“It is pronounced Ahf-iyliy Guillemand.” The top model laughs as she phonetically sounds out her French name over Zoom, explaining nonchalantly that people often mispronounce it. This is Ophelie Guillermand, French model exemplar – down-to-earth, thoughtful and full of energy.
Words by Sandy Aziz.
“It was November,” Guillemand recalls when revealing her modeling origin story. “I was studying chemistry at university because I was really good at it in high school, but after doing chemistry full time, I realized it wasn’t for me. I needed something with more social interaction!” Even at that point, Guillemand confesses that, despite always being drawn to modeling, she thought it was more something you could do “from time to time.” Life, however, stepped in. Through a perfect collision of timing and opportunity, her small French agency in Lyon sent her to castings in Paris during her school holidays. It is then that her (now) modeling agency scouted her. Next thing you know, she was on a Zoom call in which they were requesting that she come to New York immediately. “I honestly couldn’t believe it was true!” Understandably so. Not to mention, at the ripe age of 18, navigating the world already feels immense, and now adding another complex layer that includes potentially changing the entire trajectory of one’s life. Never mind though, Guillemand embraced the change and uncertainty and within one week of being scouted, she was on a plane moving halfway across the world to New York. “I was super excited!” She declares with sincerity. “I'm from a small town in France, and I always wanted to go to a city because I always liked city life.” And she knows it was absolutely the right decision – she stayed in New York for a full seven years before embracing another change in moving to Paris, “to try something new.”
Notably though, despite not pursuing chemistry, Guillemand certainly knows the elements to success in this industry (her career being a testament to this). These include, but are not limited to passion, hard work, and a thick skin. On hard work and passion, Guillemand tells us, “People think it's luck when you have success, but I think specifically in regards to the fashion industry, it really requires a lot of work.” A refreshing sentiment to hear as society sometimes paints a rather superficial, purely glamorous image of the industry and life within it without acknowledging and appreciating all the hard work that occurs behind the scenes. Guillemand elaborates, “I think all the photographers, stylists and designers who are at the top – it is truly because they work relentlessly and they never give up.” Apparently, they also don’t take things too personally. “It’s not you,” she laughs, “you just might not be what they are looking for at that moment or specific project, but you might be called for the next one.” The it’s not you, it’s them advice being our main takeaway here.
In revisiting the topic of behind-the-scenes, as members of the industry, we agree there is so much that happens that never surfaces – much of which is crucial to the end product and the storytelling. Guillemand says, “And I think it's like that for you, right?” I laugh gratefully at her appreciation and acknowledgement. She continues, “You interview all these people, go to fashion weeks and people probably only see the golden side of it – but don’t realize how much work it is to do all these things!” Facts. We do trail into a general discussion of gratitude and underscore the ability to be social as an inherent part of our jobs and it’s something Guillemand reminds us again is part of the reason she left chemistry.
Alongside our shared love for the social aspects of the industry, Guillemand also loves to travel and modeling allows her to do both of these things simultaneously. “I really enjoy going to Japan and South Korea. They are amazing because they still completely have their own identity, their own culture, and it really feels like you are in a different world,” she explains. Outside of work, her holiday bucket list includes traveling places where she can dive. “I love diving! I have my diver’s license and it is a whole other world!” Our conversation flows to the entire world happening underneath – in the depths of the waters – reintroducing us to the importance of perception. “You have currents as well down there, but it's so peaceful. You have no idea what's happening outside. When you're in the water, you forget about the world,” she shares, unintentionally poetic.
Back above the waters, we discuss her impressive, versatile and boundless portfolio in depth. Not only has she worked with many of the iconic fashion powerhouses, but she has featured in remarkable campaigns for Prada, Tiffany & Co., Tommy Hilfiger and more. A notable highlight in her career is her Vogue Italia December 2013 cover alongside Anna Ewers, Cindy Bruna and Gracie van Gastel. “It was very special,” starts Guillemand, “maybe because it was my first [cover]? But this was a very special cover and a huge achievement for me. It validated all that I was doing in my career and felt like a dream.” Only a week after that, Guillemand was shooting her Prada campaign which she describes as an “incredible experience.” She recounts another noteworthy (and funny) modeling memory. “We were shooting for Harper’s Bazaar and it was in Wyoming – during a snowstorm,” she giggles. “I could barely open my eyes and they wanted me to walk these dogs in the park. They were insanely strong, and they accidentally pulled me so fast that I fell facedown in the snow and struggled to get out.” Her laugh is contagious. “It was a crazy day, but the team was amazing. You actually couldn’t even tell in the pictures that there was a snowstorm – it just looked peaceful”. Obviously, we find ourselves revisiting a recurring theme here of everything isn’t as it seems and our appreciation for what happens behind the scenes. In terms of Guillemand’s diverse portfolio, she outlines the difference between shooting a campaign and editorials. “For a campaign, you are really representing the image of a brand and the image that brand wants to represent, really… It’s very different when you are part of an editorial because you get to create something special – you are part of the creative process, which I love. You get to spend an entire day together getting to really know everyone.” Guillemand also points out that editorials usually finish pretty late depending on the creative process.
In an industry that is rapidly shifting, Ophelie Guillemand takes a moment to thoughtfully give her best advice. “Always say hello and thank you to everybody on set.” She elaborates, “the shoot would never have been possible without them, and you're probably going to see them later in your career because all the people who are there start somewhere.” Her values and humble demeanor are completely in line with why she is so successful. Even though she has been part of the industry and has many accolades, it is her fearless attitude and desire to continue to grow with the industry that makes us think this is just the beginning of all her great contributions to come.
You can find Ophelie Guillermand's piece inside the Spring Summer 2023 Issue 10.
Purchase your copy here.