Erin O'Connor: 'These days it feels quite exotic to stay in and watch EastEnders'

I still dream of being a teacher I was in the process of doing it before I was spotted [by a model scout] on a school trip. My mum, my sisters and my aunts are all in education – and it was a path which I was very sure about too, but then fate changed my life.

As I walk into a photo studio, I adopt a different character It's an important shift I make to hold back who I really am. The glamour and glories of modelling are all great fun but when you're home, stripped of your make-up and the nice lighting, you have to be able to reason with the person you truly are.

I'm beginning to accept what I was given When I was starting out in fashion, there were people who told me to get my nose reduced and my boobs blown up. I was bothered by my wonky nose and the fact I didn't appear to have a blossoming cleavage, but I felt incensed, and thought, "I'm not going to do that for you." It was an important day and if I'd gone and interfered with my face, I would have zero career right now.

We're assaulted by technology Our body parts are now constantly either shrunk or expanded [by Photoshopping] in an attempt to create an unobtainable version of perfection, but in doing so we've lost the essence of that beauty, and the impact this has on young women is quite disturbing.

I may look stern in a magazine, but I'm actually quite friendly It's easy to be pigeonholed: I was the 6ft woman who looked as though I could come at you with a machete, not the girl you see on the cover with a great smile, lovely teeth and plump lips, so I was always told I'd never be on a Vogue cover as I didn't look approachable enough. [O'Connor has since been photographed for the cover of Italian and British Vogue.]

I want the fashion industry to welcome outside opinion With my All Walks Beyond the Catwalk foundation we are appealing to designers to realise that the one-size-fits-all approach is incredibly limiting; there was a point where clothes became so minute that a lot of women started compromising to fit inside them. While we may not change the ideals of some established designers, we can focus on the younger ones at university; they already work on different-size mannequins, which is a start.

It was quite surreal appearing on a Royal Mail postage stamp The only people who usually appear on them are royalty and dead legends; I was just a young girl who wore a hat [designed by Stephen Jones]at a jaunty angle. It was hilarious for me; I can remember thinking, "People are going to be licking my head." The potential for narcissism was terrifying.

The essence of living for me now is repetitive routine There was a time when I would be on a flight three times a week, travelling to wherever the shoot was; life was so unpredictable and I had to be a willing nomad. Now, there's something quite exotic about staying indoors, watching EastEnders, cooking a curry and going to the chippie on a Friday night – it's momentous.

Style and conscience can co-exist We're still fighting with the "hats made of tofu" impression that people have of ethical fashion. But style is style, and ethically made garments should be a given. With [designer] Ada Zanditon, for example, you don't see "worthy", you just see an unapologetically cool, British vision of the future. And She Died of Beauty [O'Connor's new T-shirt range] is covetable clothing that takes a gentle poke at my industry – it also happens to have been carefully sourced.

Erin O'Connor, 33, is a model and fashion designer. Her latest range of T-shirts is available to buy at shediedofbeauty.com. For further information about Erin's foundation, visit allwalks.org

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