Odette Pavlova has been a fixture on international runways for the last six years. From her initial breakout moment as a Saint Laurent exclusive in 2015 to becoming a mother, the model proves that she is more than meets the eye. Harnessing her early career momentum to go on through a highlight reel of high-profile runways, campaigns and editorials, Pavlova has made quite the name for herself. She did this by way of honest hard work in an industry that evermore favors metrics and life as told on a tiny screen. Here she speaks candidly to 5Eleven about her commitment to family, individuality and an approach to modelling that has led her to conquer one of the world’s most glamorized and misconceived jobs. Words by Maggie Jones.
Growing up in the small town of Pskov in Russia, Odette Pavlova was raised in the typical way of her hometown, “I am from an ordinary, average family. My sister and I were mainly raised by my grandmother as my parents have always worked… Pskov does not even have a metro.”
At the age of 16, Pavlova was discovered outside of a supermarket along with her twin sister Lia. Paris called soon after and Pavlova found herself on the runway of Hedi Slimane’s Fall Winter 2015 Saint Laurent show as an exclusive, “it was just an amazing moment. I am immensely grateful to him for that chance. After that, my career rocketed instantly.”
What came next was indeed a catapult into high-fashion fame, marking Pavlova as one of the industry’s most sought after faces. Aside from her exclusive shows at Saint Laurent, Pavlova’s portfolio boasts a roaster of appearances in shows such as Valentino and Dior; campaigns for Givenchy and Max Mara; spreads in the pages of i-D, Vogue Italia and Paris, and of course covers for Vogue Japan and Russia. “After a successful fall season in 2016, I was ranked 2nd in the world for the number of shows (sixty-two shows) after my sister,” remarks Pavlova. A coveted spot in the Models.com Top 50 list further cemented her top model status and undeniable standing in the industry.
Gone was the girl from small town Russia and soon Pavlova became a woman of the world and on the cusp of bigger things, “I was very shy and insecure when I was in school because I was very tall and thin. Modelling changed everything. I had to get out of my comfort zone and to learn English in a short time to be successful.”
To be so booked and busy in Pavlova’s day wasn’t always easy and, amidst her burgeoning career momentum, there were hard days as well. For Pavlova, her biggest professional challenge was the “lack of sleep and lots of flights. When you do 62 shows in three weeks, fly 4–6 times a week, and sometimes sleep 6–8 hours in four days it’s not easy.” Yet the struggles led Pavlova to some of her favorite highlights on the job, including walking 20 shows with the late Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, “this was beyond words to be honest. He’s a legend. I remember how I cried with happiness after a Chanel show or Fendi show… realizing that I have the opportunity to be a part of history.”
In an industry so focused on novelty, the turnover rate is high and longevity is scarce. Yet Pavlova has retained a presence all of her own, which she accredits to her old-fashioned hard work ethic, “I have always been very responsible… I always knew that in order to achieve something, you need to put in a lot of effort.” Over her fashion tenure, trends and jobs have shifted to favour those with a penchant for the digital. Pavlova notes, “when I started, there [certainly was] competition, but a girl could get ahead simply because she was hardworking, brave, self-confident and sociable. Nowadays, Instagram and followers decide a lot unfortunately.”
To Pavlova, what matters most are not the modern-day metrics of career success, like the number of followers or the reach of an Instagram post, but rather always having, “a very respectful attitude towards everyone I have ever worked with. I appreciate everyone I have ever had the good fortune to work with.”
After years of having remarkable career moments and achieving fated dreams, Pavlova is a testament to resilience and persistence, yet she still had one box left to check on her list: starting a family of her own and settling down in New York. For Pavlova she, “always wanted to live in America with my family. I always wanted to prove to everyone that a simple girl from the hinterland of Russia can achieve success through only her hard work.”
Priorities shifted when she and her husband, Vladislav, welcomed their daughter, Mia, into the world in January 2019. “All my agencies supported me in becoming a mother and I am immensely grateful to all of them… it's meant a lot to me.”
There is little Pavlova cannot do once she sets her mind to it. The juggling act of motherhood while being in full-pursuit of a modelling career is one she has become accustomed to balancing. "I have been on the set with my daughter many times, I went to fashion weeks with my daughter. She is always with me, she’s part of me. Yes, now I'm ready not to work very often as I understand that my daughter needs me.”
This is a piece's extract. The complete editorial appears in the Fall Winter 2021 Issue 7.