in the industry; it’s also the stylists, photographers, makeup artists, hairstylists and art directors. Everything must evolve so we all may see our stories being told like they never have been before. We need to see our multifaceted characters and voices reflected in our work, with longevity and development throughout our careers. There is so much work to be done in the industry; too often there are performative displays of diversity that do not present a depth of understanding of the models building this body of work.

People must look beyond the fashion and beauty industries to see how racism and inequality are so ingrained in every part of our society. Everything is linked; unless people do their own work—learning, unlearning, listening—things will never change. And the arts must do better as a whole, because context is lost in so many instances. Culture is stolen without the knowledge of where it comes from and the sacred meanings behind it. It’s not my job to tell the industry what it needs to do. I think it’s frightfully obvious. I can see so much change, but also so little.

A critical moment for me was leaving a job I hated, and which didn’t align with my values, leaping into the unknown, even if it didn’t work straight away. Processes are important; it made me realize that no matter how difficult or unachievable something may seem, the journey in itself is success—discovering you can take a risk, and how freeing it is to actually work on something you care about. I learned so much about the way I work and how hard I will strive for something I really want.

When I was younger and someone who learned in a different way, I found school so hard to connect with—even the art classes were empty, corporate and sucked dry of real expression. Creating my own path felt like freedom. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, and I don’t feel limited in any way.

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One of my most memorable projects was shooting with Carlota Guerrero for the first time. It was the first time I had shot fully nude; I was sitting on the very top of a pile of mattresses like princess and the pea. We had spoken about the shot, and I was excited! I was so nervous and when I removed my robe, I was shaking a little. Then when we began shooting all the noise in my head disappeared, I felt completely free in a way I never have before.

It always feels like it is just me and Carlota when we shoot. We could be anywhere in the world. There is a trust and a connection; her work is so moving and has so much emotion and strength layered into the narrative. Those images of me were never chosen by the publication, but the memory is so important and vivid for me. Years later Carlota and I shot my first cover for Numero Berlin. To share the moment of my first cover with her was very special to me.

The most important thing I have learned in my career so far is persistence and maintaining focus—blocking out all of the noise.

These days, I’m inspired by reading, walking and getting completely lost in thought, as well as revisiting films and albums that moved me when I was younger – things that shaped my growth. Currently I’m inspired by the artist Jala Wahid, designers Bianca Saunders and Maximilian Davis, and Netti Hurley, the artist and photographer. To stay inspired, I have challenged myself creatively more than ever this year.

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ALVA CLAIRE


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