A Conversation With Paolo Roldan, Menswear Buyer Turned Model
A Conversation With Paolo Roldan, Menswear Buyer Turned Model
- Words Alex Catarinella
- Date February 6, 2017
A quick “first Filipino male supermodel” Google search will result in a sea of Paolo Roldan links. And appropriately so. It all kicked off in 2010 when, at 25-years-old, the Philippines-born, Toronto-raised (and still based) Roldan closed Givenchy’s Fall 2010 collection in Paris, making his exclusive debut. A Givenchy debut unsurprisingly resulted in collective head-turning from the fashion world, as did Vogue's 2010 Paris editorial, shot by the lauded Mert & Marcus, which found Roldan fearlessly posing in the flesh.
Ever since, Roldan’s been perpetually working, as seen in his exhaustingly impressive resume which reflects his supermodel status. See: walking the New York, Paris and Milan runways, as a consistent favorite for the likes of Givenchy, Armani and Todd Snyder. He’s also stormed the runway for Vivienne Westwood, Phillip Lim, Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Bastian and many more. Then there’s him nabbing many a campaign, from Givenchy to Perry Ellis, and appearing in the glossy pages of fashion magazines worldwide including Arena Homme+, Vogue Paris, and VMAN.
But what’s a good model without style? Roldan does the damn thing, so much so that Vogue specifically highlighted his killer personal style displayed via his Instagram. His fashion game is so on point that Roldan—who was once a menswear buyer— modeled and styled 3.1 Phillip Lim’s F/W 17 lookbook. Luckily for us Roldan's currently working on starting his own menswear line. We managed to catch up with the humble model in the midst of the chaos that is New York Fashion Week: Men's to pick his brain as one of our faces to know.
How did you get discovered?
I was discovered twice. Once in Toronto by Elmer Olsen while working in a menswear shop called TNT in Yorkville. The second time came a few years later while I was in New York working as a buyer for another menswear shop called Nomad. David Bosman of Boss Models approached me and asked if I wanted to try modeling out in New York.
How does being labeled the first Filipino supermodel make you feel? And even with this title, do you ever experience challenges being a POC in the fashion world with their pervasive lack of diversity?
I'm honored, of course, when people say this. It's always awesome to represent for my countrymen. Although I think the beautiful Gloria Diaz did it first for women. She was Miss Universe in 1969 and also did some modeling in her day. There are challenges in everything people do. It's just the way you deal with those challenges. I just try to focus on doing a great job on whatever comes my way. I'm grateful for the people in the industry and the fans that have always believed in me and supported me. I always concentrate on the positive side of things and leave the negative behind.
How did you learn to walk the runway?
My agents and casting directors have helped me along the way. The best advice I got was when someone told me to just imagine myself walking on the street with the best clothes on and feeling like a million bucks, but to carry the swagger with class.
Would you say your work with Givenchy is what put you on the mainstream fashion map? How’s your relationship with the house and Riccardo Tisci these days?
Givenchy will always be family to me. They got my career started and Riccardo has always been a great friend and inspiration. Givenchy definitely helped in building my career both as a model and beyond.
What would you say is your career highlight so far?
All are lots of highlights because every single experience has taught me something and were all equally contributing something positive in my life.
What would you say are the worst aspects of being a model?
Nada, there's really nothing to complain about. I guess it would be that if you let being a model get to your head and started becoming some sort of diva. That would be the worst.
Let’s talk about your style. Have you always been stylish and into fashion?
I've always been interested in fashion. I've loved the art of being able to express how I want to feel through dressing since I was a kid. I used to put outfits together in my sketches—wish I still had these drawings, would be cool see now. My parents also loved it, so I think they rubbed off on me. Fashion has just always been a part of my life and I have learned to embrace it.
And who are some of your favorite designers?
Yohji, Dries, Phillip Lim, Hedi, Alber Elbaz, just to name a few.
You still call Toronto your home. What are your favorite shops over there?
I shop for vintage a lot, so when I'm in Toronto I'm either going around Kensington in the Junction or Klaxon Howl in the West End.
And you’re also in New York a lot.
In New York, I always make it a point to visit my friend Melissa at Stock Vintage. She inspires me and she knows what I like. She give me a heads up whenever she gets some gems. I also go to Front General Store and Melet Mercantile. As far as corporate establishments go, I usually just go to Barneys and DSM for my designer needs.
Do you have any interest in starting your own line?
That is the goal. I'm trying to work toward this so I can showcase my interpretation of fashion.
Speaking of goals, do you have any for 2017 outside of fashion?
I'm trying to quit smoking, stay fit and give more love to everyone. And I wanna do as much as I can for myself so I can accomplish the ultimate goal, which is to tend to the needs of my family and people in need.
What’s your favorite look in your closet?
I can't really narrow it down because I love all the pieces that I've acquired over the years. I'm really into coats and boots though. I'm really diggin' these deadstock Alden's I bought from Japan.
If you could raid anyone's closet, whose would it be and what would you take?
Haha, well, Phillip Lim has quite the arsenal. His taste is impeccable and he covers all the bases.
Other forthcoming projects?
I just styled and modeled for Phillip Lim's F/W 17 lookbook. I'm currently working on a collaboration with a company called Bench in the Philippines. I'm designing a small collection of men's undergarments to be released for Fall 2017. I'm really excited because they’re giving me free reign as far as the direction goes, and I'm just grateful for the opportunity.
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