What’s it like being an Irish male model? Three tell their stories
‘It’s a career that can drive you crazy because it is so precarious’
Caomhin O’Brien. Long-sleeve T-shirt Gosha Rubchinskiy (€80), Acne short-sleeve shirt (€300), Gucci pants (€550).
Male models are small fry compared to female models when it comes to earning power – the girls make more money. Yet male fashion is growing faster than womenswear and the menswear industry is predicted to be worth around €28 billion by 2020. Models like Cara Delavingne and Kendall Jenner are constantly in the public eye, but who can name any male model with a similar high profile? David Gandy is better known than most through his collaborations with Dolce & Gabbana, Marks & Spencer’s and others, while newcomer Zach Miko made headlines when he became the first plus-size male model in the new “brawn” division of the international agency IMG Models. But name anyone else?
“There are more opportunities here for girls than for boys,” says Aisling Lawlor, head booker with Not Another, the Dublin modelling and creative agency with a significant portfolio of male models. “With boys we are really looking for quality for overseas work as the fashion world here in Ireland is small,” she says. Nonetheless, one big success story has been 24-year-old Dylan Moran from Offaly whose smouldering offbeat looks, high cheekbones and Roman nose propelled him into overnight stardom and who last year alone featured in many international campaigns and editorials for Vogue and other magazines all over the world.
Moran is now pursuing a career in music production, but hot on his heels is Aubrey O’Mahony from Kildare, who at 22 was installing services for Virgin Media when he sent in a photo to Not Another last October and immediately landed a shoot with GQ in London. “Once you get your feet in a big magazine, it’s a great start,” says O’Mahony whose father is a photographer (“but never took many pictures of me when I was a child!”). Lawlor says he has star quality “and is gorgeous inside and out and that is very important for us, as personality just as much as looks are very important. Models represent us as much as we represent them.”
Now with IMG in New York, O Mahony’s soulful, quirky looks have landed him campaigns for GStar, Jack & Jones and a new campaign for Wella. “The best thing about it is that you see so many places, try different foods and experience different cultures. My favourite so far has been Shanghai, but I have also been to Paris where I met Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid (walking for Givenchy) and to Milan, New York, Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland and London – it has been pretty full on, though it’s quite lonely sometimes. You enjoy it as much as you can,” he says.
Exercise has become important “because you feel better when you are in shape and clothes fit better and clients are happier”. His attitude to clothes has changed too. “I was a big tracksuit head before but in the last six months my style has changed dramatically and I wear more jeans and simple, smart casual outfits – I don’t like shirts and I love my cap and never take it off.” Though he plans to keep on modelling for a few more years, he is saving up to open a venue with a friend.
Charlie Clinch started modelling when he was 15, three years ago, while still at school in Blackrock College, egged on by a friend and by a fashion conscious sister. His first job was shooting a menswear campaign for Dunnes Stores early in 2016 “on the rooftop of the carpark and it was freezing”, he recalls. “My shoulders were hunched up and my hands were blue, but I had great fun – my mum was with me”. Since then he has walked in London and Milan fashion weeks. “I was originally terrified but it gave me self confidence and once I started doing it I just kind of slid into it”, says Clinch who has played rugby since the age of four and now plays tag rugby after various injuries training with the lst and 2nd teams. What he most loves about modelling is a full day’s shoot “because you get to know the photographers and stylists and if you are at ease, photographs are better because you are confident.”
He opened the cult London brand KTZ spring 2017 show and also walked for Ben Sherman in his first fashion week in London, shot a Primark campaign, an editorial for ID magazine and Alexander McQueen and was on the cover of Rollercoaster magazine. He now plans to go full-time for a while “and see where it takes me. Everybody in the family is very academic, so I need to work to get a proper job so as not to disappoint them, but also for back-up – a modelling life doesn’t last forever.” On July 10th, he will walk in the Brown Thomas autumn/winter show.
Caomhin O Brien (23) from Terenure started modelling when he was 17 and doing the Leaving Cert, and now has agents in Paris, Berlin, Hamburg, Barcelona, Milan, New York and Tokyo. His most recent campaign was for Topshop last Christmas and seeing huge posters with his image in Oxford Street was “kind of exciting”, he says. His first big job was the Primark international campaign shot in the French Alps while he was on an Erasmus in Paris as a student of French and Spanish literature at TCD.
Since graduation, and a period working in Tokyo, he has worked with brands like Reiss, Uniqlo, French Connection and his latest is the winter campaign for well-known Savile Row tailors. “The best thing about modelling is the travel opportunities I have been afforded – it has taken me all over Japan and China and New York is now on the cards. In Europe, male and female models often work separately rather than alongside and most castings specify male or female. In contrast every casting (audition) in Tokyo is for both men and women. “
Weight has occasionally been an issue. Once in Barcelona he was told his waist should be 32” not 30” and in Tokyo last summer was asked to lose weight. “They are very weight conscious there whereas in Europe it’s all about measurements. In Asia they weigh girls every week and many of them are as young as 13 or 14. So for me it is fine that women are paid more than men because there is a lot more pressure on them than on us.”
Like Aubrey, he plans to continue “to see where it takes me” but is also doing a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) 12-week course in Cambridge University. “It is good to have something else going on because it’s a career that can drive you crazy because it is so precarious and at the end of the day you have little control of the jobs and because there are so many male models, it is very competitive. I have been lucky.”
All clothes from Brown Thomas.
Photographs by Kenny Whittle www.kennywhittle.com using Canon EOS 5D Mark iV, styling by Gorjan Lauseger @gorjanlauseger, hair by Alan Adderley Davey Davey, Stephen Street Lower 01 6078999