Les Maisons d’India

India Rose Ruiterman provides an illuminating and empowering account of her experience as a model within an evolving fashion industry. Working with designers and publications such as Maison Margiela, Dolce & Gabbana, Hermes, Comme des Garçons, Burberry, Elle, and Vogue pushed her to find her own confidence and self-acceptance. After struggling with the pressures of the modeling industry, India established her personality and style while contributing to a movement seeking to develop a diverse representation of human beauty and expression.

Having been scouted to work for a modeling agency in New York, India was 17 when she decided to take on an opportunity that was ‘too good to miss out on.’ Her first year of modeling was met with challenges from within the industry.

How would you describe any pressures you experienced?

‘There’s definitely pressure to stay in shape. You get measured on your hips, your waist, your bust – and there’s specific industry standard measurements you have to be within. Some people get way more stressed about it; for some people, it’s easy to maintain. You have to invest time and money into the way that you look in order to represent yourself well. There is pressure to have good skin and a good body and good clothes.’

Did you ever feel like you needed to lose weight in an unhealthy way?

‘When I first started modeling and had to lose weight, I was advised to cut out all carbs. At that time, I was maybe 16, 17. I wanted it so badly – I wanted to be in this crazy, glitzy-glam modeling world, so I took it very seriously. I thought I was just doing what was healthy. But looking back I realise that it was so unhealthy – I had no energy and I didn’t associate it with the fact that I was cutting out carbs.’

Do you feel like you could do your best work whilst under that kind of pressure?

‘No, I do my best work now, when I know who I am. When you’re modeling, you’re either behind a camera or at the end of a runway – you’re performing. You need to be comfortable in your own skin, you need to be relaxed and free. No one wants to work with a model who’s stressed, someone who’s clearly very shy and insecure – they want to work with someone who can look happy, healthy, charismatic. You only get that when you can put less importance on those pressures.’

These pressures you’re describing ended up pushing you to be more confident. In your mind, was this experience positive?

‘Definitely. Feeling such intense pressures of having to look and be a certain way – all those pressures affect you but then there comes a point where you can’t stress about those anymore and you’re like ‘You know what, I don’t really give a fuck anymore. This is what I look like. If I want to eat pancakes, I’m going to eat pancakes and that’s just it.’ You just end up accepting who you are. You can’t continue with that stress – it’s not sustainable.’

India explained how models are becoming more relatable as the industry includes more representations of women, with an emphasis placed on beauty, strength and uniqueness.

India was often styled to be edgy, artistic and somewhat androgynous – a look that never quite represented her. However, she accepted this loss of individuality as being part of a collective art.

Art is meant to be very expressive and personal – is it more about being part of a bigger picture in this situation?

‘Yes – I feel that it’s somebody else’s art. For example, Maison Margiela, one of my favourite brands – their clothes are more like artwork. In scenarios like that, you remove your own self and your own ego and you’re there to represent someone else’s artwork. When you’re on a shoot where it’s about you, the model, you can portray your own personality more. The clothes or the images are art – you’re either representing art or you are the art.’