Jill Di Donato: You’re a Ford and Wilhelmina model. How did you break into the industry?
Chris Daish: Before heading off to the States for college I was in a sex shop in Kings Cross (Red Light district of Sydney) having a booze-infused argument with my girlfriend. I left the store to get some air, and the sales assistant turned out to be a scout, and suggested to my girl that I get into modeling. Reluctantly, my girl gave me his card the next morning and encouraged me to give it a shot. After a couple of weeks I called him, and started shooting in the few months before leaving for college. Fast forward a few years, I got scouted along my travels to New York and London and decided it was meant to be. Modeling has provided a great opportunity to travel and compliments my other career pursuits in life. I was signed with Ford from 2002-2009 in New York, then moved over to Wilhelmina in 2010.
JDD: Who do you admire as a designer? As a muse? What’s your favorite designer-muse pairing?
CD: In all honesty, my fashion savvy is close to zero. The roaring 1920s was such an elegant period, permeated by social decadence with the appearance of a woman’s knee due to shorter skirts. For men, the classic suit cuts of the debonair gentleman were pretty cool. Chanel’s vision of the Breton stripe conceived from the uniforms of sailors and fishermen of the time makes perfect sense to me. As for today, any young designer who has a social conscience by honoring local producers and eco-friendly products, and has the guts to create something entirely new and innovative, for me, that’s inspiring. My favorite muse of all times has to be Edie Sedgwick. Andy and the Factory days created a visual evolution with a continuum of dialogue between bohos and intellectuals, and was just plain cool. So Warhol/Sedgwick is my combo.
JDD: Female models are criticized for their weight, skin, hair and nails. Are male models under the same physical pressure?
CD: I guess the young runway/editorial guys feel the pressure to stay unrealistically thin, but being a seasoned clean cut catalogue guy, my personal pressures are limited. I grew up playing sport and living in the ocean and feel best when I have meat on my bones. Working out of Germany, Australia and South Africa is ideal because there is a large market for bigger blokes… so my daily dose of Ritta Sport dark chocolate in Hamburg is an asset. After living in a library and drinking Red Bull for two weeks for my finals at Berkeley, I worked in Los Angeles for a couple of months. My agent there told me immediately to get a tan and go to the gym (she was on the money). Other than that, the only criticisms have probably come after I’ve left the building.
JDD: In addition to modeling, you dedicate significant time to philanthropisy.
CD: I spent a period throughout college volunteering in the kitchen of Glide Church, which is a radically inclusive non-denominational church offering services to the homeless people of San Francisco. Through Housing Works, I worked as a volunteer outdoor therapist in East NY, coordinating and leading weekly cultural and leisure activities throughout New York. The idea was to get my clients out of their comfort zones and expose them to a multitude of possibilities and experiences. I’m a freelance consultant to Seeds of Africa where I help develop and put together fund raising events. Every holiday possible, I volunteer at the local church or do my own food runs around Manhattan, because not every person is in the mental or physical state to make it to the shelters/churches to get fed or embrace another loving human being. I myself am a long way from my family and know how it feels to be alone on these special days.
JDD: In a city like New York, where self-indulgence is pretty much unavoidable, what motivates you to stay involved in humanitarian work?
CD: I hail from Australia, a relatively functional social democracy, and since moving to America at the age of 20, I’ve had every possible opportunity a person could have bestowed upon him. I’ve had amazing people come into my life and, consequently, have never felt truly alone over here. At the end of the day, I have two arms, two legs, and can manage an uninhibited smile (most days). There are too many glaring discrepancies within the education and health care systems in the U.S., and too many homeless and disenfranchised citizens to ignore. It’s my duty where possible to help those in need and be part of the solution.
JDD: What are your favorite spots to eat, drink, and relax.
CD: Blue Ribbon Bistro, (still the best) … oysters at the bar at Balthazar, coffee at Blue Bird or Mud Café. To relax: a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to powerHouse Bookstore in DUMBO and some sun in that little park. A trip to the New York Public library at Bryant Park to research an artist or something entirely new to me. Writing poetry in Central Park and skyscraper gazing.
JDD: Describe your personal look.
CD: Repetitive. Old jeans, block color t-shirt, my Nikes or Converse. I’m a creature of habit; was given a Saint Christopher necklace by my best friend as I’d just endured a rough patch. I’m not a jewelry guy, but wearing it diligently. Let’s see just how saintly this guy really is.
JDD: You’re always traveling. What’s in your suitcase?
CD: I travel light. Stuff that I can part ways with if I see the heat coming around the corner. Always some reading material. The New Yorker and a good book. Four undies, four socks, two jeans, three t-shirts, a nice suit. One sweater. One pair trousers. One pair dress shoes. Minimal toiletries. Chocolate. Very military indeed.
JDD: What’s one item a woman can rock to look sexy as hell?
CD: I like girls who have their own sense of style. Elegance and grace cannot be discounted. A girl with compassion, a head on her shoulders who can look good wearing a potato sack is my kind of gal.
JDD: Would your mom approve of your look?
CD: More like my lack thereof … yes, my mum would love me any way, shape, or form without restraint… and would love to see me for that matter; it’s been a while.