Calgary teen leaves behind an ordinary life to explore an unexpected passion and makes a name for himself in the world of high fashion modeling

This time last year, Connor Paterson was just an average high school student from southeast Calgary who lived with his parents and his younger sister. You could usually find him sitting at home in his basement playing Xbox, like any other 17 year old.

Paterson had no clue his life would completely change over the next few months. Instead of finding him on the couch in his cozy, suburban home, you can find him working the runway and posing for haute couture fashion shoots in Paris, Milan and New York City. Today, Paterson is a successful high-end fashion model.

Paterson has experienced an enormous burst of unexpected prestige and success. In such a short time, he had to adjust to leaving his friends and family for months at a time, deal with stressful work hours and learning to be ready to go to work at any moment. However, even in the midst his fame, he continues to remember who he is and where he came from.

Having just finished New York Fashion Week this past February, and busy between casting calls, the now 18-year-old model squeezed in an interview via Skype. Sitting on his bunk bed in an apartment he shares with other models in New York, Paterson talks about his unexpected start in the world of fashion.

Prior to modeling, Connor Paterson was a Grade 11 student at Bishop Grandin High School in Calgary, Alta. In Sept. 2014 he started taking online courses in order to pursue modeling full time.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Jaems

“Honestly, I thought I would have a better shot at being an astronaut who would go to Pluto than become a model. It was just so, obliviously, out there,” Paterson says excitedly through the webcam. His roommates can be heard laughing in the next room.

“I was getting my passport photo taken at London Drugs and the guy taking my photo said, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about modelling,’” Paterson says.

He thought the photographer was crazy, but it sparked an idea. 

Paterson got a few headshots taken and submitted them to Model Mayhem a website that features hundreds of models and photographers from around the world hoping to get their work seen.

Within a few hours of posting his photos Sean Bennett of Specimen Model Management, messaged Paterson requesting he sign with Specimen.

In 2014, Paterson signed a contract with Specimen Models and took a one-day trip to New York for test photo shoots.

“It was something in his eyes,” says Bennett, recalling what it was that inspired him to pursue Paterson. “He just had something about him.”

Standing at 6’ 2” with dark brown hair, brown eyes, and a sculpted face, Paterson has what Bennett calls, “The look of an art piece.” Bennett knew from the start that Paterson would be successful, but he was not expecting him to become so successful, so quickly. 

It was June 2014 when things really took off. Accompanied by his mom, Brooke Paterson, Connor headed to Europe for Spring/Summer 2015 Fashion Week.

“I was hoping he would get to do maybe one or two runway shows, and that at the very least it would be a cool story for the future. Little did we know he would book some top name shows: Gucci, Valentino, Dolce & Gabanna, to name a few. It was unreal,” Paterson says. 

Connor Paterson with his mom Brooke Paterson at Peters Drive In, in Calgary, Alta. Connor Paterson says that leaving his friends and family has been one of the most difficult parts of his modeling experience.

Photo courtesy of Jared Bautista / Facebook

It was clear modelling could be a future for Paterson. He had found a passion that gave him a world of opportunities, the kind that may never be obtained if he remained at Bishop Grandin High School. Paterson decided to take on modelling full-time and continue school online.

“We are not putting all our hopes and dreams on this one possibility, but at the very least he is getting an amazing, worldly, education; one we couldn’t even pay for him to have. Connor is young and bright and at this moment, for right now, this is just such an amazing thing to have happen to him,” Brooke Paterson says.

Today, Paterson is signed to work in several countries and cities Paris, London, Milan, and New York. He never quite knows where he is going to end up next.

“Literally, my agent can message me right now, and be like, ‘Connor pack your bags, you’re going to London tomorrow,’ and I have to do that.”

Over the past year, Paterson has had to adjust to a new lifestyle. It’s fast-paced, stressful and unpredictable. However, he says the experience is well worth it.

“Everyone kind of thinks that in modelling you’re traveling and it’s like a vacation,” says Paterson. “I have castings from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., with a few shows in between there. So I don’t have time to do anything right now.”

Amidst his newfound success, Paterson manages to stay true to his homegrown roots. He is extremely polite and he places a great emphasis on how much he cares about his family and friends.

“The first little bit was hard because my mom would phone me and every now and then all of a sudden she would start crying, and I am on the subway going, ‘Oh God, I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry,’ so it’s been difficult that way,” Paterson says.

Although he is unsure of when he will be returning to Calgary, he says he has received nothing but support from friends and family back home.

“It’s kind of hard to keep up with your friends when you’re gone three months at a time, but they understand it completely.”

Even when he is doing runway shows for Phillipp Plein that feature live mixed martial arts fights as well as a performance by Snoop Dogg, Paterson feels it is important to stay true to who he is and where he came from.

“You have to stay grounded,” Paterson says. “That’s the main rule here.”  

nholland@cjournal.ca

To contact the editor responsible for this story; Melissa Kadey @ mkadey@cjournal.ca