Sitting straight with her face poised, manic stylists tease her hair into a messy ponytail and touch up her skin so it glows. Once finished, they observe their creation, take a couple of snaps on black iPhones, and then rush to the next girl. This is how I first meet former Broadsheet model Natarsha Orsman, the 17-year-old model who’s walking in MBFWA for the first time.
From New Zealand, Orsman was always a performer. After sending her photos to an agent, two years later, she’s signed to IMG Worldwide and has walked New Zealand and Melbourne Fashion Festival and featured in countless editorial campaigns for labels and magazines.
Orsman tells me the week prior to fashion week is hectic; she’s required to go to an average of three or four castings a day. “It’s crazy, because sometimes you have a request casting – where the designer asks just to quickly see you. Or there’s the general casting – where they just ask all the models to go. I find out my schedule the night before so I never know what I will be doing the next day until then.”
Upon arrival at the casting call, wearing all black and no makeup, she presents her portfolio and prepares to walk. Where others create an attitude to sell their look, Orsman never puts on a persona; she’s bubbly and polite.
I catch up with Orsman again during Fashion Week just after she’s run across Carriageworks from the Bec & Bridge runway to make it in time to prepare for her Macgraw appearance. She is dressed in a high-neck, white lace blouse and black pinafore. Hair and make-up takes four hours; the air is thick with hairspray. Where others might feel stressed at the rush of it all, Orsman revels in it. “It’s quite intense, but it’s good fun because you’ve got lots of models around you and you’re all going through it together, so you can have a good laugh.”
Backstage, the models are playful and gossiping one minute, faces dignified and posing for cameras the next. They are huddled in a circle wearing crisp robes and slippers when the show producer calls them to prepare for their practise walk.
“You were all going so fast! We hardly got through the soundtrack. This is fun and youthful. Pretend that you’ve just been frolicking in the park and kissing boys,” the show producer tells them as they walk off, reminding them to smile and have fun with it. Natarsha cringes: “I have a horrible smile … but if I pretend to laugh it should be okay,” she says.
There is an air of hectic anticipation before the music begins to blare.
Strutting down the runway, she keeps her focus and thinks about her walk. “Chin down, straight posture, bum tucked in, hips not moving too much, straight line, keep in rhythm, keep the pace up and keep the spacing right,” she says, citing this as the most important part of the job.
“I’ve always had a natural walk but I still need to practise because it’s so easy to just forget and go into your regular walk. It’s all for that one photo at the end of the runway. You have to get that right; otherwise you’re screwed, to be honest. The designer might not hire you again, the stylist might not hire you again, it’s really important.”
Orsman tells me that the runway is her favourite part of the experience. “It’s such a nice adrenaline rush. It makes you feel good about yourself when you come off and think, ‘Yes, I’ve done it! I walked good, and looked good and everyone raised their iPhones to take a photo of me!’”
After the music dies down the models change quickly and they’re off to the next show for another four hours of preparation. The next day, Orsman has a 4.30am start and another three shows to walk in.
“I want to do big shows. I’d love to go to Paris, Milan, London, New York Fashion Week, and book some exclusives and do some really cool campaigns. I’ve got no specific goals because I’d love to do anything high fashion.” For now, she’ll focus on a different type of dream: “I’d also like to marry some cool actor or celebrity. That would be nice. It could happen!”