ARRIVING IN AUSTRALIA AS A SIX-YEAR-OLD REFUGEE FROM SOUTH SUDAN, ADUT AKECH WAS “MARY” UNTIL SHE DECIDED TO RECLAIM HER NAME WHEN LAUNCHING A CAREER IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY
Model Adut Akech takes checkered prints to new heights.
Adut Akech’s rise as a model is no fable about being plucked from obscurity after she was discovered in an unlikely setting. The Adelaide schoolgirl, who is balancing the demands of haute couture houses with her Year 12 studies, was determined to make a name for herself in the industry from an early age. The 17-year-old, who has recently returned from Paris Fashion Week, where she closed the Saint Laurent show, says she always had a “passion for fashion”, imagining she might be a stylist or designer. But a teacher suggested Akech would be more suited to strutting the catwalk.
“The only model I used to look up to was Alek Wek, but I didn’t know too much about modelling,” Akech tells Stellar. “It was actually my Year 7 teacher who kept telling me: ‘You would make a good model.’ I was 11 or 12, so I was like, ‘Sure.’”
It was on a trip to Melbourne last year that Akech paid a visit to one of Australia’s top agencies, hoping to be signed up.
“A friend of mine suggested Chadwick, and I was scared because I didn’t know if they would accept me; they didn’t have any dark-skinned girls [on their books]. I wasn’t really expecting that they would sign me, but they did. That’s where everything started off,” she says.
Martin Walsh, who heads up Chadwick, believes Akech’s personality sets her apart, and has seen her quickly establish close relationships with designers.
``I´m not Mary anymore. I want to be Adut; Adut is unique´´
“Her approach is very professional and intelligent – she’s very refreshing,” Walsh says. “That’s something we noticed about her right off the bat, and she’s a pleasure to work with.”
Before her career was underway, there was one item high on the model’s agenda: to change her name.
Akech, who was born in South Sudan and came to Australia as a refugee at six years old, had previously used the name Mary. “I started going by the name Mary when I began high school, because teachers couldn’t pronounce my name,” she explains.
When it came to launching herself in the fashion industry, however, she wanted to be known by her birth name.
“I’m not Mary anymore,” she says. “I want to be Adut; Adut is unique.”
Morrison vest, $299, morrisonshop.com; Ellery shirt, $1090, ellery.com; Asos culottes, $75, asos.com/au; Cos bag, $150, (02) 9231 3944; Fendi boots, $1340, fendi.com
Deadly Ponies jacket, $2489, deadlyponies. com; By Johnny dress, $450, byjohnny.com.au; Cue knit (worn underneath), $159, cue.cc; pants, $269, 1300 348 885; Bally shoes, $995, 1800 781 851
Ellery jacket, POA, ellery.com; L.W.B. jacket (worn underneath), $295, and jeans, $260, lifewithbird.com; Gant knit, $449, (03) 9340 5200; Acne Studios boots, $760, (02) 9360 0294
Ellery jumpsuit, $2650, ellery.com; Max Mara bodysuit, $1025, maxmara. com; Zimmermann top (worn underneath), $350, zimmermannwear.com
HAIR Koh MAKE-UP Filomena Natoli MODEL Adut Akech @ Chadwick