In our ongoing series,Model in the Spotlight, we get up close and personal with the world's leading male models.
Most models will tell you the hardest part of the job is the lack of control. But Abel van Oeveren's somewhat arbitrary decision to give modeling a try has proved more than worthwhile. Since walking through the door of Tony Jones Model Management nearly a year-and-a-half ago, the young Dutchman has become a runway favorite, appeared in countless editorials, and landed the starring role in four campaigns this season, including Burberry's Black Label. He recently moved to New York and is getting a steady stream of work, so the way forward seems clear for van Oeveren. But even if it isn't, he says, "I'm not afraid of the future."
Hometown: The Hague, the Netherlands
Agency: VNY Model Management
How were you discovered? I submitted myself to Tony Jones Model Management in Amsterdam because I had a friend who was with them. I don't really know how I came up with the idea. I was in my first year of university studying commercial economics, which I didn't like, and I was open for something new.
What expectations did you have for your career before you started? I had very low expectations. I thought I was just going to maybe do a shoot in Holland and take some pictures and maybe do a show and that was it. But instead, I got sent to New York two days after and did fashion week and stayed for a while. I was very surprised by how quickly it went, actually. It's rare to get placed in the first moments after someone discovers you, and that was a big surprise. My parents were very excited and I got to fly to New York by myself, which I'd never done before, so it was exciting for sure.
What was your first modeling job? My first modeling job was actually a show for the Dutch designer Sjaak Hullekes during Amsterdam Fashion Week, which happened to be the day after I submitted myself. Amsterdam Fashion Week is so small compared to Paris, Milan, and New York, but I just did the show to practice my walk, not even for the job itself or the photos. I can tell I was kind of nervous when I look at the photos again. Then I was booked exclusively for Tim Coppens' Fall 2013 show. I was actually less nervous than I was in Amsterdam because I already knew what to do. The first time, I just followed the rest and thought I was going to fuck up, because I had never even seen a fashion show before.
What was your most memorable modeling job? My shoot with Frederik Meijnen and Jeroen Smits in Glasgow. We went to Glasgow by train from London and went to Loch Lomond, a beautiful lake in Scotland. We had fun and we went out and we did a beautiful shoot with good results for two different magazines, Wonderland and Rollacoaster, in one weekend. That was a fun experience.
Before you started, what was your perception of the fashion industry? I had never thought about it at all. I thought it was only for girls and I never thought I would ever get into it at all. I was studying and I had my other life in the Hague, and that was kind of it for me. This opened a whole new world.
What was the most difficult thing to get used to about your new job? It wasn't very difficult, it was more fun. The only thing was that you're so uncertain about the jobs you get, because you don't know when you're working. You could get a phone call this afternoon that you're working in two days or even tomorrow, so your parents will ask you, "Are you working? What are you doing? Are you going back to study? Because we don't see you do anything." You tell them you don't control it, and you feel powerless sometimes, because you don't know where you're going, you don't know what city you're going to be in the next month, so that was a point of tension.
You mentioned you had a slow period right after the Tim Coppens show. How did you deal with that? My agents knew what they were doing and they wanted me to wait and not do a lot of jobs because they wanted to open with a big bang, which for me was opening the Spring 2014 Burberry show. From then on, everything went well—I did plenty of shows and, after that, campaigns and editorials. They knew what they were doing, but I didn't know and my parents didn't know, so we were just waiting. I was thinking, "I'm not doing anything, I'm not working," but they planned it like that.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given? Tony Jones told me, "Don't trust any other models." He said they often don't know what they're talking about and they can put you on the wrong path. I have experienced it and I have to say that it is a good piece of advice.
—Jonathan Shia, follow him @JonathanShia
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