*This interview was conducted on Sept. 28, 2023*
Alana Hadid has worn many hats in the fashion industry. While you may recognize her as Gigi and Bella Hadid’s sister, she’s done everything from fashion PR to starting clothing lines, and most recently, modeling. After years of understanding the behind the scenes side of the industry, she’s having her moment in the spotlight.
At 40 years old, she made headlines when she walked in her first ever fashion show during Copenhagen Fashion Week. Soon after that, she appeared on a New York runway for the first time during this past New York Fashion Week.
The fashion industry is often romanticized in the eyes of the public, especially during fashion weeks. It looks glamorous when you see the final product walked down a runway, but it can be easy to forget that every level of the business demands rigorous work and real passion. Hadid has seen this for herself in nearly every corner of the industry.
I spoke to Hadid about her various experiences in the fashion industry, advice she has to offer about experimenting with career paths and some of the reasons why she loves New York.
When I asked her about her start in the fashion world, she went all the way back to the beginning, noting that her first foray into fashion was as a personal shopper. Even before the brands that she has been affiliated with more recently (La Detresse and Hadid Eyewear), she had a t-shirt line called Better Bacon. “All the artwork was done by kids and young adults with disabilities,” she said. “It wasn’t a charity. All the artists that we worked with were paid, just like you would pay any other artist who was working on a collaboration for a t-shirt. We were in stores and countries. It was such a beautiful experience.”
Hadid also has her fair share of experience in fashion PR. “I think I’ve done almost everything that you could possibly do in fashion besides actually sewing the garments,” she joked. When I asked her the story behind how she got into modeling, she said that “it was maybe slightly unorthodox.”
She walked for both Saks Potts and Munthe in Copenhagen, with Saks Potts being her runway debut. While she loved the runway experience, she’s just “riding the wave of doing it.” She doesn’t know if she will pursue modeling as a career or if it will just be a moment, but she’s making the most of it either way. “I probably don’t have the best walk of everyone that’s out there, but I’m enjoying myself. And I think that’s what’s important,” she said.
“I acknowledge the privilege that I have, that people do know who I am and that they’ve heard of me [because of] Instagram, my last name and all sorts of things, but I definitely wasn’t expecting it.” she said. “I thought it was just such an amazing thing that the one time that I went [to Copenhagen Fashion Week], right after my 40th birthday, two brands asked me to walk completely out of nowhere. So I said yes. And I really enjoyed it.”
Though Hadid has experience in a number of different aspects of fashion, she noted that nothing can prepare you for what it’s like to walk a runway. “I think I felt very comfortable and safe behind the scenes because I’d been there in many different regards. I’d been there as a stylist, I had been there as a designer. I had been there when I worked in fashion PR,” she said. “I don’t think anything can really prepare you for what it feels like to walk a runway with all those people and press and all those things. I think even hearing it from my sisters and friends of mine who are models, nothing really can prepare you for what that feels like. It’s such a rush. It’s completely different from anything else.”
Just as designing clothes is an art form and a statement, walking a runway is its own kind of art. “I think for sure it’s a performance,” Hadid noted. “And you’re definitely a different character every time. I think what’s great about it is being involved with the designers and having them ask for what they really want on the runway.” She explained that each show she has walked for so far has provided a different kind of instruction about how to walk and act on the runway.
Hadid compared one of her previous jobs as a bouncer at a club as something that required a similar kind of performance as modeling. “I always felt like I was getting into character when I did that, as kind of the ‘door bitch,’ for lack of a better term,” she said. “For [walking down a runway], each time that I’ve done it, I got to also portray a character. So yeah, it is kind of an acting job.”
Hadid has been going to fashion shows and attending different fashion weeks throughout her career, but New York Fashion Week (NYFW) always manages to distinguish itself. “New York Fashion Week was the first major fashion week that I ever went to. I think New York has an amazing energy,” she said. “You know that the people who get to show at New York Fashion Week are major players in the fashion game, and the people that are sitting around you are always very interesting.”
As someone who lives in L.A., she finds the New York speed exciting. “I like that buzz and that energy,” she said. “The New York Fashion Week energy is like nothing else that I experience the rest of the year.”
When I asked Hadid about her favorite places to go when she’s in New York, she took her time to answer. After joking that “mostly when I’m [in New York], I’m hanging out on my sister’s couch. I can’t suggest that ’cause no one’s allowed there,” she settled on Lovers of Today, a bar on Seventh Street in the East Village.
“My best friend Tara, who lived in LA and then moved to New York, that was kind of our place. We’d always meet there whenever I came to visit. I just love it,” she said. “You’ll always see fun, cool people there. Strangers will speak to you. Yeah, if you want to find me in New York, you’d probably find me there.”
During this year’s NYFW, Hadid walked for Elena Velez, a New York-based designer whose work has been described by Vogue as “explosive and aggressive.” For the Spring 2024 collection, Velez had models walk (and fight) through mud. This provided a new opportunity for Hadid to experience the performance of walking down a runway. “They wanted us to really look almost mean,” she said. “‘Don’t look pretty,’ basically was the directive. Which is ironic.”
Hadid was inspired by Velez’s work because of her vulnerability. “Her work, I think, is not only stunning and couture quality, but it also has this amazing dichotomy between being flawlessly constructed and beautiful, and also deconstructed, almost like it’s falling apart,” Hadid said. “It’s so beautifully fashionable, but you have to really understand fashion to really understand her designs.”
Our conversation then turned towards the cutthroat nature of the fashion industry as Hadid explained how she “loved how honest [Velez] was about how hard it is to be in fashion. It seems so glamorous, every level of it really outwardly portrays this kind of glamor, but it’s very hard and rigorous, the fashion world. You can really go broke there. And it’s not for the faint of heart. I thought it was really courageous of her to be honest about it. So I want to support a person like that.”
When I mentioned how intimidating the fashion world can seem, Hadid was quick to make note of the close knit community that the work helps to foster. “It really is kind of its own little family,” she said. “There’s a lot more camaraderie than there is competition. I do think that there’s a lot more people trying to figure out a way to lift each other up than to tear each other down. A lot of people don’t see that.”
Though there is a supportive community holding each other up behind the curtain, Hadid made it clear that the intimidation is a product of how tough the industry is. “It is intimidating! I mean, on every level, people are struggling in fashion,” she said. “Everyone knows that the fashion industry at every level is really hard. We know that blood sweat and tears goes into every level of fashion. And so I think people try to support each other.”
As our conversation came to a close, she considered what would be helpful for young people who are interested in entering the fashion world to hear.
“Don’t stop. I’m 40, and I’m just starting something new,” she said. “If you want to be in fashion, don’t be afraid to try something in fashion that you don’t necessarily think you’d be interested in. If you want to be in a certain industry, try everything in that industry. When you know that specific industry at every level, you’re going to be an asset no matter what. You’re always going to be gaining insight into the world.”