It was Tokyo Fashion week SS15. While shooting backstage at Onitsuka Tiger x Andrea Pompilio, I saw her in the corner, sipping coffee, standing and staring, with curious eyes in a chaotic room full of models and stylists. I approached her and with the approval of her eyes, snapped a series of photos.
Her soft-spoken voice struck me and out of the myriad models (numbering over 40 for that show), found her to be the most enigmatic. There was an energy and individualism about her that I couldn’t put a finger on.
After the show, I contacted her, and through her agency in Tokyo, Zucca Models, was able to arrange a meeting. She was kind enough to meet me at a café for an interview during a busy Tokyo Fashion Week and Halloween and we walked around the streets of Harajuku and Dogenzaka, Shibuya, for an impromptu shoot.
JV: Is this your first time to Tokyo? What have you been doing since Fashion Week ended? Has anything about Japan surprised or impressed you?
TG: I love this city. I have this thing that I usually do. From one point which I know, I’ll just walk straight and I’ll just keep walking straight because that way I won’t get lost and I’ll see things. I’ll do that in different directions. So I walked a lot in the city.
The thing I find really amazing is, for such a big city, there’s green everywhere and the people walking around are incredible. There’s a lot of crazy stuff. I feel like it’s been Halloween for three weeks now. I’ve never seen a place where Halloween is so big.
JV: Who's Tamy Glauser? What was your childhood like and what were you doing prior to signing with Ford Models? Have you always gravitated toward wearing more manly clothes and when did it start?
TG: I grew up without my parents. I left my dad when I was a kid. I didn’t really miss my dad because I didn’t know him but I miss my mom a lot. I was always in contact with my mom but she lived in LA so I lived with my godparents in Switzerland. They were amazing and loved me like their own kid. They were older too so I guess they didn’t expect to have a baby again because they lost two kids. For them they’ve always said I was a gift from heaven. My godfather was quite rich, so I got to travel a lot with them when I was a kid. I saw many things. I feel like that’s also why I’m the way I am now. He lost all his money when I was about 17 and he had to sell his house and after three months he died. It was too much for him. My godmother is still around and I keep in touch with her.
When I was a kid I had shaved head and I was tomboyish. I used to be a lot darker back then and in the village where I grew up there were just white kids, so people were mean to me. Then on top of being brown, I was very boyish, so the bigger kids picked on me. Around 10 or 11, I decided not to wear my glasses and to grow my hair out and I actually become one of the cool kids. That changed again when I moved to New York and I could just be myself. Now it’s fine and people think I’m cool the way I am. But it was definitely a process of finding out who I am.
JV: You live a bit of a free-spirited, bohemian life, with no permanent address and you travel wherever your agency tells you.
TG: I’m just a girl who is trying to live life and not worry too much about my future. The future is not given – something could happen and everything could be gone tomorrow. If that should happen then I would rather look back and say my life was awesome rather than do things I don’t really like just to please others. I used to do that, but I’m over it now and I like to be free.
I haven’t had an apartment for the past three-and-a-half years and it’s working out quite well. Sometimes it’s tough but I can up and go in five minutes. I live wherever I am and I just have my little suitcase. That’s also why I’m always dressed the same.
JV: What is it about being outside your comfort zone that ironically, comforts you?
TG: I’m a shy person. Modelling gives me an opportunity to not be shy, but in real life I don’t go up to people and talk to them. Usually it’s the other way around.
JV: Is fashion a form of self-expression?
TG: I don’t know if I am expressing myself. When I am wearing a designer’s collection, I am expressing their views, but of course it’s a collaboration. I am lucky because I am not a model who is a blank canvas. I am more so Tamy and they know who they are booking so a lot of times they want my input as well. At times, I even keep my jewellery on or they let me put on the clothes the way I would wear them rather than style me completely. In that sense, I can express myself and I don’t think I can ever be a typical model. It’s also hard because you have fewer opportunities for jobs.
JV: These days individuals have to build their own brand, do you agree?
TG: I guess that’s what we’re doing in Paris now.
JV: What are you listening to now?
TG: FKA Twigs.
JV: You came into fashion modelling at age 28 (in 2013) after your booker friend suggested you try. Just months after being signed by Ford models, you were immediately walking Paris fashion week shows for the likes of Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood. Since then you've donned Givenchy, Rick Owens and Iris Van Herpen collections. Tell us about the whirlwind life you've been living.
TG: It’s crazy and everything went really fast. When I signed with Ford, I didn’t realize why they signed me. Especially in Paris, the girls are so beautiful; I felt like I didn't know what the fuck I was doing there. Somehow when I booked those two shows, Gaultier and Westwood, I thought, “Okay, maybe I can do this and I belong here.” I didn’t travel that much that year because most of things were happening in Paris. I was mainly travelling between Zurich and Paris to see family.
All of the sudden you’re in the mix and you get to know people where it seemed just a year ago was so long ago. You never thought you’d sit on the table with them and have a good time. It’s amazing. I just love to meet people who have achieved so much.
I just had a talk with a friend of mine who’s also a model. The way we talk is crazy and I have to remind myself how lucky I am; the jet-setting lifestyle I have now.
JV: Which part of your job do you enjoy best and what do you least like?
TG: Obviously I love the travelling but the least are the model apartments. Once, I had to stay in a dormitory with 12 girls. It’s tough because I’m almost thirty and the rest of the girls are in their teens, so you can imagine.
What I love the most is when you’re at a shoot when people are working really well together and everyone is adding something to it. People you’ve never met in your life working well together, that’s what I like. I feel like it has to be teamwork and I hate when I work with photographers who are quiet. I feel like I’m giving, but nothing is coming back and I don’t even know if I’m doing a good job. I guess if they don’t complain I am doing okay. I just don’t feel like it’s teamwork.
JV: Do you prefer doing runway, editorials or advertising? What are the differences for you?
TG: I love to do shows. I get a high from it and you get an immediate result; you can see it on Style.com. The make-up artists give you a really good facial massage too. Usually the better shows, the better the massages you get.
For shoots, sometimes it takes a year a half to come out but it also nice because you totally have forgotten about it and it’s a nice surprise when you finally see it.
JV: What is your opinion of gender roles in society? What do you think of the movement toward androgyny paved recently by models such as Casey Legler, Agyness Deyn, Saskia de Brauw, Jenny Shimizu and Ashleigh Good. Have you met any of them?
TG: Yes, I’ve worked with all of them. Apparently I’m one the leaders of Genderbender.com but to me, it’s two-sided. On one hand, I’ve never wanted attention for this because I’m just being myself and that’s what that is. On the other hand, I’m definitely a girl no question but I feel like we shouldn’t need to go off what a girl has to do or a boy has to do in order to be feminine or manly. I think that’s in the things we learn or how we socialise. These things change when we go to other places, for example, in some countries men wear skirts, but it doesn’t mean it’s girly.
I feel that in order to make people see it’s not necessarily to be one or the other and to open up their minds, I’m happy to be a part of it and hopefully it’ll make a difference. I had a tough time being myself and with my own sexuality. I just know when I look back when I was 17, I figured out, “Oh-oh, I think I like girls,” and I thought I had to be manly, dyke or butch. That was a huge conflict because there’s no way I am like that, but at the same time I know I like girls. I would’ve been really happy when I was 17 if I had known someone like me. You don’t have to dress or act a certain way to like girls or not like girls. I thought I had to be that way – butch – to like girls.
There’s a friend of mine I’ve worked with. She came out to me in her late 30s. Next thing you know, she meets a girl and shows up with her girlfriend and she came up to me and thanked me and said: “Seeing you being openly gay really helped me to be okay with my sexuality.” So it struck me that what I am doing actually had meaning.
JV: What defines a beautiful woman? Are you attracted to the manly or girly?
TG: Kate Moss. That’s my type. I’m mainly into blond chicks. They have to be a bit fucked up but sexy. Not too boyish but not too girly. I don’t want to wait one hour for her to get ready.
JV: Do you have any favourite designers or labels? Dream piece of clothing?
TG: One of my favourites is Givenchy. When I found out I’ll be working for them I couldn’t believe it. Maison Martin Margiela as I’m curious to see what Galliano is going to design for them. Obviously Rick Owens and Damir Doma. I’d really like to work with Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld; he’s a legend.
JV: What or who inspires your personal style?
TG: Well my style is really simple. Most of the things I wear are for free because I either found them, they were given to me as a present, or someone wanted to get rid of their clothes and they gave them to me. I don’t remember the last time I shopped. It’s literally whatever I find first and what’s clean.
JV: Short and long-term goals in your fashion career.
TG: My main goal would be a campaign coming out at the same time for men’s and women’s fashion for the same brand and of course I’d love it to be Givenchy. Also, even when I wasn’t modelling, I always had a dream of being on a big billboard, so we’ll see.