The last time I travelled was in 2019. Imagine, two years wasted. I arrived in Milan on Feb 14, on Valentine’s Day. I arrived not really knowing what work I would secure, as models need to go for casting calls first. But I chose to travel to Milan as it had always been my dream to come to Europe to try and walk for the shows. During the pandemic, I did a lot of castings via Zoom with European agencies and I signed up with one in Berlin and one more in Spain. After that, it was just a waiting game ... waiting to get the call, waiting for the borders to open and waiting to fly.
In January this year, after a Zoom call with an agency in Milan, they told me to get here before Feb 14. It was such short notice that I practically scrambled to prepare everything. But things fell into place and I landed safely.
I had one day to settle into my apartment and then the castings began. How it works is that the agency assigns you to different designers’ casting calls. You normally get an email the day before and you turn up anytime during the working day, which is usually 9am to 6pm. I go very early, so you don’t spend so much time in line. Once you are in, however, it’s a fast process. You change your clothes and shoes, and hand over your comp card. It can take all of 10 seconds. After which you walk back and forth maybe twice and that’s it.
It was the first time I was experiencing that in Milan and there were so many new faces, so many models lining up. And, honestly, it can be a very tiring experience. You spend hours sometimes just waiting in line. It is also not easy to get picked. There are so many beautiful, fresh new faces, and all the big brands usually already have their favourites. In Malaysia, my looks may seem unique. But, in Europe, there are so many dark-skinned models — each distinctive and gorgeous — from all over the world.
In the end, I was chosen by Act N°1 and Marco Rambaldi to walk for them, which itself was a good start. I have done fashion weeks in India, China and Indonesia, but I couldn’t help but feel nervous. It’s like starting from zero all over again. To walk for Milan Fashion Week is a big thing for me, let alone for two designers. Yes, I am proud of myself and it was a very good experience. I felt confident and it was definitely a good step towards making all of my dreams come true. I mean, stepping on a Milanese runway was surreal. I can’t believe that I, a girl from Kuala Lumpur, am walking it. It is a dream come true.
My agent is still working hard to get me to other fashion capitals, seeing that I am in Europe already. For now, I am hoping to work in London especially. But, right now, it’s lovely being in Milan. My neighbourhood is near Via Sardegna, which is especially happening at night, with cafés everywhere. The weather is still changeable, and can be sunny, rainy and super cold all in one day. But when the sun comes out, so do the people. You suddenly see everyone outside, laughing, sipping coffee, enjoying being outdoors.
My roommate is South Korean and when we aren’t cooking together, we are doing some touristy things. Visiting the Duomo was a particular highlight. It’s just so beautiful. I’ve also gone down to the Navigli River. It’s lovely to walk along its banks and there are many restaurants and cafés around the area. There is an Asian supermarket about 30 minutes away and I’ve been trying to cook curry, tofu and sambal dishes. I didn’t know what I would find in the stores here, so I made sure to bring along small packets of curry powder and my favourite chilli garlic oil as I love spicy food. One thing about being in Italy is the smells. Everywhere, there is something in the air that’s delicious — either fresh coffee or fresh pastries. Life smells good here.
This article first appeared on Apr 25, 2022 (Spring/Summer 2022 issue) of The Edge Malaysia.