Julia Nobis on Modeling, Studying to be a Doctor, and her ‘Fashion Sabbatical’

Julia Nobis has been walking catwalks for a decade, one of those rare models who seems to be always in demand. The 28-year-old Aussie has starred in campaigns for Prada, served as Raf Simons’s muse, and posed on every continent except Antarctica. (“At least, not yet!” she says.) And when the Aussie is done with her last show of the season—typically Louis Vuitton, because Nicolas Ghesquière is also un grand admirateur—she zips home to New York, because the future doctor has to study some biotech.

“That’s what I majored in,” says Nobis when she Zooms into frame from her East Village apartment. She’s framed by gallery sketches and vintage science prints—a nod to her studies. “I have my degree in applied science,” she grins, “and I’m levelheaded when I need to be. I’ve been quite chill during quarantine.”

Really?

“I mean, I did almost get stuck in Peru,” she says, “and then I had to get back to America with, like, 24 hours’ notice. … My cats went insane and had to take Prozac … and I’m waiting for my green card, so I can’t travel—not even to Australia for med school, which I was considering. But, yeah,” she laughs. “My first runway season was 11 years ago. After being in fashion your whole adult life, everything seems almost normal.”

Here, the model breaks down her career highlights, her “fashion sabbatical,” med school, and going “full cottagecore” during the pandemic.

On Her Big Break …

My first job ever was at Domino’s Pizza. I was 13. I can still make a mean pizza, and also a good “emergency pizza,” which is a tortilla with cheese and sauce in the toaster oven. … Then, when I was 17, I booked the exclusive at Calvin Klein in New York. That was my first runway show.

On Starting Young …

What I found hard was that nobody wants you to admit you’re a kid, but then, they also don’t want you to grow up too much. You stop at 23. I’m 28, but I’m still 23. But when I was 17, I also had to be 23. That’s, like, the age everyone wants you to be! … Now, working hard in principle is great … but everyone [else] who’s working in fashion—stylists, photographers, makeup artists, hair—they’ve been working together for 20 or 30 years. Then you have these young people acting “cool” for people twice their age. It opens itself up to manipulation and abuse. … And it’s not like when you turn 18, you magically know everything about the world and can act accordingly. … I’m a cynical person, but there’s definitely been a lot of improvement across the board, though there is still work to be done.

On her secret career highlight …

Someone made a meme out of me in a bright green frilly Gucci dress! [They] put me side by side with a broccolini. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. It’s fucking glorious. People kept texting it to me, and I was so proud.

On her “fashion sabbatical” …

I decided to volunteer in Peru with the International Foundation for the Medical Relief of Children … and I timed it very intentionally with Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks. I was like, “Oh, I’ll be in a remote village eight hours from any city, sorry!” I called it a “fashion sabbatical,” and I helped run a rural health clinic where the kids get checked to make sure they’re meeting their milestones. … I also volunteered with an indigenous community that was close by. We did first aid, we did mental health care, we taught the kids CPR—they did great!—and then right as my term was ending, I almost got stuck in Peru because of COVID. I had, like, one day to find a flight and get back to New York. … I could have been one of those stranded tourists who still hasn’t seen her cats!

On medicine vs. fashion …

I thought about being a surgeon, and I think I’d be very good at it. But no matter how good a surgeon is, a couture [sewer] is the ultimate. … Lacework is one of the most insane things I’ve ever seen. I cannot comprehend it. I knit and crochet on the regular, and watching the designers work during fittings is unreal. … But I’ll tell you, for real, that when it comes to sewing a really neat, clean hem and sewing stitches in the ER? It’s pretty much the same thing. Different tools, that’s all.

On her pandemic style …

In 2021, I’m going so cottagecore, it kind of disgusts me. I’m moving to Connecticut for a bit, and I’m going to garden and make fruit pies. It sounds so basic but fuck it. My pies are going to be great.

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