Sam Rollinson: ‘You need a thick skin; it’s about how you look and there’s not much you can do about that’

Sam Rollinson
Sam Rollinson photographed in London for The Fashion. Photograph: Frederic Pinet for the Guardian

Agood motto helps give anyone a sense of focus. Model Sam Rollinson has a pretty good maxim to see her through a career that includes walking in 63 shows during one season of fashion week and shooting global campaigns for labels such as Balenciaga or Burberry. “I just think,” Rollinson says, “keep calm, it’s only fashion.”

She believes the ability not to worry is vital for model success. “That and a thick skin, because ultimately it’s out of your hands whether you get a job or not. It’s all about how you look and there’s not much you can do about that.”

Rollinson thinks her Zen attitude to the business comes from what most commentators fret about with fashion: starting very, very young. She was spotted aged just 13 while she was at The Clothes Show Live in her home town of Doncaster. “I wasn’t really interested in fashion, but my mum dragged me along and someone just came up and scouted me. I went down to London with my family to find out what the crack was and then signed up.”

Her agency – Select, the management company that had previously nurtured Stella Tennant and Jamie Dornan – sent her out to test shoots and small jobs to get a feel for the life. “I didn’t enjoy it instantly,” she says. “I was 14 and on shoots with loads of adults; I was shy and didn’t know what to say to anyone. I mean, being 14, 15, is an awkward time for anyone, so it’s weird going through that as a model. But I got used to it and it was good to have the opportunity to do that, I think Select were really good at working with me. If I’d been scouted at 18 and gone straight into catwalk work, it would have completely overwhelmed me.”

It was shooting the 2010 Burberry campaign with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and actor Douglas Booth that convinced Rollinson she had a future in fashion. “I was 15 when I did that and I loved it. The catering was amazing and that’s when I met my best friend, Charlotte Wiggins.”

Three years later – A-levels completed (“So that if it all goes tits up I can go to university if I want to”) – she moved to London where she shares a flat with fellow models Wiggins and Eve Delf. “I’m the messiest. When I get home from a trip, I just open my case and everything flies out. It’s hard to concentrate on tidying up when you’ve been working in New York for a week. You don’t want to go home and wash your knickers. It’s not very exciting.”

Rollinson and her flatmates are part of a new gang of British models, along with Lara Mullen and Matilda Lowther, who chum around together not only through fashion week – during which Rollinson has walked for everyone from Chanel and Prada to Celine – but also at Benicassim, Glastonbury and beyond, having “a right laugh”. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter if you want to see for yourself. Rollinson is smart and funny at social media. “I think it’s good for people to understand that models are normal girls. I like that they know I’m more than just a doll.”

She gets to go to some pretty good parties, judging by Instagram. “You can’t complain,” she agrees. “Me and Charlotte get dressed by designers – Chanel andSaint Laurent are my favourites, stuff I don’t have in my wardrobe but I’m allowed to borrow – and go to these posh dos with free champagne.”

Though modelling is still fresh, Rollinson is level-headed enough to know it won’t last for ever. “Models move on, they have side projects which become more than that. I don’t know what else I want to do yet, but there’s lots of time to work that out. I don’t know if I’ll move into styling or maybe work at a modelling agency. Perhaps, in 10 years’ time, I’ll pop back and do the odd show – come on as a blast from the past.” And she laughs at the thought of her modelling career being over. After all, it’s only fashion. Keep calm.