On runway to big things

Herieth Paul presents a creation by Tom Ford during the 2013 Autumn/Winter London Fashion Week in London on February 18, 2013. (Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

After strutting down the runway at London Fashion Week, one of the world’s largest industry events, Ottawa’s Herieth Paul couldn’t wait to sink her teeth into a burger.

Monday was a big day for the 17-year-old supermodel from Orléans. Considered today’s “it” girl, she was a lead model for celebrity fashion designer Tom Ford.

“I feel very excited to be here – it’s one of the biggest shows in the world. I’ve been really nervous as I don’t want to disappoint anyone,” said Paul, who modelled two outfits from Ford’s womenswear collection, including a hot pink patchwork suit with asymmetrical lapel.

The American designer draws a crowd wherever he goes. In London, the star-studded audience included the likes of singer Justin Timberlake and his wife, Jessica Biel, and legendary Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

“During the show, Mr. Ford said it was a pleasure to work with me. There’s a lot of uncertainty in modelling, but things are moving in the right direction,” said Paul.

Herieth Paul backstage at the Tom Ford fashion show at London Fashion Week on Monday, Feb. 18. (Photo: Angie Sakla-Seymour)

The Grade 12 student at Gloucester’s Lester B. Pearson Catholic High School, who makes as much as $10,000 a day modelling, is tearing up the catwalk in fashion capitals around the globe. Just like supermodels Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, Paul’s face may be just as recognizable one day.

“This is epic. It’s mega-huge in the fashion world,” said Paul’s Ottawa agent Angie Sakla-Seymour of Angie’s Models & Talent International. “Tom Ford is one of the biggest names in fashion. To land an exclusive London season with him is out of this world.”

The five-foot-11 Paul, who flies to Paris on Wednesday, was slated to model for several designers at New York Fashion Week earlier this month, but cancelled once Ford came calling. She flew to London about 10 days ago to attend fittings for his autumn 2013 campaign. The celebrity designer and film director is credited with reviving Gucci fashion house before concentrating on his own label.

“As an exclusive model, Tom Ford will compensate her for the missed shows. She was freaking out when she got the call and says he’s so nice and professional,” said Sakla-Sey-mour, who arrived in London Saturday to join her prodigy and to take in the backstage excitement.

The two were going to celebrate after Ford’s show by having a quiet meal at their London hotel.

“I’m definitely going to have a burger,” said Paul. “I need time to reflect about the show.”

Paul signed on with Sakla-Sey-mour’s ByWard Market agency in 2009. Her first gig was at Ottawa Fashion Week. Since then, she has sashayed on runways for the likes of Calvin Klein, Zac Posen, Givenchy and Diane von Furstenberg. Her face has appeared in Vogue, i-D, Flare, and Elle Canada, on billboards and in ad campaigns for The Bay, Macy’s and Nordstrom.

London Fashion Week opened Friday with a blockbuster lineup that included pop diva Rihanna launching her first collection. The five-day event saw such notable designers as Vivienne Westwood and Burberry’s Christopher Bailey take centre stage, as well as the young guns – those under 40 years old – Erdem, Christopher Kane and Mary Katrantzou.

The Tanzanian-born Paul, who lives with her mother and 21-yearold sister in Orléans, caught the eye of famed photographer Steven Meisel while shooting for Italian Vogue. Her star shot up even higher once she had her hair shaved into a buzz cut in 2010.

“It’s been hard work. All week she’s attended fittings and is walking in stilettos one size smaller. But she always has a smile on her face,” said Sakla-Seymour, who has worked with her since she was 13.

Paul, who has a reputation for being well-mannered, steadied her nerves by doing her English homework each morning.

“My mom watched the show online and was texting me the whole time. She was almost excited as I was,” said Paul, whose mother is a diplomat at the Tanzanian embassy in Ottawa.

“This business is not black and white. It can take a long time to make it. When Herieth didn’t have money to get to New York, we’d give it to her and drive her to the airport. I knew it would come. Her unique look and grounded personality captivates people,” said Sakla-Seymour.

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