Vanessa Packer is waiting on a delivery. The 35-year-old mastermind behind modelFIT boutique workout studio just moved to the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Larchmont Village, and she doesn’t want to get one of those dreaded “Sorry, we missed you!” mail slips. So instead of a coffee shop, she asks to meet at her new LA abode, which is brimming with warm afternoon light and new possibilities. “Since we just moved, we’ve done a lot of purging,” she says, walking down the hall to her sunroom. “Maybe it’s the Marie Kondo effect? Now there are so many resources to sell your stuff or donate that it’s really easy to [get a fresh start].”
This desire to begin anew is something that lives deep within Packer. In 2014, the former stylist opened a new type of fitness studio on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and it quickly became an oasis for those looking for a more mindful workout. “It had this shine because I came to it through the mindset of fashion and hospitality,” Packer says of modelFIT’s beginnings. Beyond the studio’s chic aesthetics, Packer took a more holistic approach to physical activity by focusing on workouts with small movements, which better protect the body’s joints.
“At the time there was this real push—and there still is—to do these high-intensity workouts where you exhaust your muscles,” she says. “A lot of it causes the body to bulk up or, in a lot of cases, causes injury. I truly believe that moving mindfully and thinking about what you put into your body and thinking about your nutrition is the real way towards sustainable health.” That’s why modelFIT also offers nutrition coaching, thus presenting truly well-rounded and holistic health education.
The studio became an instant hit with New York A-listers like Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss, which encouraged Packer to leap into the unknown for a second time: a new location in Los Angeles. “To be honest, LA has a really motivating spirit right now, so I’m really loving that,” she reflects. “It actually reminds me of what New York really had 10 years ago—I feel like it’s really happening here.” While modelFIT’s West Hollywood home provides its celebrity clients with the ability to go back and forth between America’s two major hubs without missing a 45-minute workout, it also presents Packer with the opportunity to expand the brand’s ethos and community. “We have a lot of clients that work in all different fields … They’re living real lives and taking amazing care of themselves,” she says. “We try to do a lot of work within the studio and in our messaging online to make it super inclusive.” Here, everyone’s an A-lister.
Because at the end of the day, people—both her clients and her staff—are what Packer cares most about. She’s confident in her team, knowing that it takes a village to keep modelFIT growing authentically. “It’s interesting,” she says as she curls up on the couch. “My family’s in the restaurant business and my dad always said something that I still take with me to this day: ‘You can teach a great person to be a great waiter, but you can’t teach a great waiter to be a great person.’ I really look for great people and people that want to learn, people that want to be challenged, people that really care and want to be part of a team.” This passion begins inward but grows outward, reflecting onto every aspect of the modelFIT experience.
Of course, rest is just as vital as movement, so when it comes to downtime, Packer makes sure to end her day with her loved ones in meaningful—and phone-free—situations. “I think that those moments of connection are what’s really important,” she says. She looks down at her arm, which has a few small intent bracelets on it. “My word of 2019 is ‘abundance.’ I’ve been really focusing on the abundance of each part of life, whether it’s family, relationships, career, health, or my own feelings of self-worth and value. I’m working on all of those things and building a life that’s more full and balanced.”
Update, November 2019: modelFIT has closed down both its locations to focus on streaming services through Jetsweat Fitness.