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Q&A: CMU senior shares experience modeling for Versace during Fashion Week in Milan


Dressed head to toe in designer, Canton senior Camren Barden walked the Versace runway. In his first-ever show, Barden conquered the sleek, luxurious signature of the Italian company.

He modeled two distinct looks, showcasing rich browns and vibrant geometrical patterns. Each of Barden’s looks features Versace’s newest print, as seen on the lining of his coat and handbag.

Barden, 22, never imagined the possibility of modeling for Versace’s Fall-Winter Ready-to-Wear Collection as a CMU finance major. He said he's still in shock at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I started getting more into modeling and suddenly realized I should take this seriously,” Barden said.  “I could take it to the next level.”

Central Michigan Life spoke with Barden on his origins in modeling and experience with Versace, along with his rapid success in the industry.

CM Life: How did you get into modeling?

Barden: Last year I actually met someone that works with Threads Fashion Show here at CMU, and she contacted me and said they were doing a poster shoot and wanted me to be one of the models. I thought ‘Why not?’ and figured it would be a good opportunity to get involved on campus. So I did that and ended up speaking to one of the photographers at the shoot. Once he saw me in the poster, he reached out to me and asked me to model for his senior year project. At that point, I started getting more into modeling. As I was getting photographed more often, my agency (Claude Model Management) reached out this past October, and I signed with them.

How did you get connected with Versace?

Once I signed with my managing agency in New York, we got a connection to their European partner agency, Rebel Management. They’d been talking back and forth and saying they were excited about me. Two weeks before Fashion Week in Milan, Rebel reached back out and put me “on-hold” to get involved in Milan. Basically, they had my shots and they had the option of choosing me, but there wasn’t a guarantee. It wasn’t until a week before that they told me I got picked. It was a crazy rush to figure out my plane and hotel and also deal with COVID regulations.

What was the theme of this year’s Fall-Winter 2021 Ready-to-Wear Collection?

The theme of this season's collection is called the La Greca, which features a present and future feel with geometrical, two-dimensional designs, utilizing different patterns and colors. It gave me the feel of a modernized retro design. The structure we modeled on was a maze with three different floors, and was meant to complement the shapes in the outfits. The maze looked different at every point, which was designed to give each look a unique surrounding. The theme was all about “getting lost in the maze.”

What was your experience in Milan like?

Milan was beautiful. I was there from Feb. 27 to March 2. The first day I just arrived and got to my hotel, but the second day I had to go to the Versace headquarters in Milan, where I got to see a rooftop view of Porta Nuova, the main business district. I talked with the designers about their vision for me in the show. I had my hair braided and cut first, then I was taken to the balcony where they had all the looks for the show. I spent the whole day getting fitted and experimenting with different looks. We were seeing what style worked best with me. Once my final two looks were chosen I had to walk in front of the casting crew. Later that day we had a rehearsal. All the male models were there in the start. From what I believe I was the only male model from America and it was great meeting models from Germany, Slovakia, and South Korea. We spent a lot of time perfecting our walk through the La Greca structure. Later on, all of the supermodels like Bella and Gigi Hadid came and I got to meet all of them. The next morning call time was at 6 a.m. That day was full of headshots, videography, and promotional shots. The next day I was already heading back home, so it was a crazy four days.

What was the environment like modeling for Versace?

Everyone involved was passionate and extremely dedicated, but also fun and creative. It was a very professional environment to be in and be a part of. It was amazing to see them in real flesh working their craft and working hard for Versace. At one point the casting director stopped the whole show to say, “You need to take a step back and realize that 1) You’re in the Versace show and 2) There are people behind you that have been doing this for 50-60 years representing Versace.” It put things in perspective and made me feel like “little Cam” from Michigan, walking for the first time ever. From that moment forward, I realized I had to make my mark and this would be a part of my history and Versace’s history forever.

Did you meet or speak with Donatella Versace, the Hadid sisters, or any other models?

Yes, so I had my hair braided and cut for the show by one of the stylists, and I ended up being the last model there because it was taking so long to braid my hair. Afterward, I was requested back into the fitting room to change the pants of one of my looks. I walked in and saw Donatella Versace and I couldn’t believe it. There was no way. I got to meet her and introduce myself and told her my story of how I got into modeling. She called me beautiful and came down so I could walk in front of her. She was so nice and congratulated me on my first show. I also got to meet Bella and Gigi and all the other models, but I talked with Donatella the most.

Did you have any role models or was this a personal aspiration?

Mostly this was a personal aspiration. I always had a thought in the back of my mind that I had the capabilities to model, and I knew it was an avenue I could go down. I want to make a name for myself in the industry. But my parents have also been supportive of me exploring my options and pursuing what I want to do in life. My mother actually did a little bit of modeling back in her day, so she was really excited I was getting into it. My parents have just been really encouraging of me in making my own decisions, even outside of modeling.

How does modeling and fashion allow you to express yourself?

It allows me to be who I am and what I’m interested in. Through different types of fashion, you can express how you feel each day with your outfit. The type of clothes I wear can express my entire mood. I also enjoy seeing what other people are wearing and using a little bit of each for inspiration. I see it as all of my fashion interests collaborating until I can make it my own.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I want to be the best at what I decide to do. I’m going to focus on perfecting my craft and getting better. I’m really new to the modeling industry, so I want to work on perfecting the basics like my walk and facial expressions. I hope to be in a position where I’m an established model, but also moving into new endeavors like acting. Acting would be my long-term goal. I want to be more than just a model by getting involved with Youtube, branding, or even philanthropy. I see myself branching out and I want to give that back to my community and represent Canton. It’s also important to me that I support and give back to the African-American community.