“You can slick my hair back and throw a suit on me, or you can put me in a dress and heels and I can do it,” says Seth Atwell. “I really can work both ways.”
With just under a year of experience, Atwell has been booking modelling assignments in Canada and the United States. The androgynous model finds himself landing menswear and womenswear jobs, and taking on both roles with precision and confidence.
A few weeks ago, he headed to New York, and after only two days of castings, booked his first New York Fashion Week shows. This season he walked for Vivienne Hu and Leanne Marshall, so keep an eye out for him. Atwell has also been shooting creative content with some notable photographers.
In February 2014, Atwell sent his portfolio to Peggi Lepage on a whim, and she signed him almost immediately — even though she wasn’t initially sure what direction his career would take. She asked him to come to Toronto for fashion week, so Atwell put his life in Kentville, Nova Scotia, on pause. He packed his bags, parted with his family and friends, and left a full-time job at a Wendy’s restaurant to pursue his dream career as a model in Toronto where he has been living ever since.
This transition was filled with a mix of excitement and apprehension, but within two days of arriving in the city, Atwell was placed with the Plutino Group. He also secured a spot walking in two shows at Toronto’s World MasterdCard Fashion Week in his first season.
Standing at six feet one inch, with strong cheekbones and a jaw line many would kill for, it’s not surprising that, growing up, Atwell was constantly told he looked like a model. However, he also lived in a town with no opportunities to pursue a career in modelling.
“I was watching America’s Next Top Model all the time; I learned everything from that show,” he says. “I always had a passion for [modelling], but I didn’t think it would ever happen.” Atwell still remembers his constant daydreams of walking the runway.
Blurring the lines between masculine and feminine
Although Atwell loves modelling both men’s and women’s clothing, he prefers the latter. “It’s more of a special opportunity. I feel like I can get into character and just have fun,” he says. It also gives him the chance to pursue more jobs, especially since androgyny is widely accepted in the industry.
But both roles present their own challenges: womenswear shows can sometimes be difficult to book as Atwell’s shoe size is a women’s 14, and most sponsors don’t have that available. He jokes that having a large shoe collection helps him get around this factor. When casting for male work, he says that landing a gig completely depends on the kind of model the client is looking for: “If they are looking for muscular, masculine men that’s definitely not me. I’m more of a European, skinny boy.”
Some highlights from his first year include landing the cover of Toronto’s Now magazine and booking the Mikhael Kale show, which was an all-women show. When he is off duty, Atwell enjoys blurring the lines between masculine and feminine as well. He often wears something tight on the bottom and something looser on top, like a pair of leather pants with a baggy T-shirt. He describes his style as varying from punk rock or grunge-inspired, to business chic.
Learning to love yourself
Growing up, Atwell recognized that he was different from others — he perceived himself as androgynous even at a young age. He found it difficult that many people didn’t understand androgyny or even didn’t know what the term meant.
“You question yourself [whether] you want to be a boy or a girl,” he says. “In the modelling industry, you can just be yourself and dress whatever way you want to. You don’t really have to have a label.”
As someone who is taller than almost everyone he passed by and who was singled out about his height growing up, he once felt self-conscious. Now, he realizes that it is actually what makes him unique.
His advice to anyone looking to break into the industry is to keep pushing and to not give up, no matter how hard it is or how many times you are told “no.” “You just have to connect with the right person,” he says.
Atwell would love to continue modelling, especially menswear, for the next 10 years of his career. He also finds himself drawn to the idea of becoming a model scout or an agent someday, and says he is fascinated with asking people he encounters if they’ve ever modelled before. He would also love to travel and sees himself moving to another fashion capital, such as New York, Paris or London at some point.
In the meantime, he enjoys exploring Toronto’s food scene with friends, finding unique shops around the city, walking around Chinatown and getting bubble tea — something he wasn’t able to get in his hometown.
Credits: Designer menswear clothing: Christopher Bates; Dress: Michael Kors.