Fashion and… finance? Get to know what makes our summer model tick
“I find myself very basic. I’m just sitting in a park chilling, having a coffee and struggling with a visa!” laughs Olivia Sang.
The charismatic, down-to-earth model is the face behind our high summer campaign, but there’s much more to her than meets the eye. Originally from a small village in Kenya, she got her degree in finance from the University of Nairobi before stumbling into modelling almost by accident.
“I never thought I would be a model,” she says. “But my friends encouraged me to give it a shot while I was studying, so I did, and here we are”.
“Here” is a somewhat casual way to describe her portfolio, which includes an impressive selection of editorial shoots for publications and brands around the globe – as well as our summer campaign. Despite this, she remains as grounded as she is hardworking, describing her midwife mother as her role model “because she works so hard” and smiling her signature beam after every other sentence.
We spent a few minutes chatting with her about what it’s like being a woman of colour in the industry, how she stays calm and her plans to interweave finance and fashion in the future…
My career grew fast. I’m from a small family – just the four of us – in a small village in Kenya. I started doing a little bit of modelling in 2014 whilst I was studying finance in Nairobi. I was signed in 2017 and moved down to South Africa, and then I moved to London in 2019. I’ve been very fortunate that because of where I come from, there were no expectations for me. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I was just discovering things as I went along.
The thing I love the most about shoots is collaborating with other creatives to create something really artistic. Fashion doesn’t always have to be a paid job for me; it’s nice to put the extra work in to tell a great story – whether that’s through movement, fabric or colour.
Sometimes I go to a shoot, and I’m the only person of colour there. It makes me feel taken aback because I’m clearly wanted there, but I don’t see myself in the team. We need to have solid representation of all skin tones in this industry – and that includes representation in the background and not just the models. The one thing I’ve struggled with in my career is going to work with the confidence that there will be someone there who will be able to handle my skin and hair correctly. It doesn’t have to be equal 50-50, but greater diversity makes everyone more comfortable, and then we can be more productive and do good work.
Everybody needs to be calmer. Yoga, wellness and holistic living are things that I’m exploring very deeply – and yoga, in particular, has been a constant in my life for the last four years. Every day, I wake up and do 20 minutes of meditation before getting on with my day. It’s really nice to have something of my own like yoga – where some people have dogs and cars and kids and partners, yoga has kept me going, and I’ve grown so much because of it.
In the future, I want to merge fashion and the finance industry. I’m planning on taking another finance course while I’m in London to expand my knowledge of the financial industries in the UK and Europe so I’m able to work with all types of creatives and provide specific financial advice. As creatives, we need to learn how to budget, save and invest our money wisely because we need time to work creatively – and we don’t want to be worrying about money all the time.
This summer, I want to do everything and nothing at the same time. I can’t wait to be on a random beach in the Caribbean, relaxing with a pina colada and doing absolutely nothing. I also can’t wait to go home – it’s where I go to reconnect and recharge, as well as to spend time with my family. I’m also going to learn ballroom dancing when London opens up again!
If I had any advice for anyone getting into the industry, it would be to take your time. You don’t need to start really young – if you want to do a degree first, you can. Make sure you have the correct guidance and the right people around you, and make sure that no one is asking for you to change. Wait until you’re ready and be true to yourself.