TOP MODEL Esther Heesch

- You have had quite a long modelling career. What do you think this success is owed to?

- In December it’s going to be almost 10 years, which I am surprised about because modeling is a short career and I’m still here, working for such a long time. I guess people book me mainly for the way I look. I enjoy being in front of the camera, and people feel it. I actually never thought about modeling before I started. When I was 15, I got scouted and had no idea about what modeling was like. Actually, I didn’t really think about models at all, because I’m from a small town, where there aren’t many of them walking around. Neither did I have any contact with the fashion world.


- My dad is very tall, and I am too. I was always taller than all the boys in my class. With modeling this somehow began to make sense, I could suddenly make something out of it.


- So, one could say, modelling also gave you confidence?

- Yeah, because I was too tall in high school, I was always hunching, trying to be a bit shorter, while in the fashion industry there are girls just as tall as me. I suddenly felt that it’s not too bad to be so tall.

- Good. You just mentioned that you were scouted when you were 15, which is quite early for a full-time job. Did you have a normal childhood?

- Well, 15 is not like 8 years old. So, I had a normal childhood for sure. During most of my modelling years I was always studying at the same time - during fashion weeks, doing campaigns. I always felt that each time I came back to living in my hometown in Germany I was a normal girl again who didn't really think about fashion.


- How did you manage to combine work, school and your hobbies with your tight schedule?

- I did ballet from 6 years to 17. I started doing so many fashion weeks and jobs that I couldn’t continue with it. My high school exams were also at the time, so I stopped playing the piano as well. There are many hobbies that I had to drop because I couldn’t practice, although I feel like I didn’t really have a choice because I always knew that I wanted to finish high school, which was always something I never really questioned.


- Your first show was for Dior by Raf Simons… Were you worried?

- Back then, I didn't really think about the fact that Dior is a big brand to do the first show for because I was new in the fashion industry. I stayed in London for 2 weeks, met some clients and the next day my agency in Paris called me to say that Dior wanted to see me. I took the train from London to Paris straight away. The casting director introduced me to Raf Simons, who was really friendly. All I can remember now is that I was going into the casting, a shy, nervous girl; the dresses were so beautiful and the show, too, was the most beautiful show I did. When I just entered they asked me if I could be filmed, which was quite funny because the cameraman followed me from the very beginning. As a result, now there is a movie about Raf and this fashion show, called “Dior and I”. It is nice to have a documentary about my first show. I watch it sometimes and think about the moment that is so close to my heart.


- Who was your favorite creative director to work with?

- My first experience will forever be my favourite, as I think the first time is always unique. I also really enjoyed working on the Tom Ford campaign, who shot it himself. I did a lot of Chanel shows as well, having worked with Karl Lagerfeld, who is actually from Hamburg, which is close to my hometown. We shot in Scotland, Edinborough, Dallas, Singapore and all around the world, which was amazing!


- What do you want to achieve in your career?

- I want to continue working with nice, creative and friendly people. I also want to continue travelling. I’m very happy that I got a chance to work with Peter Lindbergh before he passed away. I really admired him.


- Do you have any other plans for the future?

- I’ve been studying psychology for two years now, which I would like to finish. One day I want to work with children because I really like them.


- That’s nice! What do you think has changed in your professional life in the industry over the years?

- When I started I didn’t have Instagram. It was never this big of a deal until now. So I guess Instagram has surely changed the industry. I also see that more brands are trying to be sustainable, trying to think about the Earth more than some 10 years ago, although there are still many things to be changed. Right now people in the industry talk more about tolerance, which also was not so much the case before.


- Do you think there is a lot of diversity in the fashion industry now or do we still have room for improvement?

- When I was doing the shows 10 years ago, it was much less diverse. I think the industry is on a better way but then at the same time there is much to be done.


- Let’s talk about the positive sides of the coronavirus situation. Has anything good happened to you due to the pandemic?

- I have had a few interesting castings but at the same time they were so weird because I never knew at what point I should take my mask off to show the face. (Laughs).

I lived in New York before the pandemic, having had a 3-year long-distance relationship with my boyfriend at the time. He is French and we met in New York almost 4 years ago. Last March I came back to Europe and I spend so much more time with him in Paris now that we have moved in together, which is nice. We still speak English with him but I began to have time to take French classes.


- The theme of this issue is Phygital. How do you feel about digitalization and virtual models?

- When I was in New York three years ago, I worked for some brand, that was creating something similar as a test. I remember there were cameras everywhere, even behind my ears. There was not one part of me that wasn’t photographed. Afterwards they showed me my own 3D image, which you could move around and put on different clothes.


- Do you think that virtual models can replace real ones in the future?

- I hope that they don’t, as this will clearly mean that real models won’t have a job anymore. I think that human models still give something real to the picture, an expression at least. It is also nicer for the client to look at a real human, not something created digitally.


- What do you think about the future of digital fashion shows?

- Of course when I did fashion weeks for many years we had normal fashion shows, and I have great memories of that time: coming together, the spectators seeing the clothes, feeling the clothes. Even street style photographers alone is a nice memory.

For example, haute couture is a great part of the French culture, so I think it is nice to actually come to Paris, where it is centered, to see those beautiful dresses. I think it is definitely not the same as sitting at home and looking at your computer in your jogging uniform. I have a feeling that even after the pandemic it will come back, perhaps in a different way, but it will.


- What if you were offered to be a prototype for a virtual model, would you want to do that?

- In general, I am always open to new things but to be honest, I don’t know much about virtual technologies. It is actually not that different to what we are doing right now - designers dress me and then take pictures. It is just the other way around. I guess the fashion industry is constantly changing but this sounds quite creepy in my opinion.