Fierce model, talented photographer, vocal social activist, pack leader–– Remy Holwick is the Jackie-of-all-trades, conquering every cool-girl avenue… while still finding the time to chat with us! We conversed with Remy on the fashion industry, running ‘xIST’ (a not-so-secret society with a social conscience), and finding the hours in the day.
Remy’s Instagram bio sums it up: Richard Nixon on acid staring at a string bean. Just kidding–– she was born in Venice Beach in 1981, when it was full of artists. Her father was a painter and her mother was an it-girl in West LA, and her godparents were artists as well. “They were all so beautiful, and it was such a beautiful time, if you look at photos of that particular moment in that particular place.” She is a photographer and model, destined to a life of artistry. “It was clear from pretty much the minute I was born, that whatever I did would be in the arts somehow— I think they all assumed I would be a painter, like my father.” She later notes, however, that “it’s been very hard to build up the courage to paint when I love my dad’s work so much. He died when I was 11, and I’ve always been terrified of the comparisons that would inevitably be drawn between his work and mine.”
“We moved to Hawaii when I was six, and I was raised there, where I fell in love with the weird little Hawaii punk scene, and worked in a record store through all of high school, and drew and painted and kind of did everything but study.” Remy continues, “I don’t think I realized then just how lucky I was to have been raised in a way where I was always kind of able to decide for myself what I should be doing.” She pursued theatre at Reed College, which she describes as a ‘seemingly lawless, hyper-liberal, hyper-academic oasis in Portland, OR.’ But at this time, the college was not the only important factor of her environment. She got there during the WTO Protests in Seattle and became involved with people who were organizing some of that, giving her a good look at the power of organized people.
She was picked up by Ford Models while waiting tables in Chicago, IL right after graduation. “[It] was a total curveball for me after being at a place like Reed, where appearance meant very little and ideas were everything.” Ford moved her out to New York and she booked her first two jobs, as the face of MAC Cosmetics and CK Jeans. “It also forced me to get a passport… and allowed me to see so much of Europe and parts of Asia, and put me on a path for the rest of my life. I’ve been in the fashion industry ever since, I’m still represented by Ford well over a decade later,” though she works as much in photography now as she does modeling.
Photography has always appealed to Remy, noting that some of her parents closest friends were photographers. “My mother did a lot of photography when she was young as well. I started shooting seven years ago, and had a couple stories published pretty much immediately, but life got in the way and I backed off— it was pretty much three years ago that I decided ‘this is what I’m doing’ and never looked back.” She describes her aesthetic as a definite reference to the 60s and 70s in terms of content and color. “Nostalgia for that kind of 60s and 70s west coast aesthetic still informs my work pretty consistently and clearly.” Her work is all film, processed by her, so the look of that era is in tact. “I reference fashion shoots a lot, and some of my work is done for fashion publications, but I shoot more art and less straight ‘fashion,’” adding that she is working on a book and gallery show.
In the midst her flourishing career, Remy is a heavily involved social activist–– notably, spearheading ‘xIST’ (formerly GRLCVLT NYC). The secret Facebook group defines itself as “a diverse group of people working together under the principles of intersectional feminism to share stories, provide support, and brainstorm solutions to everyday problems ranging from wardrobe questions to personal issues to serious life matters.” They host meet-ups, parties, and events as well. The group is a ‘safe space’, inclusive of content warnings, mindful discussion, and consideration of the experiences of other members.
“xIST is a growing network of women and non-binary folks nationwide. We grew out of the concept of secret networking groups on Facebook that had become popular, but we evolved from networking and adopted an intersectional feminist set of values right away.” The group is ever-expanding, at about 3,000 members and expanding nationally. As a pack leader in such an expansive and inclusive group, Remy shares the importance of their leadership model. “Our leadership model is to support the group from the bottom— we encourage our leadership to be the bedrock of the group in terms of guiding culture, mediating debate, and upholding the core values of the group. I try my best to be there to mold the leadership culture. I also participate really heavily in the group. I’m checking in constantly.”
Remy’s other hallmark in activism is her role as a co-chair of the Committee to Recall Aaron Persky, the judge in the infamous Brock Turner trial. The movement also spawned ‘Fuck Rape Culture’, an event to sign letters in efforts to recall the judge. Go to recallaaronpersky.com to learn more and get involved. But how, how does she find time to do it all? “I split my time between NYC and LA, and I try to divide my activity accordingly. When I’m in LA I shoot more, I work a lot with Ford LA, because my mother agent is there, and I try to sleep and enjoy the place.” She is also obsessed with LA thrift stores, and spends most of her free time digging through them. “When I’m in NYC, I edit my work, I work on xIST activity, I schedule a ton of work meetings and I spend a lot of time out at art shows and try to get as much done as I can. That cycle keeps me from getting burned out, and keeps me excited for what comes next, but there are definitely a lot of nights where I get 5 hours sleep.”
So what does Remy think the fashion industry needs? “The industry will always need more diversity. I want to see older people represented, I want to see size diversity truly embraced, I want to see an end of the division between straight and plus sized boards, I want to see an intersectional approach to hiring, where those who have had to overcome the most in order to get where they are are given special consideration and are given more interviews, more photoshoots, and more opportunity.” She also thinks it is critical that consumers see themselves represented. “When a woman is investing in her wardrobe, it would be great not to make her feel badly about her body, or her race, or her age, or her level of ability in the process.” And lastly, she adds, “I want to see an end to the idea that beauty is the latest eighteen year old white size 0, 5’10 model— because they are beautiful, and I was one, but we all know that already. I want to see the rise of the idea that beauty is so much more subtle and beguiling and unexpected than that, and from that concept, all kinds of new faces and concepts can rise.”
As someone who works in the industry however, she is always balancing the ideals and standards of the fashion industry with her personal standpoints. “I think anyone who wants to see change in an industry has to really love and believe in the industry, and be as involved with that industry from the inside as possible. I love fashion, and while it’s so, so far from perfect, I want to bring these ideals and standards to it in part because I really do love it so much. I stay involved with it at this level because I couldn’t imagine not working in it, but I know that I won’t be credible in the industry unless I play by its rules,” noting that in fashion, those on the outside can be especially critical because there are so many problematic things that can (and do) happen.
“You’d die if you tried to listen to all the voices telling the industry to change from the outside.” But Remy finds the balance, as she “work[s] hard to maintain myself as a model and remember that a lot of things in the industry have evolved the way that they have for a reason, and to be respectful of those I work with, and of everyone that came before me in this… it’s such a gift to have the platform within the industry that Ford and the brands I work with have given me, to create the kind of change I believe in.”
Where does Remy see herself in five years? “My book on the Savage Ranch, a piece of land owned by the Savage family in the Southern California desert and dedicated to gender fluid arts, will be published. I’ll have a couple gallery shows behind me. I’ll have a couple more campaigns behind me. I hope I’m still with Ford. I hope I’m still with xIST. I hope it’s still like it is, just further along… but who knows what the plan is for me. I am a terrible oracle. I hope it’s something I haven’t even imagined yet.” We so look forward to watching Remy continue to thrive.
Thank you, Remy, for taking the time to chat with us! You can catch up on Instagram @remyholwick to follow her adventures.