In recent years, the fashion industry has undergone some massive changes. The catwalk is equally – or almost as much – ruled by both women and men in both design and in terms of those who wear the designs.
Ukrainian-born Ihor Liubchenko sets an example of what it takes to own the runway. His reputation continues to grow and The New York Times has ranked him among ‘eight male models to watch this season’. He immediately impresses with his open personality and no trace of snobbery: he radiates cheerfulness, on the one hand, and healthy self-esteem, on the other.
From Failure to Great Feats
Flash back to three years ago when this 20-year old guy from Mykolayiv oblast (southern Ukraine) had never thought about such a career prospect. It all began when he, like many other Ukrainians, moved with his family to Poland. “I arrived with my dad and no work lined up. After a while, we found employment and settled down. My mum and younger brother joined us two years later,” Liubchenko remembers with a smile. “Now I have a residence permit.”
He tried a variety of jobs for short periods, including a taxi driver, restaurant waiter, and leaflet distributor. Until one day, a model scout approached him on the street. “She invited me to take part in a casting for her agency,” says Liubchenko. “I agreed. They turned me down.”
This failure encouraged him to send his photos out to other modelling agencies. “I was fed up with toiling for somebody else,” Liubchenko says. “I wanted to find a way to work for myself and make more money.” His perseverance landed him a contract with Warsaw-based AS Management, which cooperates with the best agencies across the globe.
What Attracts Famous Fashion Brands
While female models usually need to stick to numerous strict requirements, men’s standards are less severe. Some brands choose guys with a lean build, others hire gym bunnies with a bit of muscle. Of course, all male models are selected for their good shape, physical attractiveness, and height.
“I am 191 cm tall. And I have a very specific look with these black circles under my eyes,” Liubchenko admits honestly. “It means I can usually work only with certain brands.” However, these include top names in the fashion world. For example, in 2017, Liubchenko made his debut exclusively for Prada at Milan Fashion Week. Then he strutted down the catwalk in prestigious shows for Balenciaga, Valentino, Versace, and Acne Studios at Paris Fashion Week. In addition, he has done photo shoot campaigns for Calvin Klein and Reserved. “What I like best about the modelling industry is that I travel a lot and meet a great number of celebrities and influential people,” Liubchenko says.
Exciting as it may sound, his schedule is very tight and unpredictable. “Sometimes I have to go through a lot of castings. Having to wear make-up is the hardest part,” Liubchenko says. “It is also difficult to plan anything ahead as any minute I need to be ready to go anywhere for a photo shoot or fashion show. But I like it, since I don’t stay in one place too long.”
What do models eat to stay catwalk or photo shoot ready? Liubchenko is lucky that he is able to keep fit effortlessly: “I go to the gym. Apart from that, I eat everything, from fast food to seafood.”
Where Dreams Lead
Liubchenko feels comfortable in this job: “I do not think the modelling field is good only for girls. Nowadays, competition among male models is high as is demand.”
Some time ago, he started studying in the economics department at one of the Polish universities, with a major in logistics. “In the future, I plan to invest in my education and open my own logistics-related firm,” Liubchenko says.
Still a fresh face in the fashion industry, he’s already made enough to splurge. “I am a passionate driver. Presently, I have an Audi A4. The next one will probably be a Mercedes-Benz 211.”
Addressing WO’s readership, Liubchenko says, “When my name stirred a media frenzy in Ukraine, I got lots of negative comments, like ‘he slept his way to the top’. I would really like Ukrainians to be less jealous and more committed to their personal development. You have to do what you are good at and it will help you find your way.”
Photos c/o Ihor Liubchenko
“You have to do what you are good at and it will help you find your way”