Thursday, April 10, 2008

L Is For Levi's

The Day Denim Graced The Catwalk

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Credit must be given where credit is due, and 'tis the beautiful Mrs Authorblog who was a model during her university years, before becoming a flight attendant with an international airline. But I can now reveal my own modelling story - with a slight twist.

I was 21 years old when I got a call at my desk, in the Calcutta newspaper publishing group that employed me. The caller was a person I had met a couple of times and he wanted to know if I had any spare time. At the time I was fairly active in theatre and so I hesitated slightly. I was working full-time, often working late into the night and sometimes on weekends as well.

In addition, I also played several sports. I did not have any spare time. None at all. But before I could say that, the caller continued and so I quickly bit my tongue.

"We know you've done some modelling and we'd like to know if you're interested in some more work with a leading client."

At this point in time, a monetary contract was mentioned. It was a decent sum.

Funny how you can go in a split second from having no spare time at all to plenty of spare time.. I agreed - but I was told I had to attend an audition first, followed by a stringent selection process.

"What sort of campaign is it?" I asked.

"It's not a print media campaign. It's a fashion show. Catwalk modelling."


And so it started. The first evening was a meet-and-greet, getting to know the organisers and meeting the other models. I was given the nod. I was now a catwalk model.

Well, not quite. I had to learn how to walk. Y'know, the catwalk walk. It wasn't easy. At first I was told that I looked like a soldier marching on a parade ground. "Loosen up," I was told. So I did. But then I was too casual. "Smarten up," I was told. This modelling gig was a lot harder than I thought. Funny how the simple act of walking - something we do every day of our lives - suddenly takes on an aura of complication when you move from everyday life to a modelling rehearsal.

Somehow, they got me to walk like a model. They deserved a whole consignment of Olympic medals for schooling me so quickly.

Then things got tougher. They told us who the client was and informed the male models that we would be wearing suits. No casual clothes. No sports gear. Expensive suits. Tailored in such a manner that they would mould themselves to our bodies. With that information came a corollary. Because the client was such a large corporation, their executives wanted to inspect the models.

That afternoon it was carnage on the catwalk. Several times the execs said they did not like the look of models. Just before I walked on, one of the choreographers pulled me aside and said, in no uncertain terms, that I had to surpass everything I had done so far. They were already reeling from the thought of having to replace so many models. So I walked like never before. And I got the thumbs-up.

At this point, we were measured for our clothes. A few days later, the amazing fabrics were delivered and the promise was accurate - we had never worn clothes with so much class.

Then things went pear-shaped for me. About a week before the first big show, I had to fly to the southern Indian city of Bangalore to cover a five-day cricket Test match. I was going to be away for a week.

The show's organisers held a council of war and came up with a terrific compromise. If I could fly out of Bangalore immediately after the Test match ended, I would be back in Calcutta with about an hour to spare. I would then join the rest of the models, the choreographers and all the organisers and we would travel overnight to Siliguri, in the foothills of the Himalayas, for the first live show the next night.

But even the best-laid plans of mice and men can sometimes go astray.

On the appointed night in Bangalore, I had checked in for my Airbus A300 flight and I was in the airport restaurant, having dinner, when the announcement came over the PA system. Indian Airlines had cancelled my flight. All passengers with confirmed seats would be put on the next evening's flight.

There was no option. No alternative. This was in the days of a sole domestic airline. A Government-owned monopoly domestic airline. I was stranded. And because it was way past office closing time, I had no way of contacting the organisers of the fashion show.

Mobile phone? Nup. This was before mobile phones were commonplace.


So I gritted my teeth, waited twenty-four hours and caught the flight to Calcutta on Thursday night. Early on Friday morning, I rocked up at the Indian Airlines office and booked a flight to Bagdogra. This was familiar territory for me, because in my boarding school years, the school had flown us to Bagdogra each year before we made the three-hour journey up to our school in the stunningly beautiful Himalayan town of Darjeeling. I knew this part of the country like the back of my hand.

From Bagdogra, I caught a cab to Siliguri, and found the hotel where the rest of the crew were staying. They were delighted to see me, but there was one piece of bad news.

When I hadn't turned up as arranged, they thought I had chickened out or that I had been taken ill. So no one had brought my splendid suits to Siliguri. There I was, having flown halfway across the country - and I had no clothes to wear.

Kind of.

Someone found my shirts in a wardrobe. I was wearing a pair of Levi's. So on the night of the show, I made a couple of quick changes, wearing my jeans and sporting a change of shirt each time.

It was the only time denim took its place among the ritzy suits and gowns. And I walked better than ever before. Real casual, like.

For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.


(The photographs accompanying this post were taken with a new macro lens, the SMC Pentax-DA 1:2.8mm Macro Limited. Note the clarity and the great depth of field - and watch this blog for more shots with this lens.)

53 comments:

Maggie May said...

This was a really interesting post. You have travelled the world by the sound of it. What an experience!
Mrs Authorblog looks good in the Levi's

Anne-Berit said...

Amazing story,and a great l-post:o)

Akelamalu said...

That was a fabulous post David, so interesting, thanks for sharing it.

DeeMom said...

Super idea and story, great shot and what a Sweet new lens

Shrinky said...

My goodness David, is there anything you HAVEN'T done yet? Fascinating tale, I enjoyed reading every line. Smile.

Jules~ said...

Those camera shots give me even more resolve to one day have a better investment.
I loved your story. You have had so many intersting things happen in your life. I think it is quite classy for a man to be in a dress shirt and demin jeans. So you are the one who started the trend!

Katney said...

That story is just hilarious. I can picture you in your Levis among all the ritzy dudes. Reminds me of some of my missed or delayed flights, too--and of flying on Air India.

Luke said...

David,

Good story. You really are a jack of all trades, aren't you?

Cowgirl said...

David, I love these "you" stories! You have led such an interesting life, and you are so embracing of it - it fairly leaps off the page and inspires me! I could just picture you amongst the lovely suits in your denim! Good for you!

Tammy said...

I was hoping we could see a picture of you modeling.

San said...

Love this story, David. Yours is indeed a checkered past and in the best of ways. Painter, journalist, author, photographer, husband, father, traveler, encourager extraordinaire, catwalk model. But were you ever a tv chef?

Mushy said...

Interesting story David, and the photos are wonderful. I once had a bellows attachment for my old SLR and I could do things like that, but not anymore. Great!

Bradley's Mom said...

Hi David:

I agree with the other commenters! You lead such an interesting life, and it is so generous of you to share your wonderful stories with all of us!

I enjoyed this very much! And I, too, was hoping for a picture of you modeling!!

Linda

Ida said...

Casual is best. ;)
I think everyone has/have had got a Levi`s. But, not everyone did wear it on the cat walk, though. ;)

Ida said...

The macro setting on your camera must be very good, by the way. :)

Kimberly said...

What an incredible experience that must have been!

Tiffany Norris said...

LOVE the pictures!

Diana said...

good story. lucky levi's

Powell River Books said...

The closeups were outstanding and the colors vibrant. The story behind the pictures was a fun read. I went with logs because they are a big part of our life. You can see it by clicking here.

John said...

Interesting story David, and the shots are great. Very good macro shots with small DOF.

VP said...

That was one L of a story David!

In response to your comments over at my place - no I haven't got the gig as an extra, yet. However, my friend Wendy's horse has - as the doctor's horse no less (so kind of the lead part as far as horses go!), so if Tess hits the screens in Oz (courtesy of the BBC), say hello to Charlie whenever you see the doctor on him ;)

dot said...

Enjoyed the story! Probably wasn't so funny back then but I think it must be when you look back.

Corey~living and loving said...

I noticed these shots right away, and LOVE THEM. well done. great macro shots. are you loving the new lens????

sorry I have been MIA, I am desparately trying to get caught up. sigh....

Colleen said...

Oh man! What I wouldn't give to have been able to see you walk the runway! Who knew our Author was a model too!!!That's a great story David. Thanks for sharing. ANd the photos are interestingly close!

CrazyCath said...

Well, well, well! You really are a man of many talents aren't you?

There's an award for you at my place engineered all by my little self! ;0)

nitebyrd said...

Levi's are always in good taste. LOL Great story, David.

the amoeba said...

So you're telling us that, when you most needed it, the staff of Indian Airlines refused to practice levi-tation?

I tell people that I became a marine biologist so that I could see the world without having to join the Navy. I see there are other ways ...

Sandi McBride said...

My God David...you've done everything...almost...I'm sure there is at least one more frolic you have up your sleeve. Can't wait for you to share it!
Sandi

Momma said...

This is why I keep coming back to read your blog every day, David. You know about getting the meat of the story on the page. (see my post from this evening, and you'll know what I mean)

I absolutely love this one!

Peace - D

ellen b said...

Such an interesting life you've lived. Oh the miles that my household has logged in Levi's!! Fun L post...

Kathy b said...

That new lens makes for some beautiful Levi's shots. I enjoyed the story as well.

Kathy b

quilly said...

This adventure left me panting to hear more.

Jamie Dawn said...

What a terrific story! So, both you and your wife have been models. That's quite something!
My daughter and I watch the show on TV called America's Next Top Model. They do a lot of catwalks and some of the girls walk like lumbering truck drivers. I would NOT do well on the catwalk since my walk is not very graceful or confident.
Aren't Levi's just the best??!! My hubby loves to wear them, and he looks good in them too!
As for my acting... I have never been into acting, but Lambchop really was on TV here in the U.S.
Lambchop was a puppet that a lady named Shari Lewis performed with as a ventriloquist on a children's show. We now have a few Lambchop puppets, and my kids are Lammy fans, even though Shari Lewis died and the show has not been on for many years.

Neva said...

YOu are such a marvelous story teller...really....I love your writing and I can hardly believe the life you have led ...what experiences you have had. A very great "L" post....and the new lens....awesome...

leslie said...

Fascinating story to go along with your L is for Levis. I was with you all the way! Great job. :D In case you haven't noticed, I also try to put a story to my ABC content rather than just post a picture. Makes it much more interesting, I think, to others.

alicesg said...

I bet both of you have great modelling experience. The Levi's photos are good looking.

Vic, the Cariboo Ponderer said...

Interesting story I bet you looked good. Actually it reminded me that I did a little modeling many moons ago for TV ads.

Thanks for popping over and leaving a comment on my post

Petunia said...

Levi,s is like Lego well known all over the wourld!
I'm 43 years old and can remember my first Levi's. I was 12 and I had to beg my mother for weeks to get it.
You have a great post this week. Interesting story and great photos!
Make me smile an remember old stories:) Thanks!

Petunia's ABC

ChristineEldin said...

I love this story! So many twists and turns, and a perfect pick-me-up for the morning.

quilly said...

Author, photographer, model .... us ordinary folk don't stand a chance when all the talent piles up in one place.

mrsnesbitt said...

David, this was an amazing story.....what an absolute corker....as ever.
Just started \chapter 1!

Pernille's ting og tang said...

How could I forget Levi's?
You have very nice photos and an amazing story. You did a wonderful job:)

Mima said...

What an amazing story - and they let you go on in jeans when everyone else was in suits - you must have been devastated though when you realised having got there that they hadn't brought the suits!

The macro shots are great, right up my street (my macro lens is my absolute darling), can't wait to see what else you get up to with the new lens.

RuneE said...

I never wear Levis, but that is my problem. I can understand that Mrs. Authorblog does - she wears them very well!

Pity about your modelling career, but you seemed to managed OK otherwise!

Old Wom Tigley said...

Great story David and Great Lens... the colours are fantastic..
Sky Watch tomorrow David... if you can make it I'll be posting it again Thursday around 22.00 GMT.. it gives me the chance to say hello to a few before bed time and if I can't sleep even better I get up comment and thank a few more and retire again.

lime said...

you certainly have done a number of different jobs in your life! what a fun story. :)

Kathryn said...

Wow! How exciting! I love that story. Thank you for sharing! :0

Anonymous said...

Wow, you really came out of your shell post Anne Frank days, David. And you're still evolving in so many diverse ways. Congratulations.

BTW Levi's needs a web page for India at http://www.us.levi.com/global/landing.jsp.

Perhaps you could send them this post and help them out ;-]

Rene.

jennifer h said...

Yeah, David, we're going to need some video of that model walk.

That was a great story. Loved it.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Now we need a Levi's "Made for Each Other" hoarding with Mr. & Mrs. Authorblog, to replace the WILL's one with Monohar Dey.

Rene

Anna said...

No one makes jeans look better than you do, David! I enjoyed your photos and your story.

Kim said...

Your photos are amazing. I need a macro lens :)

Seamus said...

Waht a diverse life David!
My Canon 100mm 2.8 macro is one of my favorite lenses.