She’s graced the covers of numerous fashion magazines and walked the ramp for many designers. Yet four years ago top model Fleur Xavier abandoned it all to reinvent herself as an interior designer. This wasn’t a sudden decision, says Fleur, explaining that she always had a thing for interior design. “I became a model because I was tall, and because people told me I had the figure for it. It wasn’t planned, but I believe that when an opportunity presents itself, you should make the most of it.”
But even as she set the ramp aflame, Fleur kept preparing for what she knew would be her ultimate career. “Even while modelling, I would keep in touch with interior designers and also learned CAD – Computer Aided Design – which is used extensively by interior designers,” she says. Between modelling assignments, she also interned with a designer and worked on trial projects with friends. “Then before I set up my firm – Fleur Xavier Design Associates – I went to New York to study at Parsons The New School for Design for a year.” Since then, Fleur has worked on mainly high-end residential projects in Delhi and Mumbai, though she is mostly Delhi-based.
But Fleur’s path to a new career wasn’t as smooth as her effortless glide down the runway at a fashion show. She admits that people’s perceptions of her as a model did affect her at the beginning. “Everybody thinks models are devoid of personality, but that’s not true,” she says. “Good models need to have a personality to survive and that comes with a certain intelligence. I have accepted that I will always be known as a model. In fact some people still think they saw me in a show recently, although it’s been four years since I gave up active modelling. It takes a while for perceptions to change – you have to get the word out to people also.” That was one reason why she worked hard to equip herself as an interior designer. “I needed to have technical skills such as CAD to prove myself to people,” says Fleur. “It also helps to have a degree from a prestigious institute like Parsons.”
There are certain challenges that come with transitioning from one professional world to another and Fleur has had her share of those. “There is a certain bit of fear that comes from being on top of your field in one sphere and starting at the bottom of another,” she explains. “You need to drop the ego where it is required and know how much confidence to hold on to. If you have too much confidence, you won’t learn and if you have too little, people will take advantage of you.” The other bit of advice Fleur offers to budding entrepreneurs involves putting together a support team. “It’s difficult to do it alone – you need the emotional strength of family and friends and enough money to live on comfortably till you get going in your new profession,” she explains. And once you have made the decision, don’t hold back. “Have no fear – it’s the number one debilitating thing,” says Fleur. “Very often, we are unable to grow because of other people’s perception of us.” For all the challenges involved, she’s happy doing what she does now. “The secret is that it’s all about endurance,” smiles Fleur. “I once met a top designer and asked her for advice, to which she said, ‘I have two things to say to you – firstly, endure, and secondly, do it for passion and not for money.’”
Winds of Change
Finally, Fleur says that you should always be open to the possibility of change. “We are always going to evolve,” she says. “Trying out new things helps us to grow. It adds to your personality, knowledge base, friends’ circle and so on. Even in your daily life, you should make time to do different things – like going to a music fest even if it’s a genre you don’t like. Such opportunities come with evolved interests and broaden you as an individual.”
Why it’s best to be your own boss You don’t have to answer to anyone. That’s a great feeling You can set your own timings and ensure that you have a life outside your work life What’s better? Modelling or Interior Design? One way that modelling is the same as interior design is that it’s all about presentation. Also, both fields are erratic – the quantum of work fluctuates constantly. The one way it’s different is that it challenges you to use your mind differently.
From HT Brunch, February 26
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