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  • Writer's pictureSavannah Bradley

Allegra Samsen on Modeling, Magazines, and Believing in Fate

"There is often a lot of idle time on set and I do like a good book to keep me company. "

 


Every Stitch is a new interview series asking fashion’s new creative class how they manage their closets, lives, and careers.


Allegra Samsen is a model and artist based in New York. Not only does she have the most killer Jerry Hall cosplay hair I've ever seen, but she's also a genius ceramicist and even more genius style icon.


Here’s how Allegra picks up every stitch.


 

The self-appointed work uniform:

I don't [have one]. Besides a comfortable walking shoe for my commute, I let the New York City weather and my mood dictate my dress. For example, in March, I tried to swear off carrying a purse (I wanted to feel more weightless). So I toted my brown Bottega Intrecciato wallet around as a bag and it felt great for a while. But now I'm back to carrying a small bag to work!


I was into wearing suits for the winter, too. My awesome mother worked in corporate late-80s New York and her heroes were Perry Ellis, Donna Karan, and Armani. She passed down two epic suit sets that I got a lot of wear out of. One is navy and long, in classic Armani fashion. The other is a wool Ferragamo skirt set. Those suits felt like uniforms. But now, of course, it's spring, and I am not in a heavy suit, instead opting for cotton and materials that feel lighter on my body.


The journey to becoming a model:

I have never been asked this before. I'm going to give you my corny, honest answer. Which is that I remember watching the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in 2012 and wanting to be Candice Swanepoel. I went into my room to try on the only bra I owned (from Justice) and walked around in my Halloween pair of fairy wings. My older brother came into my room and I was humiliated. But yeah, that's how it started.


My mom was an assistant photo editor at Vogue right before Anna Wintour was hired. She temped for André Leon Talley who used to call her "Susanna! Susanna!" My mom left the magazine world right before having kids in 1996. So I grew up with Vogue mags all around the house and lots of visual inspiration from my mother. 


I felt too confused to pursue modeling when I was a teenager. I grew up in this pretty cutthroat, academic, suburban white-bread town, so I followed that track instead. I felt so happy in the darkroom and doing photography. I went to school for that and got my BFA from USC. Then, in my senior year, I was scouted by my mother agent, Joseph Charles Viola, on Instagram. I did some digitals, graduated USC that May, and moved back to New York in October. After a year of tests and feeling around, Joseph decided it was time to place me in a bigger pool. That's when I visited with some other agencies and ultimately signed with Next Management, where I am today.


The on-set must-haves:

I'm really not on set often enough these days to have some go-to staples. But, in the past, I have appreciated a good coconut water to keep my energy up and a matcha latte. There is often a lot of idle time on set and I do like a good book to keep me company. 


Paging through magazines is also great. I was happy to do work with J. Crew last year and loved looking at their old catalogs for references and nostalgia. In my office at my day job, we have all different kinds of subscriptions like NY Mag, The New Yorker, WSJ Fashion, NYT Style. Which I always keep in mind in case I need to borrow a copy for something to look through. This is something I'll remember next time I'm on set. Siri, set reminder: Steal magazines from office.


The favorite project:

I had such a blast working with Milk Makeup last May because their set is so vibrant. I think anyone who has worked with Milk can attest to that. The energy in the office is really fun. As someone who loves hair and hair styling, I was so excited to spend time with Erol Karadag who worked on three epic hair looks for the shoot. Whenever I am in the hair chair, I really love to yap and ask a million questions. Watching Erol work with gel and small curling irons really inspired me to be more sculptural with my hair and find references within Verushka's epic bouffants and the work of the late icon Ara Gallant. 


Yeah, Milk was a really fun time. I loved trying on all the lip glosses, too. The campaign was like a pre-summer cocktail of fun. Since the shoot was in May, it sort of set the tone for my summer last year. I remember walking home from that set with my hair still styled (I usually love to keep rocking the style until it falls) and just feeling so great. The sun was perfect that night and I felt so happy. 


The self-care routine:

I work a normal 9-5 day job. When I get home around 5:30 PM, I like to make myself a cup of tea, kick my feet up, put Aquaphor on my lips, eyelashes, and brows, and light some candles. Then, I will either doomscroll for half an hour or read a bit. Me and my neighbor just bought basketballs to bounce around the neighborhood. Sometimes we bounce together to unwind.


I also love to watch movies. I was in a big piano phase during the winter and loved watching piano-themed movies like The Pianist, The Piano, and The Piano Teacher. Right now I am not watching as many movies as I'd like because the weather is nice and I feel drawn to play with my friends outside. But this week I did pick up a good book since the weather is gray. I'm rereading Veronica by my favorite crazy chica Mary Gaitskill. Mary's writing is epic. She's really good at cracking open an emotion like an egg.


The perfectionism of it all:

Cool question. I'm more of a control freak than a perfectionist. Nothing in my apartment is "perfect" but I am very clean. I like to sweep my wood floors every morning since they attract a lot of dust. I'm weird about dust... just ask my old college roommate and best friend Lizzy. I used to wake up at 7 AM and lint-roll my dorm bed. Okay so maybe I am a perfectionist. 


These days, when I feel overwhelmed by my desire to control, I just force myself to sit on the fake bleachers and drink some Gatorade. Like a kid in a soccer league would. New York is fast, things happen really quickly. It can be absolutely overwhelming. But nothing can get done if I don't feel good enough to do it or happy within my own mind. So I let go by forcing myself to sit on the bleachers. And sip some Gatorade.


The belief in fate or karma :

[I believe in it] 100%. A couple months ago, my step-grandma left me with some wise words. I was complaining to her about something and she said: "Allegra, at this moment, there is nothing that you lack." It was really beautiful to hear and has stuck with me since. The security of her message reminds me of fate's inevitable kiss. So, yeah, I believe in things just panning out. Because as my Sossy (the name I call my step-grandma) said, there is nothing that I lack. It's a message that really fulfills me. 


Karma is not my boyfriend. It's my coworkers! I am always looking to earn karma points with my coworkers. Sometimes I need to really adjust my day job schedule to make it to a modeling casting or a shoot. My coworkers are saints and [are] really understanding. Just this week I was able to swap two shifts with them so they could make their own schedules work. Coworker good karma is very important to me.


The advice she'd give burgeoning creatives:

It's nice to be called a creative, thanks Savannah. Well, okay, I am thinking of this story that a girl in my darkroom class told me in college. This girl was interning for the artist Mark Bradford at the time, who said to her: "You have been good your entire life, right? Make mistakes." When she told me this, Mark's words felt like cold water. I guess it was then that I realized I never really allow myself mistakes. 


So allow yourself to make mistakes. Enjoy them. Learn from them if you want but do not pressure yourself to do so. I wish I had made more mistakes in high school and college. But I was doing what I knew how to, which was to fit in and try to get good grades. I wish I had fucked up more and laughed because of it. The good news is that I get to do that now... 🌀







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