T&T youth march proudly in Milan
Originally from Sangre Chiquito, Jean-Luc Joseph had no plans to enter the international modeling scene. He simply felt a creative fire in his soul that he had to extinguish. Discovered from a few photos of himself posted online, he recently fulfilled his biggest dream when he walked the catwalk of Italy’s premier luxury fashion house Bottega Veneta in the fashion capital, Milan.
“It was amazing!” he told the Sunday Guardian about his experience as part of the Bottega Veneta Autumn/Winter 2022 collection shown at Milan Fashion Week on February 26.
“It was a very surreal experience to be backstage because I’ve always been interested in the world of fashion – the photographers, the images that would come out of fashion, the styles of designers. I was always watching all these shows and collections and I saw models walking around and saying: I can do this; it could be me.
“Just being in a position where I’m making my debut for one of the biggest houses in Milan is just a surreal experience; whether it’s behind the scenes and seeing the whole process of how everything is done for a show high level like that; everything from the production, the teams that were there; hairdressers, makeup artists, being in the presence of the designer… just being part of the brand’s history because it was the first collection of (fashion director) Matthieu Blazy for the brand.
Joseph was also grateful to casting directors, Anita Bitton and Finlay MacAulay and praised 28Model’s Trinidadian founder, Showin Bishop, for believing in his potential.
Considered for its luxury ready-to-wear garments and signature intrecciato weave (interwoven woven texture of its leather), elite fashion house Bottega Veneta was established in 1966 in Vicenza, Italy, as a brand handmade leather goods. Bottega’s memorable shows during Fashion Week – the industry’s most celebrated series of shows featuring the latest collections from top designers – launched the careers of famous models such as Lauren Hutton and Gigi Hadid.
Twenty-two-year-old Joseph had always imagined himself on a fashion catwalk. But not knowing where to start, he put his dream on hold and took up photography around 2018. Initially he used his brother, Raúl and other friends as his subjects. While trying to expand his portfolio, he turned the camera to himself. He started a series of self-portraits, becoming a content creator by posting pictures of himself on Instagram.
Observing her passion, a friend suggested she audition for a model search advertised locally by New York-based model management agency 28Models. It was Bishop of 28Models who discovered the budding model in 2019.
Jean-Luc Joseph poses in a North Face and Gucci shoot.
Photo courtesy 28Models
“They reached out to me via Instagram. They were interested. I was very excited, but when I told people around me I got mixed reviews. Some were like: of course you have always wanted to do this, others had the conventional mindset, I guess they didn’t really see the vision, the opportunity.
Joseph said it was a battle to convince older members of his family of the magnitude of the offer. They thought he was young and had no knowledge of how the world worked. He argued that youth was on his side and so he should use the time to explore and experiment with different paths.
Having once worked an eight-to-four job in order to buy photographic equipment, Joseph said he knew the typical office path was not for him.
“It just didn’t make me happy and in that moment I realized that I didn’t want to be in a position for the next few years to do something that I wasn’t happy to do. J I preferred to live from something that fascinated me.
Several virtual meetings with the agency confirmed her belief that modeling was her calling. Convinced that “a boy from Grande (a few minutes from Sangre Chiquito) could break into the world of international fashion” without real experience, he accepted the offer to go abroad.
However, when he was ready to embark on his journey in early 2020, his enthusiasm was dampened when COVID hit. With his projects coming to a screeching halt, he had to deal with scoldings from his family members for not following sound advice to seek conventional work.
“But I was so focused, I was so excited. I understood the opportunity and the vision and I stuck with it. I wasn’t conforming to what other people were telling me because I knew the potential. “, he recalls.
Relief came in June 2021 when he was finally able to travel to Italy. He said things got off to a slow start as he had to go to different gig dates and get acquainted with various casting directors. Beginning to doubt that he would ever be hired, the encouragement of his family members at home supported him.
Jobs started coming from the UK and back in Italy, one of his first big gigs was an op-ed for Esquire Italia magazine. From there, things accelerated with opportunities from high-end brands like Off-White, Alexander McQueen, the North Face x Gucci and Elle Italia mainly in Italy, but also throughout Europe. About eight months after leaving Trinidad, Joseph landed the Bottega Veneta contract.
The Northeastern College alum who studied science in sixth grade says he’s seen the most amazing places, met the fashion industry’s top experts and tasted the best cuisines, but is proud of his humble roots in Sangre Chiquito where he and his siblings, Raúl, Mia and Akim grew up with his protective services member mother, Tia.
Joseph grew nostalgic playing games like marbles and tag with his siblings, painting and drawing with Mia, and playing video games with his brothers. He also shared fond memories of living with his grandmother in Damarie Hill to be closer to his secondary school after his other family members moved to Arima.
Joseph said he was mainly inspired by his mother who was dedicated and hardworking, raising her children with the support of her grandmother. She helped him hone his “leadership skills,” he laughed.
He gleaned wisdom from his grandmother whose outlook shaped much of his outlook on life and with whom he often gardened and cooked.
Conversations with friends, Akell Gould, Kelly Smith, Olajuwon Scott, Elon Thomas and Tyrese Thomas about goals and ambitions also influenced him.
Besides that of his mother, he appreciates the support of Mia – his biggest cheerleader “from day one” – Raul and 11-year-old Akim, whom they nicknamed “Little Man”. He said he always tries to maintain good communication with his family, making time to talk to them almost daily. He feels he has somewhat cleared a path for his siblings who also have creative talents. He hopes to be an inspiration to them.
“I feel like my experiments would be a proof of concept and make it easier for them to follow through on what they want to do,” Joseph said.
He strives to cement his place on the international modeling scene and help create an avenue for creatives in T&T.
Model Jean-Luc Joseph
Photo courtesy 28Models
Interview with Jean-Luc Joseph
At school, how did you go from science to photography?
I’ve always felt like a creative person. I have made art using different mediums; drawing, painting… I have always loved the portrait. I was very interested in the fashion industry. Many photographers, from Peter Lindbergh, Mario Testino to Albert Watson, I was very intrigued by their work and it really inspired me to want to pursue photography. But I feel from the jump that it was very difficult for me to pursue something like this in a household that really valued job security and job stability. It was: getting a government job or a conventional job; doctor, lawyer. So it’s been a struggle for me ever since I left high school.
What is the most exciting thing for you in modeling?
I would say the most exciting thing is having the opportunity to travel and meet new crews, meet amazing people, be on set with legends, be it stylists, hairdressers, designers. Also learn about new cultures and cuisines, of course.
Has a particular dish or aspect of Italian culture impressed you so far?
I can’t name the dishes. (laughs) I think coming to Milan and experiencing everything…I was once in southern Italy. Didn’t get to fully enjoy it as I was there for work, but the scenery was beautiful. I went to Mont Blanc from Courmayeur which is in the Italian Alps. This is where we shot for North Face x Gucci. The views were so breathtaking. It was also the first time I experienced snow. We rode this massive cable car and could have seen the entire resort and the mountains and the beautiful town of Courmayeur.
Just working with the team there too. A lot of people had worked on the first magazine shoot I did – Esquire – so it was a really special experience for me.
What does your typical day look like?
On a day-to-day basis, we received our schedules the day before. It depends on the day, the time of the season; if it’s closer to Fashion Week, it’s going to be very hectic. There are going to be a lot of ups and downs from place to place. I think a misconception about modeling is that people don’t think it’s a real job, but that’s because if we go to castings, it’s like going to three, four different interviews with different companies. You must be dressed appropriately; it’s the same as a typical job interview. After making appeals, you should get a response within four days. At work, from start to finish, let’s say it’s a social campaign it would be about reaching on set, getting ready, so you’d have the hair and makeup team, production would set up the studio, the photographer would go through the mood board with you and let you know what you all would be doing for the day, then shoot you. A typical day is eight hours.
Do you have something to say to the other young people who have dreams?
Yes. It may sound cliché, but it has always stuck with me: the best time to plant a tree was ten years ago and the best time to plant it is now. A lot of times we feel like we’re not ready or we’re afraid of being judged – whether we’re starting a business, launching something on YouTube – and we procrastinate a lot and say we’re waiting for better equipment and so on. on, but I think we just need to start. We may not feel ready, but I think we’re getting exponential growth outside of our comfort zone. This is how we learn, how we experience. This will go into the next quote which is: it is better to have tried and failed than to have failed to try.
Follow Joseph’s journey via his Instagram @iamjeanlucjoseph and discover other Caribbean models on 28Model’s Instagram account @28models.