Christchurch model Eleni Tsavousis has forged a formidable career in front of the camera. Home from New York for summer, Metropol catches up with the local beauty about a tumultuous year in the Big Apple – and what’s in store for the one to come.
Tell us a bit about your upbringing in Christchurch and how this led to your modelling career?
“I was born in Christchurch, but then spent my childhood years in Nassau in the Bahamas. At 13, we all moved back to NZ and I started to hear more about how my mum and aunt had worked in the industry, but I can’t say I ever thought about it as a career for me. When I was 15 I got approached a few times. I didn’t pursue either advance, but a year or so later a friend of my mum’s, Sharon Ng, asked me to do a shoot for her. I remember feeling super embarrassed, but also flattered to be considered for her beautiful work, so I said yes and we shared a lovely (freezing) winter’s day shooting in the Port Hills. After that I walked for her in a show and then started working more regularly. It’s been a pretty incredible ride and the industry has given me so much. I’ve been working for more than 15 years now and I am so grateful for the gift of being able to live and work around the world. It’s taken me to live in Australia, Hamburg, Berlin, London, South Africa, Los Angeles and New York. I get to meet new people in new places every day for work which I love. I’m truly so grateful for it and how it has shaped my life.”
2020, what a year. New York has been in the global spotlight for the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the city. What has it been like living amongst the chaos?
“What a year indeed. My partner and I were supposed to have our wedding in April and I had a flight booked home to Christchurch early March to finish my wedding dress with my mum. We ended up staying until July and when we got back to New York it was a ghost town. I walked around Manhattan a few times, which is usually a bustling hub of tourists and business and was shocked to find block after block of homeless encampments. It was a very sobering time.”
Not to mention the impact on the fashion industry. We’ve seen a widespread re-think of the notion of frequent seasonal fashion. What have your observations been about this, and how does it impact your work? What do you think we will see from the industry in 2021?
“In my time in the industry, I have become increasingly aware of its problems, and am very pleased to see companies trying to find solutions that are environmentally and socially conscious. But, I think we as consumers also have to take responsibility. We have power and a lot of choice about how we spend. So I really try to take the time to think twice before I buy. Buy less, buy local, up-cycle, recycle, shop at thrift stores, be the hand that forces change. Moving forward I think we are going to see a push for artisan craftsmanship, for localised production and for an understanding of who made what and where.”
But now you’re back in New Zealand (and Christchurch)! What did you get up to in your quarantine hotel – and how do you plan to spend the summer?
“Home sweet home! I am actually in quarantine as I write this! Shout out to The Sebel Hotel in Manakau! I have been so impressed by the effective and thoughtful way our government has been able to keep NZ safe and still welcome home so many returning New Zealanders. It has made me so proud and grateful to be a Kiwi.
On release, I plan to annoy my mum with as many DIY projects as I can get away with, continue my life long saga of trying to get my dad to teach me French, guilt my brother into taking annual leave to hang out with me, catch up with my wonderful whanau and friends and take my husband on his first Kiwi tramp! I smile just thinking about it.”
And what does 2021 have in store for you?
“2020 was definitely a lesson in impermanence and being flexible with what the world delivers to us. I feel so lucky we have come through unscathed relative to so many we know and many we don’t. Honestly, I don’t know what my future holds; for now I’m looking forward to having a few months at home with my family and working with amazing creative Kiwis!”