International models are rare and exotic creatures, carrying with them the mystery of wanderlust beyond the veil of a tourist and the freedom that comes from being a global citizen, curating peculiar souvenirs and experiences, and immersing themselves in the cultures of new friendships.
I met Zack Hartwanger, entrepreneur and international fashion model, at a UCT alumni event at The Shard (London) not too long ago, and the story of a graduate with a successful modeling career really struck me as an interesting combination of talent and beauty. An interview seemed only appropriate.
1989: Born in Johannesburg, South Africa
2007: Matriculated from Hermanus High School
2011: Graduated with a BSc in Construction & Economic Management (UCT)
2012: Scouted by Modellink (Swedish Agency)
2015: Founded Caligo Group Ltd.
2016: Pursuing MBA (UCT Graduate School of Business) and starting new real estate venture
- You hold dual citizenships for South Africa and the United Kingdom, but Taiye Selasi noted that that isn’t a good indicator of identity, so where are you a local?
I spent my formative years in South Africa. The country moulded me into who I am today and no matter where I find myself in the world, I have a patriotic passion for the place I will always call home, South African.
2. In your travels, when have you experienced the existential angst: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”?
Over the past 4 years I have experience this many times. The first was when I left South Africa on my first trip. I had just left my job, my friends, my family and my comfort zone. Sitting on a Lufthansa flight, about 43,000 ft above the motherland, I could not shake the thought that I may have been rather impulsive, and all the “what if’s” set in.
The thought of arriving in a foreign country, not knowing much of their culture (apart from the fact that they like to dress up and drink loads of beer) nor a word of the native tongue, was extremely daunting. Needless to say, on landing in Hamburg (Germany), the feeling of dread was transformed into excitement for impending adventure.
3. What edge does a university degree give you as a model?
Having a degree provides peace of mind. There is a stereotypical idea that all models are ignorant, superficial and simply float between the gym and spas with their heads in the clouds. I feel that being able to converse with clients about things other than the fashion industry provides a competitive edge.
4. There are hierarchies in every society. Describe the manifestations of status in the world of male models.
The iconic male figure as viewed by society is normally a sportsman, actor or businessman. This translates into the selection of individuals by luxury brands and fashion houses for there advertising campaigns (i.e. Tiger Woods for Tag Heuer watches, George Clooney for Omega, and Brad Pitt for Chanel No.5).
However, there are many other industry segments in which male models are preferred, such as catalogues, eccommers, look books and editorials, where the clothing is the focal point over having a public figure associated with the brand.
5. As a working model, how have you established a routine that fits your lifestyle?
The two broad categories of models are high fashion and commercial. High fashion models, often labeled as heroine chic, don’t have to be as concerned with their lifestyle as those on the commercial fronts.
My routine has evolved over the years and now basically consists of healthy eating and regular exercise. I spend a lot of my time away from my base, so a skipping rope, ab wheel and exercise bands are an essential part of my travel kit.
6. What are the top 3 things you wish someone told you before you became a model?
- Value your time.
- Realize that you don’t work for the agencies.
- Client relations are the backbone of the industry.
7. You’ve lived in Cape Town, Hamburg, and major fashion capitals like New York, Paris, Milan and London. What have you been surprised by across these experiences?
The extent of globalization. Each city I have lived in or visited has been unique in terms of the tradition and architecture. However, there are underlying similarities. Most prominent is the stereotypical cultures, such as the hipster, the sport obsessed booitjie, the poppy Barbie, and the punk rock rebel.
8. Do you ever experience modeling as a postponement of real life? Of course there are a number of successful models that have sustained their modeling career beyond what may be seen as a sell-by-date for the profession. How may up-and-coming models extend the longevity of their career or summon entrepreneurial energies to explore longer-term opportunities?
Yes, modeling is definitely a postponement of real life, which is why I personally have placed an emphasis on continuing education and getting involved in entrepreneurial ventures. It is so easy to fall into an artificial comfort zone in this industry, but the harsh reality is that most models will have a limited career, thus a Plan B was crucial for me. In a sense, the modeling realm is an ideal situation to find your passion and start a business. Models often have an abundance of free time and a great opportunity to travel the world thus building a good network, while maintaining a decent income.
The life of a model is not for the faint hearted. If you are contemplating the lifestyle then take some modeling advice from Model Management. Moreover, view Zack’s portfolio by Select Model Management and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.