Australian high school student Adut Akech spent March in Paris, where she closed Anthony Vaccarello's landmark autumn/winter 17 Saint Laurent show — quite the school holiday. All smiles and charm, Adut's swift international rise is a success worth celebrating, and we suspect there's far more to come.
When Adut was just six she immigrated from South Sudan, resettling with her mother as a refugee in Adelaide. "It's a small place, so everybody knows everybody. It's quiet, it's peaceful," she says of the city, where she still lives with her ever-growing family. The second-eldest of six siblings, Adut excitedly recounts the birth of her youngest sister earlier in the year. "My mum just had a baby girl and she looks better than ever! I wanna look that good when I have six kids." Given her family aren't moving anytime soon, Adut says she plans on calling Adelaide home for a long time.
Ironically, it was Adut's family who originally encouraged her to give modelling a shot, despite the likely threat of the industrysweeping her up and stealing her away. Her first taste of fashion was walking in a small runway show staged by her Aunt, who ran a small label in Adelaide at the time. Soon after, a local agency approached her, but the timing wasn't right. "I've actually been scouted at airports three separate times!" Adut recalls. "But I always felt like I was too young to be signed, I mean, 13 or 14 is just way too young!" By the time she turned 16, Adut and her family felt ready. "Eventually I thought, I wanna give Chadwick's a try, so I came in and I got signed! That's where everything really took off," she tells us. "I can't even keep up with myself, everything's been happening so fast!"
Once signed to Chadwick's, things moved quickly. Adut breathlessly recalls taking digitals for a Saint Laurent casting agent last year, but not thinking much of it. "I was in Melbourne, doing Spring Fashion Week. It was so busy, I was doing so many shows that I didn't really think about it again." When she flew home to Adelaide, the phone rang. "I got a call from [Chadwick's Talent Manager]Joseph Tenni saying, 'I think you're going to Paris on Friday!' I mean, this call came on the Wednesday, so it was quick." The very next day Adut bought a suitcase — "I didn't even have luggage!" — and was off to Paris as a Saint Laurent exclusive.
When she landed, a foot injury threatened to throw everything off, but Adut's appearance in the show was meant to be. "My foot was three times its normal size! I was preparing myself to get cut from the show, but they were so understanding. I was able to do the show in flats." Next, Adut shot the label's spring/summer 17 campaign, then another with visionary creatives Collier Schorr and Alastair McKimm. That same month, she closed the autumn/winter 17 show, something she says "will be with me for the rest of my life."
Adut has been a Saint Laurent exclusive for every one of the three seasons she's ventured overseas, not that she's complaining. "I've been involved in almost all the campaigns since Anthony became creative director, and have grown so close to him and the team. They're all my family."
With her eighteenth birthday around the corner Adut is keen to remain in Australia until she graduates, though there's a move to New York on the horizon — where the industry would welcome her with open arms. Already, there have been international editorials in Numéro and The Gentlewoman, and even i-D's Creativity Issue, with Harley Weir. Of course, we were curious to know what Adut considers her career highlight to date. After a long hesitation she admits, "Honestly, everything. I've loved it all. I've done so many incredible things."
Photography Jack Grayson @jackgrayson
Creative Direction Charlotte Agnew
Hair Taylor James Redman @ Company 1
Makeup Katie Angus
Adut Akech Bior @ Chadwick's
Assistance Isabella Rupolo