This week HøFSisters are very excited to introduce our first guest in a series of profiles on successful tall women – the beautiful and wonderfully charismatic Olivia Inge. Catwalk model extraordinaire-turned-professional acupuncturist, 5ft11 Liv walked for Vivienne Westwood when she was just 16 years old. She enjoyed an enviable career in modelling, including as a fit model for Alexander McQueen, before turning her talented hands to becoming a highly trained acupuncturist and massage therapist.
For the shoot, we asked Liv to bring outfits she loves to wear everyday and which reflect her own personal style.
After the shoot we caught up with Liv, now 36, and got the chance to grill her with our most burning questions…
- Olivia, you’ve had quite a journey! Tell us briefly how you were “recruited” into modelling and how you coped with your first jobs as a catwalk model?
I was picked up at school in Somerset by my modelling agency – Models 1. I am still with them 20 years later (that doesn’t make me feel old at all!). My first job was for Vivienne Westwood’s Red label. Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall were in attendance, as were my parents. After the show, Aunt Viv asked if I wanted to go to the after party with her, I asked Mum who said “No. You’ve got school tomorrow.” So we drove off down the M4 back to Somerset, my head swimming in the clouds, a million miles away from boring old school.
- You’re a tall girl at 5’11 and clearly that played a part in your runway success. What was your relationship with your height like when you were younger? Was it something you struggled with or did you love being tall?
I had a bit of a battle with my height when I was younger. I stuck out like a sore thumb. My girlfriends were all shorter than me which I hated because, as a teen, all you really want is to fit in. It was also really hard to find jeans that looked good and didn’t have an elasticated waist and actually touched my converse (I say converse but it was more like Hi-Tec trainers). Around this time I saw a documentary about a tall girl who slouched a lot to fit the height of her friends; she looked really silly, so I promised myself not to slouch. Shortly after that I became a model!
- What advice would you give to girls who are struggling to come to terms with being so much taller than their peers?
Instead of seeing it as a struggle, turn it around, embrace it. You will always give the best hugs because they will feel like Mummy hugs!
- How did your love of fashion evolve and did you ever find being tall a hindrance to getting the clothes (and shoes) you wanted?
I only started to love fashion after working as Alexander McQueen’s “fit-girl”. It was here that I learnt the true artisan approach to dress making – how clothes should fit, why it’s important to buy key statement pieces (they make your cheap stuff look expensive!!), how to play with colours and textures, how to dress my body and wear clothes like armour. He installed my love of aesthetics and disdain of “fashion rules” – by the very nature of a fashion rule you have already stepped into a dead-end street. If you make everything you wear and do beautiful, you win.
- Tell us about your outfits today and where you love to shop.
The Boden skirt was a gift from Johnnie Boden (legend!). The white shirt I nicked from my boyfriend. The sunglasses are by Chanel (daarling). The shoes and boots are both by my friend Beatrix Ong; she actually gave me the shoes as a gift for my first day at the student acupuncture clinic. The grey jumper is by the Swedish menswear label Our Legacy. I love to shop at Vivienne Westwood and vintage/charity shops. I also love a Selfridges sale.
- Your career as a highly qualified acupuncturist arose from your experiences of being the recipient of these treatments when you were a model. How did they help with the stresses and strains of your job?
Acupuncture helped me enormously as a model. When you travel as much as models do, your 24hr body clock, or circadian rhythm, goes awry. Acupuncture helped bring me into the time zone of whichever city I was in. It was also a chance for me to give my body a hug and do something that helped rather than hindered its homeostatic state.
- This was a big pivot in your career – were you ever scared of making such a big change?
It never occurred to me that this move was anything but the right one. I still model and I am still totally in love with playing dress up for the day. What’s changed is that I have a balance to my life that was missing.
- What would you advise other women who are keen to make a career change?
Do it!! It will be hard, but if you have been harbouring a desire to study something different, make the time to do it because the satisfaction you get in return is unquantifiable – it’s huge. I can’t recommend it enough.
- Do you feel like your height has been a positive influence in your life?
If I had never been graced with height, my journey thus far might have taken a very different path. I count my lucky stars for the body I have.
- Tell us the one item you are most looking forward to wearing in Autumn/Winter 2016.
My black McQueen knitted mini dress dressed up with black ankle boots (but I’ll be carrying my black Nike max’s in my handbag for the dance floor!)
P.S. Visit Olivia’s website www.livinge.co.uk for a beginner-friendly introduction to acupuncture and the treatments she offers. Han is already booked in for a full consultation to rejuvenate her yin post-Ibiza.
P.P.S. Top HøFTip: Never miss an opportunity to learn from a superior talent 🙂