Michon Van As is a Dutch supermodel. Born in Rotterdam and raised in East and Southern Africa until the age of 18, she honed her competitive spirit and love for sports, excelling in varsity football, varsity volleyball, junior go-karting, and club swimming. After studying BSc Environmental Economics at LSE, she embarked on a modeling career at 19 with NEXT Model Management in London. Scouted by Alice Sinclair, a fellow student at LSE and Make Me A Supermodel Britain winner, Michon’s modeling journey took her from London to Los Angeles and finally to New York, where she remains based today. Alongside her successful modeling career, Michon is an advocate for fellow models, serving as VP Partnerships for Model Alliance, a non-profit organization. With a diverse portfolio of editorial work and runway shows for prominent fashion brands, she continues to make a mark in the industry, representing agencies worldwide.
Can you share any memorable moments or highlights from your runway modeling career?
I’ll always remember my first Fashion Week fondly. At the time, I was modeling with NEXT Model Management and studying at LSE (London School of Economics). Since Fashion Week fell smack in the middle of my school term, I had planned together with my agents to focus solely on London Fashion Week so as to minimize the impact on school. In the week leading up to Fashion Week, I would wake up at 5:30 am every morning to practice my runway walk in the empty dorm hallways. It didn’t last long before a few angry faces popped out of their doors, tired and confused as to who was stomping in the hallways.
I started my Fashion Week with a meeting at the agency. I was told to come wearing an all-black outfit, no make-up, and high heels—that was the uniform for the week. It was me and a few other models from the ‘New Faces’ division (the division where all new models go who are still developing their portfolios). Our agents handed us each an A4 paper with a list of castings for the first day. At the time, we didn’t even have a smartphone with map function, so we’d sit around with our A-Z books helping each other map out the day, literally.
That season kicked off with me booking the Zoe Jordan show. From that, things seemed to snowball. I booked a total of 11 shows that week in London, including Emilia Wickstead, Thomas Tait, Mulberry, Dion Lee, KTZ, and more. I also had the honor of opening and closing the Peter Pilotto show! The casting director saw an immediate potential in me. In a matter of minutes, they were on the phone with NEXT trying to get an exclusive deal with me. It was quite surreal, a whirlwind weekend I won’t forget.
What skills and qualities are essential for a successful runway model?
From a physical perspective, you need height and a lean figure. Beyond that, you need endurance, grit, and a confident walk. Fashion weekdays are long. You’ll be doing 7 am to 11 pm days regularly. I remember being called in at 1 am to do a fitting in Paris once, which wasn’t uncommon. For the girls doing all cities—London, Paris, New York, and Milan—that’s between 5 and 6 weeks of non-stop hustling. You’re on your feet the whole day, more often than not, in very high heels. You’re usually so busy you won’t feel like you can enjoy a proper meal. On top of that, you’re also faced with a lot of rejection in a day. It’s a game of volume—you go to as many castings as you can fit into the day hoping you walk away booking at least a few. Relationships also matter here! Get to know the casting directors well, it goes a long way!
How do you handle the pressure and expectations of being a runway model?
I handle the pressure and expectations with preparation. About 2-3 months before each fashion week, I’ll start eating cleaner and working out more regularly. I also enjoy doing yoga and meditation as part of that preparation because I feel it helps me prepare mentally. I am sure the types of pressure and expectations have since changed, especially as the industry evolves to be more accepting of different shapes, sizes, and ethnicities.
In your opinion, what makes a runway show successful and memorable?
A runway show has to be a real show. That’s not just down to one element, but rather a combination of many elements—the location, set design, lights, music, models, and clothing. A strong creative team will understand that each part needs to be executed well and work well together. A show I’ll never forget was the Mulberry show where we had a dog walking with us, a Hungarian Puli (google it!) on the runway because it was so unexpected.
How do you adapt your walk and style to different designers and their collections?
It’s a fine balance because you want it to feel like your walk but with a subtle influence of that brand. Often, well at least for me, the hair, make-up and clothing is enough to adapt to the brand. For instance, when I walked for the Ashish show, it felt very natural to give more ‘tom-boy’ walk given the styling—sneakers, baggy pants, and messy top-knot bun. On the other hand, for Emilia Wickstead, I was wearing a super elegant pencil dress with high heels and straight hair tucked behind the ears. Naturally, I gave a more refined and feminine version of my walk. Beyond that, if there is a very specific walk the casting director or designer is after, it’s something that will be briefed and practiced before the show.
Could you share any insights or tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a runway model?
My biggest insight is keeping things slow and steady where possible. Any habits you can incorporate consistently mean sustainable results, which I believe to be a happier approach. It’s not always the approach I took for myself but something I wish I had adopted. Preparation is also key; ensuring you always have nutritious foods and snacks on you is key to making good choices when the lifestyle otherwise wouldn’t allow it.
As a VIP of Partnership for Model Alliance, how do you work towards creating a positive and supportive environment for models within the industry?
While volunteering for Model Alliance, a non-profit founded by the incredible Sara Ziff, I worked on various campaigns to promote fair treatment, equal opportunity, and sustainable practices in the fashion industry. One of the major projects we worked on was growing and amplifying the message of the RESPECT program, a legally binding set of industry standards developed by models for models to govern behavior, rights, payment, and recourse. Beyond that, I led the website rebuild to amplify brand awareness and improve the online user experience around making donations, a significant funding resource for them. To date, I support with donations when I can and am beyond proud of the team’s tenacity, grit, and strength to keep doing this work.
You Can Follow Michon On Instagram @michonvanas