Today I would like to introduce you to my role model and an inspirational woman who taught me all about fittings and strength in the modeling business, who helped me to build my career at Ralph Lauren, my dear friend Karen Sakas.
Here is her story.
Karen came to NYC in 1975 to follow her dream: becoming a model. She knew that there were plenty of fish in the sea and that she wasn’t the only one trying to make it in the fashion industry. At first year Karen got signed with three different small agencies, working as much as she could to get noticed.
Finally, after two years, she got a casting with “Mannequin”, one of the most important agencies of the time, owned by a former model named Gillis, that represented most of the successful runway models back then.
– I knew I wasn’t the tallest or the prettiest. However, what made me stand out was the fact that I was VERY DETERMINED! I knew I needed an extra half and inch of height to pass the casting and get Mannequin to represent me. – Karen says.
-That’s why I come up with idea to glue two heels savers to my feet and put on socks. I thought no one would notice-
When she got to the casting she was asked to take the socks off in order to be measured so she did and her little trick was revealed.
However, the agency was impressed by Karen skills and her willpower to do whatever it took to get the job.
They gave her a casting as a task to fulfill in order to work with them. It was a challenge she accepted. Her castings went well and she got a job follow by contract with the agency.
That was the turning point for her modeling career, she begun doing many shows, got a good business running and that is the reason why she got the chance to switch to Ford, another even more famous agency, where she remained for a long time.Karen was also very honest with me while talking about the more personal side of the model life and about the sacrifices that come along with it.
She is a single mom of two, now she even has a grandchild, she is happy and grateful for what she has accomplished, yet I feel the need to highlight that life did not spoil her.
She admitted it was hard seeing her mother raising her children while she was working also on the weekends in order to pay NYC bills and lifestyle.
However, she did not complain and she took every single job she could, from bridal to car shows, to earn something more.
She did runway shows and print until she entered her forties and only then turned to fittings, where she worked for another twenty years.
Karen started to work as a fitting model for Ralph Lauren in November 1993 and it is amazing to me that more than a decade later I had the chance to meet her while she was still there working at the age of sixty-three.
Karen was very opened about her experience, she turned to fittings and print because when she turned forty she gained some weight, which made it impossible for her to walk the runway.
-I started doing fittings and people really wanted me, all over the place and one of the places was this big company called Fenright and Manson and they had a young British designer by the name of Kathy Jones. She was just wonderful and I really liked working with her. However, she quit her work at Fenrught and Manson for bigger job at Ralph Lauren. One day she called me up to meet the people at Ralph because they were looking for a new fit model. -Karen remembers.
– When I got there, there were fifty other girls waiting in the lobby, it looked like a casting for a show, because everybody wanted to work there. Kathy brought me in, where her team was looking at fifty girls at that time. In two weeks the narrowed it down to ten girls and then, after some weeks, they brought back a couple of us. It took me three months to get the job and they finally picked me, even if I wasn’t the type. In November 1992 at age 39 I started working at Ralph Lauren.
Obviously I had to ask Karen about her experience at Ralph Lauren and here is what she shared with me:
-In the begging I got to work with Ralph, because at the end when the fitting was over, he wanted to see how the final garment looked like on me. He would pick three or four things and he would ask me to try them on and it was great. I remember one story, he wanted to see this one pair of particular pants and he asked me how would I fit them. When I told me how I would like them to fit, he decided that was the way they were going to fit. I still have those pants,- said Karen and smile.
Karen likes to refer to her fitting model job as to “the undertaker.” She is the one that has the task to make the clothes look good off the runway, after the lights go down, on common woman in the real world and not only the models.
She is the one to feel the clothes and considering one of the most professional fit model in this business.
Karen is a veteran in the fashion industry, she has experienced the evolution of the model on herself, first chasing castings, doing shows, prints and then fittings, then having a chance to watch the industry evolve.
When I asked her for her opinion about Model business now, she was very direct, she said it seemed to her that nowadays models become old at twenty-five, because there are more and more teens walking the runways.
Her advice to want-to-be-models is to invest in education or some other hobby of theirs, because the career of a model doesn’t mean eternal glory.
Karen is a positive and optimist person who currently working as a fitting model at age 64, whose advice and story, I hope, will help you to stay focused on your goals and remember that we can achieve everything we want with a strong will.