By Natalia Zurowski
Polish male model Paweł Bednarek (Model Plus), is considered a favourite amongst agencies, clients, as well as his peers. With perfectly carved cheekbones, a fun-loving attitude, and an ability to pose that easily rivals Coco Rocha, it's no wonder he has done so well for himself (his clients include the likes of Topman, Dior, and Style Magazine). Bednarek talks to TBM about his early modelling years, working in Asia versus Europe, and his future plans.
The Business Model: When did you start modelling?
Pawel Bednarek: Its been 6 years now that I travel around like a gypsy but unfortunately, I don't have any touching story about it - I just sent a regular form from an agency website. I got started with Orange Models in Warsaw and got signed with other agencies in Europe within a week. I got my first direct booking that was shot in Brussels for the Topman lookbook right away as a new face - that was quite a career booster.
TBM: You've modelled both in Asia and Europe. What are the main differences you have noticed between the two?
PB: First of all, I live in Europe - or at least used to, as now I have moved into my Samsonite suitcase. Obviously the distance made a huge difference so of course going to another European city was more relaxed - knowing you can come back anytime and that your agency debt is not as high as travelling to Asia. Then again I must say the competition in Europe, especially in high season, is really tough. If you have a few jobs a month you might call yourself successful, even when it doesn't cover the agency expenses. The case with Asia is that if you go for a contract it's at least a month stay and working a few times is not gonna make you rich. Quite a surprising fact is that Asian clients often have higher budgets than the ones from Europe. Or maybe they just don't see their shoots as a favour for models, fighting over an editorial like hungry homeless dogs over a bone.
TBM: What's your favourite modelling market?
PB: Recently, since I see my work mostly as a source of income, I have to say it's China. I developed this confidence in myself that I don't really need all the glamour around and I am now able to work under hard circumstances just saying to myself, "Shut up and count the money".
TBM: You are arguably one of the top models in China. Despite many complains against the market from other models, you always go back. Why?
PB: After my first contract in Shenzhen, I told myself I would never go back. Now I would slap myself if I got the stupid idea again of not taking this opportunity. I found my way around there - I mean Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and other cities I've worked in. I learned how to remain happy and switch off the 'model dignity' when they pass me ugly clothes or do orange make up. I must say that recently, I have met many professional teams working on the shoots in China. I'm not sure if it's because I'm more known there and am working with better teams or because the development of the Chinese fashion market is growing and isn't really that bad any more.
I like the feeling as well that you get paid for your work. Chinese clients pay hourly for catalogue shoots and those are usually quite exhausting. However, and it might seem funny to some, but I feel I'm getting my well deserved reward once the shoot is over - which many times you can see when they pass you an envelope of cash you're supposed to bring to your agency. It's an instant reward for hard work right after you're done shooting 200 polos (unlike in Europe where you can wait months). It's a brilliant feeling!
TBM: What do you think is a common misconception about the Chinese market?
PB: I will never understand agencies who send models there on their first trip to "make a book." They end up with crappy testshoots and get no jobs because Chinese clients like professionalism and have no patience to explain to models how to pose. On top of that, they want to see a built portfolio because as opposed to using their imagination, they prefer to see a picture in your book that suits their project that they can then replicate.
From the side of clients. I think it's sometimes very silly to shoot numerous amounts of outfits and to shoot them all unless it's a job for Taobao (Top Chinese e-commerce website) or any other online store where they need each single piece photographed. The jobs are paid by the hour but are still done in a rush that often lowers the quality of the final product. They seem to not notice it and leave everything as it is many times. On the other hand, I'm happy most of the clients haven't discovered that because in that case all of those golden 14 hour jobs would shrink to 6 and leave some of us quite unsatisfied.
TBM: Apart from modelling, you're also an excellent cook. This last year, you were featured on Master Chef Poland. What was that experience like?
PB: Oh it was somewhat refreshing. Even though it was not my initiative, I must say it helped me believe anew that I am not just a professional clothes hanger, but I can do something else. The experience brought some light to my future plans as well. It's not easy when everyone around you, including family and friends, are constantly waiting until you're done with this "silly job" and do something proper. I'm not done yet, guys!