She wowed on the catwalk for the likes of Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood, but now it’s all about making us feel good about ourselves, says Olivia Inge
Words: Georgina Blaskey
One of the funniest, sunniest Londoners we’ve met, Olivia Inge has always stood out as a model with personality. Having first lived in Earl’s Court above the Troubadour pub, Inge now resides in Shepherd’s Bush with her fiancé. We caught up with her at local favourite, Liz’s Cafe on Goldhawk Road, to hear about her journey from model to acupuncturist…
How were you discovered?
When I was 16 we had a careers day at my school in Somerset. The usual local options were there – farmer, dentist, army – but also a Models One rep. She called me over and we had a chat. I had no idea what I wanted to do and we were all starting to visit universities to explore our options. I really only enjoyed French so I toyed with the idea of being a translator or spy! I’d say modelling saved me because it gave me the luxury of time. My parents advice was fair – they said modelling doesn’t last forever, so finish your A-levels as back up. I modelled in the holidays and I did my first Paris Fashion Week when I was at school. Well, it was good practice for my French!
Did you have any expectations about the model life?
I was excited and nervous as it’s such a grown-up world. In Paris I stayed with my uncle and aunt who were living there, and back in the UK, my sister or a friend would come on shoots with me at the weekends. Fashion Weeks vary. In Japan it was very organised with cars arriving at 5am to pick you up promptly. London was chaos – shows would run two hours late and we’d be back stage drinking champagne and smoking.
You first walked for Vivienne Westwood. How does a young girl prepare for the scrutiny of the catwalk?
I have always found the catwalk fun, I think it’s the showgirl in me! Until then I’d always been cast as a man in school plays or been made to stand at the back. Now I was finally with other tall, skinny girls and felt like I belonged. Mick Jagger was in the audience, it was awesome! My booker, Sandra, had given me a catwalk lesson in the broom cupboard and I’d watched Naomi Campbell so I thought, ‘I’m gonna be like Naomi’. In reality I was a wobbly Bambi in heels!
London was chaos – shows would run two hours late and we’d be back stage drinking champagne and smoking
What’s been your biggest catwalk disaster?
Tripping over in front of Anna Wintour. It was the finale of Jasper Conran’s show and I was in a full-length gown. He told me to do something spectacular. I’m not sure that was what he had in mind…
Which designers do you admire most?
I worked with Alexander McQueen, who was extraordinary. He was so eloquent and a creative genius. In 2003-4 I was his ‘fit’ girl, which meant all his designs were drafted on my body so I witnessed the creative process from start to finish. To see fabric crafted by him until it becomes something beautiful was amazing.
How would you describe your personal style?
My dad would call it Oxfam chic! But I’d like to think I’ve come a long way since my hippy days. Whilst I love a hoodie, I adore a chic and insane dress, and I love colour.
What’s your beauty regime?
My sister owns Cult Beauty (cultbeauty.co.uk) so I get loads from her. I love essential oils, Ling serum is divine, the MV Organics Rose Soothing & Protective Moisturise is wonderful. In winter I like to boost my skincare with pure oils such as jojoba.
You’re a qualified, practicing acupuncturist. What lead you down that path?
During the Japanese shows, the make-up artists would give you a facial acupressure massage before applying make-up. I learnt to do it and would give it to everyone – my friends, boyfriends, in the clubs – it was lovely to give something to people. I met industry stalwart and leading aromatherapist Michelle Roques O’Neil and she became my mentor and I her apprentice.
From unexplained headaches and fertility issues to chronic pain, asthma and depression, my treatments help boost the body’s own intelligent healing
Then I spent three years at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine studying under John Hicks, President of the British Acupuncture Council – it’s akin to studying with Dumbledore! I have a BSc Hons and I’m a member of the British Acupuncture Council and the Federation of Holistic Therapists. I love talking about it and helping people. My treatments are multi-faceted; they’re lead by acupuncture combined with massage. From unexplained headaches and fertility issues to chronic pain, asthma and depression, my treatments help boost the body’s own intelligent healing.
You’re now the face of Harper Scout beachwear. What does this new brand mean to you?
The founders, Corinne Holderness and Lucy Peacock, are hard grafters and I admire that. They’ve created a beautiful line of stunning kaftans in luxurious fabrics and eye-catching prints. All you need is a bikini and toothbrush and you’re ready to go. And they juggle everything with being incredible mothers.
What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Keep your head up and it’ll all work out. Stop worrying about the little things and don’t worry about making mistakes.
Olivia Inge treats on Mondays to Wednesdays at the Charterhouse Clinic, 98 Crawford Street W1, and Thursdays and Fridays at The Brackenbury Health Clinic, 30 Brackenbury Road W6. Visit livinge.co.uk for more, and also visit harperscout.com to see her modelling the SS17 collection