An Interview with International Model Axel Swan!

Model Axel Swan shot by Anton Bjorkmann
Model Axel Swan shot by Anton Bjorkmann

Born in the UK and raised in Milan, Italy, 23-year-old Axel Swan is one fashion model whose pouty lips and bad boy style exudes the kind of sex appeal that transcends cultural boundaries. Being brought up in what is arguably the high fashion capital of the world, it’s not surprising that Axel was scouted by a plethora of agents who hoped to represent him in his teens; but at that time he had other things on his mind– like art, music and roaming the streets of Italy on his moped. The now sought after model admits that he just needed to grow up a little before he was ready to give the fashion world a try; but once he did, there was no turning back.

Currently signed to Two Management in the states and Uniko Models in Barcelona, Axel’s edgy rocker look has led major fashion companies around the world to consistently book him to be the face of their campaigns. Besides his outward appearance, which is undeniably a challenge to peel your eyes away from, what makes Axel so special in front of the camera is the fact that there is a sweet air of innocence to his personality that radiates from his photos and creates a beautiful dichotomy. To put it simply, Axel Swan is one mesmerizing model.

Some of his most recognizable campaigns and editorials to date include shooting for Junya Watanabe & Loewe’s collaborative collection, Barbara Sanchez-Kane’s “Catch as a Catch Can” collection, Urban Tribe’s “Sub Urban” collection, Hells Bells, Cult Shoes, Cotton Club and others. Axel also recently shot a campaign for Coca-Cola, which will be released later this year.

Axel was not only featured in leading men’s magazine GQ (Italy) as one of the main models in the campaign for the Junya & Loewe collection, but he was also featured in the collection’s fashion video, which was shot by Andrea Olivo and went viral in 2013. The video garnered Axel, the other models and the company a lot of attention when it was included on The Fashionisto, GQ Italia’s website and many other high profile outlets.

In addition to helping put many brands on the map in the eyes of fashion consumers, Axel has also taken his place in front of the camera shooting editorials for purely artistic purposes, like the 10-shot solo editorial he did for Papercut Magazine’s “Shiele Reloaded” spread. The photo collection, which was inspired by the work of iconic Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele, reflects Axel’s astonishing versatility and capacity for bringing intense emotions and characters to life.

To find out more about Axel Swan make sure to check out our interview below!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

AS: My name is Axel Swan Maldini, I’m 23. I was born in a small town close to Manchester in the UK in July 1992. My mother was modelling in Milan at the time and my dad started working in a bank while he was promoting at one of Milan’s biggest nightclubs, and so they moved back to Italy when I was just 2 years old. I attended Italian schools, and I recently got my bachelors degree in fine arts at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera.

I’ve always been really into music and skateboarding. I picked up the bass guitar at the age of 15 back when I was a punk, probably one of the few ones in Milano, Italy. All I was doing was putting soap in my hair and sewing patches of the bands I liked on my jeans and putting together some great distorted tunes with my friends. When I realised music wasn’t just about screaming and distortion I decided to attend a music school where I studied bass guitar for more than five years. In 2011 I started a band called ØJNE. We toured Europe a few times and released three vinyls.

About modeling.. I remember I was scouted by a tall young ginger haired man, on a warm day of the Italian Autumn, during my punk times. I was sitting in a corner next to a shopping mall having a beer and listening to my favourite noise, and the young lad come close to me and he smiles asking me if I could please open for a fashion show that I would have been perfect for, and that he would bring me to Elite afterwards so they could represent me.

The only thing I could do at the time was tell him to get lost… I refused his offer and wouldn’t take his business card. I just probably needed some time to figure things out and maybe grow up. Yeah I was a punk, but I was only 15. I got into modelling few years later at the age of 21.

How did you get into the industry?

AS: I remember meeting my ex-booker at a bar and we exchanged numbers. And then I received her call a couple of months later while I was driving my moped. She said a client really wanted to meet me so I accepted, and became a part of the agency.

What do you enjoy about working in the industry?

AS: Growing up I was always really shy and introverted, and I thought the industry was the right place to force myself to show my personality to others, as well as meet many talented individuals. I managed to improve my personality and kicked away most of
my shyness!

Also I’m very fascinated by what happens behind the camera, and it’s really interesting to try and understand how another person sees you and what role they give you to interpret. Being the “object” of a creative process can only improve my skill as a graphic designer,
as well as train my eyes and develop further awareness in my artistic choices.

On top of that clothes are always really, really nice. Also it’s a great opportunity to understand something more about fashion design, fabrics textures and all that comes with it!

What agencies are you with?

AS: TWO management – Los Angeles
Uniko – Barcelona

What are some of your favorite brands and why do you love them?

AS: I don’t have any favourite brands and I don’t love any one in particular. I used to be really into Rick Owens (I still am, except for the fact that billions of people started to dress with copies of the real clothes without really seeming to understand why) and all the high end brands related to it… I still think the atmosphere they recreated, it’s something unique and has taken a lot from a few different cultures and background and they put them together with a dark “goth” attitude.

On top of that there’s alway a meticulous attention to the details of the fabrics and textures. Recently I re-discovered the Scandinavian touch to fashion, which is always extremely clean and minimalistic.

How has working as a model affected your style?

AS: I don’t think working as a model has affected the way I dress. Obviously at times you need to dress accordingly to fit the client you’re going to meet, but I always do it with my own touch and taste.

I’ve always been extremely sure that in a way what you wear expresses yourself and in some ways some of your personality. I’d say music has affected my style more, as well as my mood and my growth.

I rarely wear clothes that I bought a year before or more, because being still quite young, I feel they don’t represent me anymore or they represent non-updated version of myself; and they could also remind me of periods of my life that can be either good or bad, but
still in the past.

Who are some of your go-to style inspirations?

AS: Love to mix and match. It could be a punk, a skater, another model, anyone could make me think of something new and different to put on.

Do you ever feel like you are two separate people, one when you’re in front of the camera, and a different one when you’re not working?

AS: Not really. Though I have to say that I mostly get picked to be the badass boy with tattoos and in “real life” I’m definitely not the one to be tough and cocky. I think one of the most interesting parts of being a model is learning to interpret the role they give you during a shoot or a movie and try your best to feel that way in front of the camera.

Can you list some of your clients, as well as the campaigns you have shot for them?

AS: I shot a multi-platform campaign for GQ Italy x Junya Watanabe x Loewe where the editorial shots were featured in the magazine, as well as GQ’s online platform and I also shot a video for them, which was featured on Highsnobiety and The Fashionisto.

I’ve shot campaigns for Rebel Root that were featured on billboards and in the papers in Barcelona, Spain, Cult Shoes and Evin Beachwear in Italy, as well as Catherinelle Bags and the campaign for Urban Tribe’s Sub Urban Collection.

I’ve also been featured in editorials for The fashionisto exclusive, Fucking Young! x Barbara Sanchez, Liu Magazine and Rendez Vous de La Mode. The editorial for Rendez Vous de La Mode was also part of the cover story.

What kind of jobs do you usually get hired for?

AS: I’ve done a bit of everything from walking the runway and shooting high fashion editorials to commercial work and bathing suit ads, but so far I’ve done editorials more than anything else. 

What is your favorite job you’ve done as a model?

AS: I’ve really enjoyed doing them all to be honest. The one I liked most was probably shooting for Fucking Young, it was fun messing around with a painted face and some Lucha Libre pieces.

Szilveszter Makó 2
Axel Swan shot by Szilveszter Mako

What would you say your standout characteristics/physical features are in the modeling world?

AS: I’m really skinny and long, got a bunch of tattoos but mostly concentrated on my left arm and my legs. Got some quite high cheekbones but not so edgy of a face. I can look a bit more commercial when I have a bit of a beard.

Who have been some of your favorite photographers to work with and why?

AS: Szilveszter Mako. I shot with him for Fucking Young! and Lui Magazine. I’m really into his surreal approach to photography– the atmosphere he manages to reproduce in his pictures definitely recalls his background and where he comes from. He has a really cold touch and the geometries in his pictures as well as the framing is something unusual. He definitely has a great eye.

Andrea Olivo . I shot with him for GQ. His style reminded me a bit of Terry Richardson, the shots were really simple and the atmosphere was more than laid back. The focus was just on the attitude of the models.

What would you say your strongest qualities as a model are?

AS: I think being myself has always worked pretty well. Apart from the way I look, which is very contradicting compared to who I am (people always expect me to be the badass junkie but I’m very sweet and easy going), I think having loads of passions and interests helps me get along with pretty much everyone in the industry and there’s always a lot to share about something. I’m very professional, I always do the best I can do, and I’m easy to work with.

Can you list some of the people you’ve worked with that our readers might know?

AS: Andrea Olivo, Catrinel Marlon, Francesco Chiappetta, Krizia Robustella, Szileszter Mako, Juny Watanabe x Loewe, Federico Garibaldi, Evin Beachwer, and Settimio Benedusi to name a few.

As a model, what are your plans for the future?

AS: Work as much as I can and discover as many markets as possible.

What do you hope to achieve in your career as a model?

AS: A couple of those big billboards wouldn’t hurt, must be a weird feeling seeing yourself printed that big! I would probably crash my moped If I saw myself that big while i was riding around town. Apart from that, I’d love to work with designers I’ve always admired and get to know who’s behind the “big name.”

What is it about modeling that you love?

AS: Modeling is a great way to get to know great and talented creative people and gives you the possibility to see places and travel more.

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