Going for the model off-duty look is one thing, but pulling it off is another. And if anyone can pull off that casual yet badass bohemian vibe, it’s Natalie Suarez, our Livingly #StyleCrush and creator of the acclaimed fashion and travel blog Natalie Off Duty.
The leggy boho beauty has been modeling since the age of 15, and is one-half of the power duo that is the Suarez sisters (her sister Dylana has a fashion and travel blog as well, and the two often work and travel together for feature shoots and more).
I was excited to get the chance to sit down and chat with Natalie at last month’s Create & Cultivate Dallas, where she had just offered her insight during a panel called “Style Vibes: How to define your personal brand, manage transparency and define your voice.”
Could that have been any more perfect? Create & Cultivate, an online platform and workshop series designed to inform and entertain female entrepreneurs in the digital space, was the ideal place for me to pick Natalie’s brain about airport style, travel must-haves for models, her quirky signature style and recent adventures, and more.
So how did you get your start modeling? I know you’ve been doing it for so long.
I was in high school, and that was when I just had my growth spurt. My sister was always, like, six foot, so I was always the shorty! Then right when I became a freshman in high school, I grew to like 5’10”. It was so weird; I never thought I was gonna be tall.
I always liked to dress kind of funny; I was getting inspired by designers, and I wore a lot of vintage, just very quirky kind of outfits. I only shopped at yard sales and estate sales, and I would find all these vintage things. So my friends were like, Oh my god, you should just model. You obviously love fashion, and you’re already so tall, you’re kind of weird looking (they only like you when you’re kind of weird). [laughing]
My mom knew about Ford Models in Beverly Hills, and she was like, I’m just gonna take you to an open call and see what happens. My mom and dad took me there, and of course there’s so many girls there; the wait was forever. I was like, This is so dumb. Can we just go home?
I was in there with no makeup, my hair was down to my butt. I looked scary. [laughing] But they actually kept me in and signed me.
It’s just a funny story… they liked the oddball kind of look, so I guess that’s how it all started; and then I was just working, and when I was 18, that’s when I started Natalie Off Duty. My sister was blogging in college at UCLA for fun, so she’d always shoot me. We were one of the first fashion blogs back in the day, next to a few other ones. Slowly it just evolved into modeling and blogging [that went] hand-in-hand, everyone always wanted to post behind the scenes from our shoots, [and start to] tell the story. I just fell into it!
How would you define your signature style?
My signature style is very eclectic, it’s kind of earthy because of my California upbringing. But it’s still more classic and streamlined and rock’n’roll because of New York City, which I’ve lived in for 5 years. So it’s a mix of both... It’s eclectic rock’n’roll bohemian.
What are your tips on how to look better in photos or how to take a better selfie?
Good lighting. Just anything bright, very flattering.
I like to make it a little bit more artistic. I love cool shadows – doesn’t even have to show your face all the time. It could just be like, you dancing from the side. I like more energetic photos. Something that tells a story and a mood. More of a feeling, and not just like straight up, here’s my outfit.
What’s your go-to airport look? Power travel look?
I love a good pair of skinny jeans, Converse sneakers, and any kind of long duster coat that ties at the waist. Kind of like a trench, and maybe a hat. Just chic and easy, it looks good.
Plus you get to forego the plane hair…
Yeah. I love anything that cinches at the waist, or belts – [like] a big over-sized furry vest with a belt.
3 key items you bring in your carry-on bag when you travel?
Dry shampoo (because I have bangs, so I need that), that’s my main. Compact foundation – right now I’m using [the new] L’Oreal Lumi Cushion foundation, it’s really easy to use. Everything that’s quick. And then Stila lip balm, it goes on your cheeks and your lips, their lip stain in Rose. [I use] that all the time. That’s all I need for my face.
Go-to right there!
How is traveling like a model different than being a traveler or tourist?
I always like to dress cute when I go to the airport. Put a little bit of effort, because you never really know who you’re going to run into! Maybe you’re going for a job and everybody on your shoot is on the same flight – so you don’t wanna show up and look crazy! [laughing]
So, just [look] a bit more put-together. Always have brushed hair. Maybe a hat if you’re feeling like I have no time to get ready. A good travel scarf. Just anything easy; and don’t look like a bum, because you never know who you’re traveling with.
What goes into the wardrobe selection process for travel in terms of preparing for photoshoots [or what you bring with you]?
I normally plan. I used to just throw whatever and mix and match when I got there; but then I always had over weight baggage fees… So now, I always plan, maybe a few pairs of jeans, a few dresses. You never know; maybe you’re going out to a party, so I always have a few cocktail dresses. One pair of nice heels, always a pair of boots, maybe some easy flats and Converse sneakers just for running around. Just a variety, especially for day to night.
Normally I’m traveling for a shoot, so I already know who I’m working with; I know the vibe, I know the days I’m going to be there… I normally will have an itinerary, so I kind of already know the events, it’s all planned around that. But say if I’m going for my blog, it’s more [for] like a press trip, which is cool; I don’t know who I’m gonna meet there, [maybe a] bunch of editors for magazines… so that’s when I kind of pack more spontaneously, because I never really know what the schedule is.
Any crazy wardrobe malfunctions?
Try not to wear a lot of white. Today I’m already sort of scuffed up, just from like, walking around [here at Create + Cultivate]! Don’t wear anything that’s gonna get dirty, basically; just wear lots of dark colors and blacks.
That’s a good rule of thumb for life.