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Jacquetta Wheeler Chose Southeast Asia Over Thousands of Dollars

>> Natalia Vodianova took us around Moscow yesterday, and now Jacquetta Wheeler chronicles her recent three-month trek through Southeast Asia — highlights below.  Although she's back at work now, walking in Singapore earlier this week (left) and shooting the upcoming Gucci campaign, she spent February through the middle of last month wandering through the backcountry of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, because like a number of other models recently — Daria Werbowy, Coco Rocha, Caroline Trentini — she needed a break:

Often I’d wake up in a hotel room and it would take a few seconds before I’d figure out which country I was in. My life had become a whirlwind of catwalk shows, hotels, airports and studios.  There was another reason why I needed a change. I had come out of a six-year relationship [Ed. note: presumedly with photographer Alexi Lubomirski], and up until three weeks ago was feeling utterly lost. I was dealing with both the pain of the break-up and the muddle that my life had become.

The decision to travel cost her.

So, here I am, sitting at a cafe in Nong Khai, about to cross the border into Laos. I have just cut off all communication with my agent after I received an email from her offering me a job for thousands of dollars. It would be so easy to be seduced by the money and abandon this trip, but I know that if I don’t commit to this journey now, I never will, and I would hate myself for that.

Eating beetles, $20 dresses . . . »

But why earn money when you can eat beetles in Laos?

Here you eat whatever you can catch: fish, monkey, snake, dog; pretty much anything that moves. My money afforded me chicken for dinner, which I was grateful for, although I wasn’t averse to trying a beetle or two as a snack. They were crunchy but very bitter, and I knew there was only so far I’d go to prove my willingness to fit in at this point.

And cause a spectacle without a runway in sight.

Unintended, the girls and I managed to make a real spectacle of ourselves when we attempted to take a much-needed shower this evening. The bathroom is a pipe that sticks out from the ground in the middle of the village. We went about the rather complicated procedure of undressing, and then washing, all the time keeping our bodies hidden by our sarongs, as had been advised in the guidebooks so as not to offend. Within seconds, 10, 15, then 20 children gathered around. It was like they were watching a comedy show. They gawped, pointed and giggled.

Even with designer clothing readily at her disposal, she went for the $20 dresses in Vietnam.

[Hoi An] is famous for its fantastic tailors, and I am taking full advantage, getting several dresses made for forthcoming weddings. I have chosen a place called Yaly, well recommended by other travellers, and am getting along very well with my seam­stress.

Finding inspiration from hundreds of old photos from western fashion magazines (many are familiar), together we copy and adjust each garment into a perfect piece. I visit Yaly two or three times a day; it’s a bit like doing fashion week. I’ve had six fittings in the last two days. It’s more fun, of course, because I am choosing the fabrics, the colours, the style, telling them 'a little more volume here, a little shorter there . . .’ So far my dresses are looking great, and amazing for just $20 each.
*image: INF daily

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