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07.15.09

The Double Life of a Model

Runway star Lyle Lodwick was plucked from Brooklyn’s streets and thrust into fame. He talks to Alisa Gould-Simon about his semi-secret identity and what he's wearing to Burning Man.

If you've strolled through SoHo at any point this summer, then you've likely come face-to-face with 21-year-old model Lyle (née Eric) Lodwick. The striking, more-chiseled punk than classically handsome mannequin is currently the face of Topman; meaning, thanks to Topshop's recent outpost opening in New York, posters featuring Lodwick's increasingly ubiquitous mug have been pasted all over downtown for months. Lodwick was likewise especially visible at this season’s men's Fashion Week, where he graced runways for the likes of Burberry, Tim Hamilton, and Dries Van Noten. Having entered the modeling industry less than two years ago, Lodwick has been featured in Dazed & Confused and Japanese Vogue Homme. And just last week he shot his first magazine cover—for Sportswear International—and was dubbed a " star in the making" by New York magazine. But, the "crazy trip," as Lodwick sums up his success thus far, is only half of the story of the Williamsburg-by-way-of-Maryland model who is known by his friends and music fans as Eric.

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Although Lodwick has been modeling a relatively short time, his fashion inclinations date back to the magnet high school he attended in Maryland. "I had a lot of friends that were always modifying their pants to make them skinny before you could really get skinny jeans," Lodwick recalls. So, he followed suit, personalizing his clothing by adding extra fabric onto the pockets of his jeans among other things. Modeling, however, never entered Lodwick's mind until after he dropped out of Johnson & Wales a year into studying entrepreneurship and moved to New York.

Friends in the industry encouraged him to try his hand at modeling—one of whom introduced him to a casting agent who subsequently booked him for every hip young model's dream job: posing for art-cum-fashion photographer Ryan McGinley. That is, aside from the fact that the job required getting completely nude in a very cold Manhattan photo studio. While McGinley's shots of Lodwick never appeared in the debut issue of TAR magazine, for which they were intended, the meeting helped launch his career. Shortly thereafter, Lodwick was handpicked to disrobe yet again for Sigur Rós' music video, "Gobbledigook" (which McGinley art directed and helped cast). And, just like that, Lyle Lodwick the model was born.

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"When I was getting into modeling I kind of wanted to keep everything that I already had separate from the fashion world," Lodwick says of his decision to save his birth name for his personal life and particular projects (such as music). So, he made his modeling debut with a moniker borrowed from his grandfather: Lyle. "[Fashion] is based on image, so I thought it would be cool to redefine myself," he says, adding "the other thing is that my grandfather died before I was born and the only memory I have of him is pictures, so I thought that was kind of fitting."

Lodwick's last name, on the other hand, is immediately recognizable to anyone working in media, as well as Gawker frequenters, thanks to the model's elder brother Jakob's infamy within the industry. Having helped found the Web site College Humor  before leaving to spearhead video sharing/social-networking porthole  Vimeo, Jakob Lodwick has become a favorite figurative punching bag of the aforementioned media-gossip-mongering mecca.

The contention ignited largely as a result of Jakob's arguable penchant for oversharing—perhaps best epitomized by a blog that he and then-girlfriend and former Star editor at large Julia Allison wrote together, which documented in great detail the inner workings of their relationship. Interestingly enough, Allison is responsible for granting a then-19-year-old Lyle his first access into the lion's den that is Bryant Park during Fashion Week. Having just moved to New York, Lodwick's brother set him up with a job filming Allison and editing the footage into short Web clips. Understandably, it isn't an experience Lodwick remembers fondly: "I was sleeping like three hours a night and getting up at 8 the next morning to go do it all over again. And I was shooting with Star magazine and Julia Allison, so life in general seemed really petty."

“I was sleeping like three hours a night and getting up at 8 the next morning to go do it all over again. And I was shooting with Star magazine and Julia Allison, so life in general seemed really petty.”

Still, Lodwick says, nothing in the world of male modeling compares to what female models experience. "The female modeling industry is definitely more intense," Lodwick says. "They get paid like 10 times more than the men do. Therefore, it's way more of a business, so you have all of these girls that are just trying to make all of this money." And such high monetary stakes breed a particular nastiness that isn't realized in the men's world, where, despite the occasional meeting of combative personalities, models for the most part "get along," says Lodwick. "I did a show—Les Hommes in Milan—and there were two girls in the show. We were all fucking around backstage laughing and doing what we normally do and the girls were there with their jaws dropped, saying 'I can't believe you guys act this way!' They snap at each other," says Lodwick. Or, even worse: "I've heard horror stories of girls putting needles in a girl's shoes so when she's on the runway she'll fall over."

Catfights aside, there is also the issue of pressure to lose (or gain) weight. "I've seen stuff with people online commenting like, 'Oh my God he's so skinny, he needs to eat a hamburger or whatever.' And, I'm like, 'OK, look at my pictures where I'm not wearing clothes or where I have my shirt off.' Obviously I have a lot of muscle mass."

Modeling "can be really shitty at times," Lodwick says; it's not all a stereotypical endless stream of sex, Champagne, and clothes. "[People think] everything is handed to us on a silver platter. There's quite a bit that is given to us—party access, drinks, and everything. And even clothes to some extent. But there is a lot of work involved.”

It's a whirlwind that Lodwick has taken to documenting online. Despite seeing the potentially harsh realities of leading a decidedly public life in the digital age firsthand, Lodwick hasn't shied away from putting himself out there, virtually speaking. In addition to manning a blog called Vogue Adventure, which offers behind-the-scenes looks at his life as a model, updates on his band Vulture Realty, as well as a sprinkling of random photos and videos, Lodwick also maintains an eponymous site with largely the same type of content (minus the hyper fashion focus). Although, the fact that Lodwick has chosen to assume an alternate persona for his work in the fashion world suggests he's not ambivalent when it comes to self-presentation and self-preservation in the face of potential fame.

Rest assured, longevity is front and center in Lodwick's mind. It's no coincidence that the model planned on majoring in entrepreneurship. At a time in his life when many of his peers' biggest concerns are finishing finals, partying, and getting laid, Lodwick appears to be consciously plotting a personal path to success. "I'm thinking strategically: I know which designers I like and which shows I want to do," he says. "The industry is changing so much, so [it's a question of] how you can change it, how you can take advantage of it, how you can be an entrepreneur." That said, Lodwick is quick to credit one figure in particular as responsible for his success so far: Alister Mackie. The renowned stylist is a go-to for designers like Marc Jacobs and Martine Sitbon, as well as Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, and for whom Lodwick played "muse in January and again for Lanvin this season." The relationship is one that Lodwick earnestly champions: "I know he appreciates me more than just me standing there," Lodwick says of Mackie. "I know he appreciates how the clothes look on me and how I feel about them. That means a lot to me, because I really feel like I'm sort of involved with the whole production."

“I’ve heard horror stories of girls putting needles in a girl’s shoes so when she’s on the runway she’ll fall over.”

The experience has also been pivotal given Lodwick's aspirations to design. "I don't want to just do modeling. I want to do styling and hopefully designing and really get involved in different aspects of [fashion] other than just standing there," says Lodwick, who has been customizing his own clothing for the past six months. "I'm going from not really knowing anything to working with some of the best designers in the world in person," Lodwick says.

"I really like the whole Burning Man thing," Lodwick goes on, about the annual August desert gathering where festival-goers pride themselves on making outlandish original costumes for the affair. This year will be Lodwick's first time at the festival; he's camping out with a friend's family who works with Cirque du Soleil and is already hard at work on his costume. "Their theme is going to be all white so I'm excited for that, because I normally go for things that are shiny or have a whole lot of color.”

In the meantime, Lodwick is also working to finish his first solo music endeavor, an EP for an as-yet-unnamed project. "I feel like this is just the beginning stage for me," Lodwick says of his modeling career. "The way that I like to think this is all going to work out is that modeling is the first step." As for what's next, any number of scenarios are possible... even his own festival. "I want to have a compound where I can have festivals and stuff and keep a place in the city. Maybe [like Woodstock]. Some glorified version of that."

Plus: Check out Fashion Beast, for more news on the latest runway shows, hot designers, and emerging trends.

Alisa Gould-Simon is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer. She also covers fashion and culture for BlackBook, New York magazine, and PAPER among other publications.