TOM GASKIN & LEIGH KIMMINS
A MODEL HOUSEHOLD
Meet Tom Gaskin and Leigh Kimmins, two models who have walked for the likes of Gucci, Hermes and Alexander McQueen. Having both taken a step back from modelling, now they live together in London’s trendy Hackney Wick where they set the world to right and brew endless pots of coffee.
Interview by Saroj Spickett
“We had peanuts and drank beer.”
How did you guys meet?
Tom: I met Leigh during Fashion Week in Paris. We were with the same agency, Marilyn, in Paris. Whilst we were at a show, we went to get some snacks and…
Leigh: Yeh it’s weird because there were so many people that day and to be honest, when you’re that tired and hungry and finished with the day, you don’t want to talk to anyone. I remember Tom was in the room and I remember thinking, “God, I can’t be bothered,” but he seemed really nice. And he came over and introduced myself and I thought, “He’s a sound lad.” We ended up going for a beer and I thought he was quite impressive. Some models only do it out of vanity, but he did it for the sheer enjoyment. We had peanuts and drank beer.
T: Oh yeh, we did!
L: You have so many young models walking around with their shoulders on the floor because they have that much swagger.
How did you both end up in modelling?
L: I was scouted by Premier Models when I was eighteen at a festival in Spain. I had never been asked before, and it was so unreal that I never even considered it. They asked me to come to London, but I didn’t bother. I was still quite boyish and a bit embarrassed at the time. But when I was 21, I had a girlfriend from London so when I came to visit her, and she worked, I’d be very bored and once I went to the Tate. I stopped by a guy who was trying to preach about Buddhism but if I hadn’t stopped for him, I wouldn’t have stopped for the next person, Jonathan Quentin. He scouted for Wilhelmina, who I am now with. They signed me on the spot, even though I had a pack of five Snickers bars, which they found very funny but told me never to do it again. Next season, I walked for Gucci exclusively. I have full trust in them now.
T: I moved to London to go to Circus school which is in Hoxton. I was just on Hoxton Square during my first year and I went to a coffee shop for my lunch-break. Someone followed me in, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Are you a model?”. They gave me a business card and I assumed it was a scam or something. It was Emma from D1 models and the week after that I had a casting with McQueen and was working with them for a whole year after that. I ended up walking for them in Paris, London and Milan.
“I don’t think we ever saw each other as competition”
What’s it like living with another model? Can it get competitive?
L: No, because we were friends before we were models. Well, we met whilst modelling, but I like when Tom does well. We actively celebrate when you get a job. But we have spoken in the past about the effect of Instagram and knowing other models who do well, especially for me since I don’t model much for my career. I can see models who do well and are doing the most amazing shoots. Sometimes I miss the creativity, the teams and the travelling so it can be hard to see how well other models are doing, but when Tom does well, I’m really happy for him because he’s my mate.
T: I don’t think we ever saw each other as competition.
L: I don’t even see you as a model! When we go out with our modelling mates, I think to myself, “How is it looking at us from the outside?” When you have three six-foot-something boys with exaggerated features who are quite confident you have people asking you what you do and it becomes a bit of a thing. Actually, I find it quite embarrassing because people actively want to talk to you when they find out you’re a model when they might not have done before. It makes me feel uncomfortable sometimes.
T: People always ask leading questions like, “What do you do?” and you tell them you’re a model and they say, “Yeh, I thought you were.” There are people you work with as models, who you see as models, but when they’re your friend, they’re not a model. They’re a mate like any of your other mates.
L: And I’ve never had a shoot with Tom until today and usually it’s him with a bag on his back, saying, “See you on Thursday, mate,” and when he comes back, we just dine and recline. We don’t model together so it’s like having any other mate. I don’t see him as a model, but I think other people see us as solely models which is annoying.
T: For both of us we had something else going on anyway, so modelling was never our defining feature, whereas for younger guys maybe…
L: Yeh, they haven’t really had a career yet.
T: Exactly, they are a model.
L: There are guys who have just come out of school and I’ve had to convince them not to quit education. Because it’s going well for them in their first season, they say they want to quit and I’m like “Mate, that’s a tremendously bad idea!” I was 21 when I started so had a bit of sense.
“Everything about the Gucci shows is memorable”
Which was your favourite show to walk for?
T: It’s kind of hard to say. Because you do so much, it’s crammed into one week. Sometimes, there are so many different things that can make a show your favourite one. I always remember the Gucci one. We did one show together at Gucci, actually, but we didn’t know each other then. They were just quite memorable.
L:Everything about the Gucci shows is memorable.There are no expenses spared, it’s pure class.
T: And it’s a really long walk as well, one with a bright red carpet and one with a bright green carpet.
L: With a snake embroidered into it!
T: When I was at McQueen, I was doing looks for them for ages, so I saw the whole collection progress. I felt like I was really part of it, so maybe for a different reason, that was a stand-out show as well.
L: That’s what I take from it as well; it’s your involvement in it. Obviously, Gucci is visually amazing, but the fact that I want to two or three castings and sittings made me feel involved. I met Alessandro Michele I’m still friends with the casting directors, so there is a family feel about Gucci. The fact that it was the first ever fashion show in Westminster Abbey and it was my first show, walking through the cloisters that the public don’t get to see, was beautiful.
Do you have any funny stories from backstage?
L: Nobody warns you that everyone’s naked all the time!
T: Yeh it does make you feel awkward sometimes. You get used to it, but when you don’t know the person, you feel a bit weird. It’s almost like you can’t look anywhere!
L: Yeh you have to reassure yourself that you’re not a creep! I did a Louis Vuitton show once and had to get a taxi really quickly to my next show which was Kolor, a Japanese brand. I arrived with my hair cut, even though they had a look planned for me for ages. Louis Vuitton had cut an inch off my hair just hours before and I arrived at Kolor looking like a different person. Thankfully, they didn’t say anything about it. Nothing very funny happens backstage. It’s all business-like and serious.
What do you both do now?
L: I did journalism at uni and modelling came at the end of that. I modelled for 2 years and now I am a journalist at The Mail Online in West London.
T: I’m still working as a model, but I grew up in a Circus family. Last year I had my first one man show which I got Arts Council funding for, so I’m still creating work as a circus artist and doing odd jobs. Hopefully, I’m going to tour my show next year!
Tom, you appear in the new film Dumbo. Could you tell us a bit about the part you played in the movie?
T: Well, a friend of mine used to work at Roundhouse as one of the head programmers and they have all these circus connections. A production company got in touch, looking for circus acts who could act as well. So, I went to a week-long casting where we put together a show and at the end of the week, we performed it to Tim Burton and I got a part in the film. I spent six or seven months filming that last year and it comes out on March.
L: You got onto the main poster didn’t you!
T: Yeh I am on the poster which is cool. I don’t know how much I’m going to be in it; you never know how it’s going to be edited until it’s finished.
L: And you had a little cameo with Colin Farrell, didn’t you?
T: Yeh! We’re part of the circus that Dumbo is born into so hopefully you’ll see us a bit.
Leigh, why did you leave modelling behind?
L: I guess I went out winning. I’ve seen some sad models. It isn’t great for your mental health to be honest, not that I struggled, but I could see that the lack of structure in my life made me quite unsettled. And I didn’t feel like I was using my brain because you do get ferried around, but on the flipside, you do get to navigate an unknown city which is amazing. At the end of the day, I wasn’t making as much money as I could have done in journalism and I love writing and I do love getting my writing read. The Mail Online has given me an opportunity to write and be read.
What do you think are each other’s best attributes as a model?
L: I think he has a unique face; he has very exaggerated features but in a beautiful way, not in a freakish way. I feel like he really suits his personality too, which is really nice and at the same time as being gangly, he’s very handsome. I love his side profile, I think it’s special because nobody really has it and your ultimate selling point as a model is to have a defining feature that no-one else has.
T: Oh you’re very kind!
L: This should be interesting, actually. Tom doesn’t tend to say any nice things about me!
T: I’ve never really analysed him as a model, but he’s a lovely guy. Obviously, you meet so many different people working in fashion, but we immediately got on well. Partly, he is the Irish guy you want him to be, but then he is this really interesting, charismatic, friendly dude who everyone likes. Everyone you speak to is like, “Oh yeh, I know Leigh!” If I was to talk about his aesthetics, his hair kind of suits his voice, character and demeaner.
L: It’s weird to hear someone analyse you, especially someone you’re close to. You know you like each other but you don’t know exactly what they see, so that’s nice to hear!
“Leigh has some big coats. He’s a man of jackets”
Is there anything you really envy from the other’s wardrobe?
L: Well Tom has great clothes. I actually like what he’s wearing right now – a little Patagonia sweater- it’s just so cute. Tom has a series of short-sleeved silk shirts and they really suit him. We have the same tall, thin frame so I would look fit in Tom’s clothes!
T:Leigh has some big coats. He’s a man of jackets.
L: Yeh, I can’t buy anything else!
How would you describe your style?
T: I guess mine is influenced from a theatrical background. It is a way of showing off if you’re a performer.
L: You’re admitting to being a show off?
T: Yeh, I suppose if you’re in a circus act it’s in the job description. Obviously, a lot of hard work goes into being a circus artist so you’re showing off something that has taken a long time for you to do. I really like silent comedy styles and that’s influenced what I’ve liked throughout my life. Sometimes I want to be seen and noticed but sometimes, being a tall guy, you feel quite conspicuous.
L: I feel the same. I struggle to nail down an influence because one minute I want to look like Alex Turner with his leather jackets and his turtle necks and the next minute, I’ll see someone in East London in baggy chords and think, “He’s cool,” then I’ll see Doc Martins and think, “I wanna be a punk.”So, I don’t know, it depends on my mood. I had a rock and roll style once and it was because I bought a denim jacket that I loved so much and my agent let me grow my hair. I had rock star hair and a rock star jacket to such a point that people would ask me what instrument I played. I looked fucking great!
Brands: Asos, All Saints, Kenzo, Top Man, Diesel, Boss, New Balance, Collusion, Weekday, Jack&Jones, Scotch&Soda, Bronx, Camo, Milk It, Reclaimed Vintage, Farnol and Sacred Hawk.