fashion

The rest of the world celebrates Adut Akech. We should too.

In international fashion circles, South Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech is a bona fide supermodel.

Before her 18th birthday, Akech had been a covergirl for the French, British, Italian and Korean editions of Vogue. In November last year, she appeared on her fifth global cover for the masthead, when Vogue Australia eventually followed suit.

Akech Vogue AU
And it was glorious. Image: Vogue Australia.

She featured in the prestigious 2018 Pirelli Calendar opposite Naomi Campbell, and has starred in fashion campaigns for brands including Stella McCartney, Miu Miu, Fendi, Coach, Saint Laurent, Valentino and Moschino.

The 19-year-old has walked the runway for almost every high-end designer, and in July 2018, the late Karl Lagerfeld chose her to close the Chanel Haute Couture show as his Couture 'bride' - the second black model to ever do so.

Chanel Haute Couture
An actual angel. Image: Getty.
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Last year, she was named Model of the Year by models.com by an industry vote, and called "the singular face that defined a year." In the Reader's Choice category, the same award was won by Gigi Hadid.

Despite all this, most Australians have never heard of her.

A small minority, including many of my former peers in the magazine industry, know Akech is one of our most successful fashion exports - a rare, once-in-a-generation talent with a dance card to rival Gemma Ward or Catherine McNeil. I know stylists who would trade their Celine bags for the chance to work with THIS:

Adut Valentino runway
Bow down: Akech walks the Valentino runway. Image: Getty.

But many only became aware of Akech in the past 24 hours, when a local magazine confused her image with that of another African-Australian model, Flavia Lazarus.

As Akech herself pointed out when addressing the issue in an Instagram post, Australia has "a lot of work to do."

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Akech has since been in the news, with media choosing to focus on the magazine's embarrassing 'administrative error' rather than the actual... point. Which is that we're not celebrating her enough.

And no, you don't have to be a 'fashion person' to appreciate an Australian doing amazing things overseas.

When The Duchess of Sussex guest-edited the September issue of British Vogue, she handpicked Akech as one of 15 trailblazing women to appear on the cover, all selected as 'forces for change.'

She shared the honour with actors Salma Hayek, Yara Shahidi and Gemma Chan, activist Greta Thunberg and founder of Every Mom Counts, Christy Turlington - to name a few.

British Vogue cover
Akech, top left, on the September issue of British Vogue guest-edited by HRH The Duchess of Sussex. No biggie. Image: British Vogue.

Much fanfare was made about Meghan Markle's foray into publishing, but precisely zero noise was made in this country about the fact that one of our own was so prominently profiled.

This is not a case of tall poppy syndrome. Granted, Akech has achieved enormous success away from home, but she rightfully deserves superstar status in her home country.

That's all. That's the point.

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