Photography Mitchell O'Neil

up-and-coming models of colour reflect on the fashion industry

We spoke to modelling hopefuls at IMG and Rin Model's open casting call about the future of fashion and representation.

by Charlotte Agnew
|
16 April 2019, 1:49am

Photography Mitchell O'Neil

In recent years we've seen a steady shift towards better representation in fashion, with models of colour increasingly spotted on runways and in photoshoots. However, the industry still remains largely dominated by whiteness and Eurocentric beauty standards. In Australia one agency looking to help change that is Rin Models, the country's only modelling agency dedicated to representing dark-skinned models.

Recently Rin Models founder Juach Cyer partnered with international agency IMG for a dark-skinned model search at Sydney's SUNSTUDIOS. The day provided unsigned dark-skinned models in Sydney the chance to be repped by both agencies and launch their careers. We headed along and spoke to some young up-and-coming models about their fashion dreams and the changes they'd like to see in the industry at large.

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Alyssa, 19, Blacktown

What brought you here today?
I’m here today because I want to enter the world of fashion and modelling. I’m here hoping to bring diversity into the modelling industry with my Indian background.

Have you had much experience in the fashion industry before?
I have had a little experience, I sell clothing online and model the clothing on me. I go to thrift stores and pick out unique and interesting articles of clothing and resell them on Depop. This has given me some experience in taking photos and fashion.

Are there dark-skinned models or other people in the fashion industry that you admire?
My favourite models right now are Winnie Harlow and Deba Hekmat. Their unique style and determination is why I love them and take inspiration from them. They initially inspired me to try modelling.

What changes would you like to see in the fashion industry in the future?
I would love to see more diversity and a stereotype breaking, fashion industry in the future. Me being an Indian that was born-and-raised in Australia, I’ve not seen many Indian models out there.

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Bakhita, 17, St Marys

What brought you here today?
To take in an experience and get clear understanding about the modelling industry. Also to become a part of an active organisation.

Are there dark-skinned models or other people in the fashion industry that you admire?
Naomi Campbell and Duckie Thot are the two main dark-skinned models I admire the most because I grew up watching them. They have influenced me in wanting a career in modelling.

What changes would you like to see in the fashion industry in the future?
I would like to see more diverse models in the industry.

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Awar, 21, Oran Park

What brought you here today?
I came here today to dip my foot into the industry I’ve always had an interest in. I'd never tried before due to a combination of not knowing how to approach it and needing to become confident within myself, by surpassing my own confidence levels and self-esteem. I’m lucky enough to have had so much encouragement, especially from my amazing cousin. I’ve seen the growing diversity within the modelling industry over recent years, and I’m hoping by modelling I can one day give somebody the same confidence and encouragement to drown out their doubts enough to give it a go.

Are there dark-skinned models or other people in the fashion industry that you admire?
I've always looked up to amazing black models that have paved the way and forced the industry into accepting more model of colour such as Grace Jones, Alek Wek, Iman, Tyra Banks, and of course, the queen — Naomi Campbell. Not only because of their fierce struts but their confidence and ability to be themselves completely throughout their career is admirable.

What changes would you like to see in the fashion industry in the future?
Inclusive and diversity to become the norm within the industry.

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Martyn, 23, Stanmore

What brought you here today?
A friend of mine saw the open casting call on Facebook and encouraged me to attend. It's the first time I've seen a casting specifically asking for diverse models which really resonated with me.

Have you been to model castings before?
I've never been to a model casting before, however I was scouted by one of Sydney's leading modelling agencies earlier this year and came in for a meeting and a test shoot. Despite the fact they told me they "liked my style" and thought I photographed well, they couldn't have me join the team because I looked too similar to another model already on the board — the only other ethnically ambiguous brown skinned boy with curly hair in a sea of identical looking white models. Comparing today to my only experience dealing with modelling agencies, I was pleased to have my skin colour celebrated rather than tokenised.

Are there dark skinned models or other people in the fashion industry that you admire?
Referring to Australia's homegrown talent, I admire models Adut Akech, Duckie and Melbourne-born NYC-based photographer James Robinson. Internationally, I am particularly keeping an eye out for Filipino models and creatives within the fashion industry such as Noah Carlos, Carl Jan Cruz and Jullian Culas.

What changes would you like to see in the fashion industry in the future?
To move beyond representation as the sole solution to fixing the fashion industry's diversity problem. I want POC in leadership positions across editorial and art teams, across the biggest agencies in the world. I want autonomous spaces for POC within the fashion industry that are as highly regarded equally to its counterparts.

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Lateisha, 15, Roselands

What brought you here today?
To represent my diverse cultural background and show that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

Are there dark-skinned models or other people in the fashion industry that you admire?
I admire Veronica Pomee as she was the first plus size Polynesian model published in Sports Illustrated.

What changes would you like to see in the fashion industry in the future?
More dark-skinned plus size models published and in runways would bring more confidence to the girls who are watching and reading.

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Janet, 20, Blacktown

What brought you here today?
As soon as I heard there was a casting I grabbed the opportunity, I’ve always wanted to be a model so any chance I have to showcase myself I jump into it.

Have you had much experience or interaction with the fashion industry before?
I’ve been doing shows with clothing I’ve made back in high school and also some freelance work here and there.

Are there dark-skinned models or other people in the fashion industry that you admire?
I really admire Adut Akech, I love how she went from a small town girl who really worked hard and is now one of the most elite models in the game. I also admire her humbleness — she didn’t let all the success change her as a person.

What changes would you like to see in the fashion industry in the future?
I’d love to see more people of colour at large and also a wide range of sizes. Representation is crucial to me.

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Muctarru, 19, Roselands

What brought you here today?
I’m here to model. I believe I could bring something to the industry.

Have you been to model castings before?
This is my first casting.

Have you had much experience in the fashion industry before?
Yes I’ve grown up around fashion. My mother is absolutely beautiful and could’ve been a model but due to circumstances in Africa and war she wasn’t able to. My father is a tailor and has his own shop. I remember him making me shirts and it was super cool to me that I was wearing something nobody else had. A lot of my friends are passionate about fashion too and I’ve modeled for their brands. Fashion’s been a very important part of my life.

Are there dark skinned models or other people in the fashion industry that you admire?
Lupita Nyong’o, she’s absolutely beautiful but she’s also so multitalented. Her recent performance in US blew me away.

What changes would you like to see in the fashion industry in the future?
Definitely more variety of models from different backgrounds and living conditions. The more diversity the better.

Credits


Photography Mitchell O'Neil