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Kaska model from Lower Post walks Milan runway

Kieran Schilling has heard it all — fashion is tough, he’s too short to model, he doesn’t have the look the industry’s after — but the 28-year-old Kaska citizen probably won’t hear much more of it after having walked the runways of Milan this February.

“I’ve heard many people share their limiting beliefs,” he told the News over the phone on Feb. 29. His harshest critic however, is himself, said Schilling, who’s from Lower Post, British Columbia, attended school in Watson Lake and now lives in Vancouver.

The trip even silenced him though. Schilling said it was empowering to open a show during Milan Fashion Week, where he modelled clothing for Yukon designer Natasha Peter and her label, Kaska Dena Designs.

“It was an amazing opportunity,” he said. “It really instilled a lot of confidence and faith in myself […] it was my first runway and my first time overseas and I felt like I belonged there.”

Peter agrees. That’s why she wanted Schilling as her sole male model.

Milan wasn’t Peter’s first big show (Kaska Dena Designs has been part of New York Fashion Week in the past), but it was her first time showing menswear. She said she has a team of women models she relies on regularly, but when she started developing more men’s clothing and accessories, she wondered who would strut the stuff for her in Italy.

In January 2024, she turned to Facebook, where she has 10,000 followers and posted a call-out for one male model.

“Eighteen people applied,” she said. “There was one guy that was walking for Louis Vuitton in Paris, he had applied, too, but I kind of wanted a Kaska model because I’m a Kaska designer and I wanted to represent more of our people back here in the Yukon and Kaska people.”

After browsing portfolios and doing interviews with each of the candidates, Peter chose Schilling.

There were a number of reasons he was the perfect choice, she said. Sure, he was handsome, but she was impressed with how bold his portfolio was. He was also Kaska. Plus, he was passionate in the interview she did with him, about his modelling goals. She liked his energy.

Energy that came in handy over in Milan.

Schilling said the day of a photo shoot Peter had scheduled, he had what felt like food poisoning.He didn’t think he was going to be able to make the shoot, but he rallied. Peter said she wouldn’t have even known he was sick if he hadn’t told her — he brought that same spirit and enthusiasm to the set that he’d brought to their initial interview.

Schilling can see how it looks like he’s carved a quick path in the fashion industry. He didn’t start pursuing modelling until October 2023, with some shots for an online luxury consignment store and now he’s been to Milan. But he said it was actually a much longer road than that.

Living in the North, he said he wasn’t happy with his life. He struggled with substance abuse. He struggled with the loss of his father.

“One day I just had enough of it so I packed up my stuff and got in my truck and moved down to Vancouver,” he said.

For a while after that, he worked for Silvertip Mine, first at the processing plant just south of the Yukon border, and then in site services.

“Deep down I felt like that wasn’t my true calling and I wanted more out of life,” he said.

Last June he left the mine and started working as a car salesman at Richmond Chrysler. It gave him the freedom to pursue modelling, something he’d thought about for years.

Next he’d like to try something else he’s been thinking about: acting.

He’d like to study formally, but he said it will have to wait a while. Milan put a dent in his wallet. There was too much good food to eat and, of course, for someone who wants to model for luxury brands one day, he had to bring back Gucci sunglasses and a Gucci wallet.

But while he saves up so he can take that next step, he said he hopes the work he’s done so far can inspire others who are maybe struggling the way he was a few years ago.

Even if you have a million negative voices in your head, he says, find the positive one and listen to it.

“Take that leap,” he said. “Be courageous and brave and leave your footprint in this world.”

, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Yukon News