Fashion Takes Over Alyeska
By Jeannine Stafford-Jabaay
It was an Alyeska fashion takeover when 35 of the brightest child models in the world descended on the popular resort. In Girdwood, a community that could be described as “tragically casual,” some of the top designers, photographers and models discovered an unsuspecting backdrop.
“We brought 35 models and 32 families to Alyeska to shoot with some of the top photographers in the world. Editorial, fine art and commercial,” says Gianna Nicole, founder of Gianna Nicole Media and creator of Fashion Passport. “Once a year, Fashion Passport travels to places around the globe to deeply immerse our models in a culture that wouldn’t necessarily be considered high fashion.”
These 35 young models range from ages 5-18 and are from all over Europe, Australia, South America and North America. Their images can be seen in places such as “Orange is the New Black” television show and “The Face of Macys.” Fashion Passport is an annual event traveling to places such as Sedona, Ariz. and an international destination in 2019 to be disclosed in June.
“We look for places that people might not have known were on their bucket list,” says Nicole.
This year’s event was centered in the Alyeska Hotel from April 4-8, and models were showcased along Turnagain Arm, on the base of Mt. Alyeska and at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
“I think the hardest shoot was on a mountain in a bikini in the freezing cold,” shares Madeline Berl, fashion model and mentee to Gianna Nicole. “I’ve shot with Gianna all over, and this was definitely one of the hardest shoots.”
“We have kids here who are just starting out in their modeling careers, and we have faces that are highly recognizable,” says Nicole. “It’s what I would describe as a kind of a mentor/mentee program where some of the more experienced models share their knowledge with the less experienced. And some of the younger models actually have more experience than some of the older models.”
The young models of Fashion Passport shot with renowned photographers and were given practical lessons in seminars on how to build their careers through “self-love,” media resources and educational workshops.
“We offered a lot of contests,” shared Nicole. “Models were given the opportunity to not only learn how to further their careers through social media, they were provided the chance to learn and be inspired by some of the greats in the industry.”
Designers and photographers such as Ydamys Simo, Alora Safari, and Janelle Funari provided prizes, trainings and wardrobe for the models.
“I want to learn as much about this industry as I can,” said Berl. “I’m willing to work from the bottom up, and since I’m about to age out into adult modeling, I hope to understand what it takes to work not only in front of the camera but behind it.”
Berl and Nicole both acknowledge that the fashion industry isn’t one without its flaws. “I’ve definitely been bullied,” shares Berl. “I just learned to take those experiences and grow from them. I remember one time that I was told I needed to lose two more inches off my waist. ‘I won’t have a waist then,’ I told them.”
“Yes, the industry is very, very shallow. I’ve met some of the most self-absorbed people, but I’ve also realized that this is an avenue that people can completely better themselves, find out who they are and make an impact,” says Nicole.
Gianna Nicole Media brought up Nick Santonastasso to come and inspire the models of Fashion Passport. Santonastasso was born with with only one arm and no legs, and yet he is making an impact in the fashion world. “Nick was so inspiring the first time I heard him, and I knew he could teach these models about self-love,” said Nicole. “I had to have him here at Fashion Passport.”
Fashion Passport was not just about modeling and fashion. It was also about families connecting and bringing individuals with a passion for modeling together. Nicole brought her own family, her husband and four children to Girdwood, as well.
“It provides a moment to unplug,” says Nicole. “A chance for families to bond and ski together. We’ve gone hiking pretty much every day.”