FASH­ION

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

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy STEVEN CHEE Styling GEMMA KEIL Words VIC­TO­RIA HANNAFORD

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.”

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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

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