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Meet Australia’s first dark-skinned modelling agency

Photographers – Dylan Starczak and Neon Theory
Stylist – Cimon Vozzo
Makeup – Georgia Edgar
Models – Nyawargak Gatluak, Adior Bulabek, Dut Bol, Ahliyah Jennette and Monica Deng at Rin Models
Interview – Esther Reynolds-Verco

Creating diversity on Australia’s runways.

Cousins Juach Cyer and Rin Dut fled the South Sudanese war in 2004, arriving in Australia with their families as refugees. In 2015, when the pair were just teenagers, they founded an exclusively dark-skinned modelling agency, with a burning desire to push for diversity in a way that did not yet exist in the Australian fashion industry.

In the three years Rin Models has operated, the opportunities for dark-skinned models have increased, but there continues to be unequal representation. Just recently, model Anok Yai made history as the second model since Naomi Campbell in 1997, to open a runway show for Prada. In Australia, Rin Models fills this gap in the market, constantly challenging the fashion industry’s ‘norm’.

Last month, Rin Models held a workshop in its hometown of Adelaide, adding five models to its agency register. We spoke to Juach, who tells the unique story behind Rin Models and shares an exclusive look at these new faces, posing professionally for the first time.

What prompted you and your cousin to launch a dark-skinned modelling agency?

My cousin Rin Dut, an aspiring fashion designer, and I were looking for darker skinned models to showcase clothes for his upcoming label Rin. It was really hard to find dark-skinned models – there weren’t that many options in Australia, and especially so in South Australia. We decided to start our own agency in tandem with the upcoming label. We set out by recruiting models, photographing their portfolios and creating a website for the agency. Our plan was to launch in February 2015, and we considered naming the agency Précieux Models, but in January of that year Rin had a tragic accident and passed away.

After Rin’s death, was it a hard decision to continue with the launch of the agency?

It was difficult to know where to head from there, so in honour of Rin I decided to change the agency’s name to Rin Models, launching on his birthday, May 25 2015. When I first launched the agency I sent emails to designers and photographers – the response I received back was just amazing. People responded positively to the idea, and shared their own experiences of having trouble finding dark-skinned models in this industry. Essentially, we’re opening up a market that doesn’t exist, and giving people more options.

What are your goals for Rin Models?

We will continue to push the boundaries. Rin was born out of a desire to ‘normalise’ the inclusion of dark-skinned models and to change the skin colour bias in the fashion industry. Our long-term goals would be to make Rin Models the go-to agency for dark-skinned models in Australia and overseas, and have more inclusion of these models in runway shows.

How many models do you represent?

So far, we have 19, including new models we signed at the most recent workshop. We also have a few new faces currently in the development stage. Although we’re a small agency, we receive many applications daily from aspiring models. We pride ourselves on only recruiting models that we believe have potential to succeed within the industry.

What do you look for in a model?

We love unusual, standout, defining features that make a face interesting; specifically, we are always looking for things like gap teeth, high cheekbones and freckles.

Do you feel the Australian modelling industry has become more diverse since your launch in 2015?

We feel this is still an issue that we face today, and while we’re seeing some small changes in the industry with more demand for dark-skinned models on runways, there just aren’t enough models of colour participating.

The Fashion Spot reported that over 373 shows across the New York, London, Paris and Milan Spring 2016 runways, 77.6% of models were white. A slight improvement from the 80% reported in Autumn 2015. Australia is smaller-scale in the global fashion landscape but similar statistics are still applicable; we feel that change is happening, and we all feel a personal responsibility to be a part of that shift.

What have been some of your biggest successes to date?

We participated in almost every show at Adelaide Fashion Festival 2017, including all three Paolo Sebastian runway shows, and recently participated in Thomas Puttick’s Resort 19 for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia 2018. We hope these will be door-openers to more opportunities in the diverse Australian fashion landscape.

rinmodels.com


Styling Credits

LOOK 1
STYLE SOCIETY BOUTIQUE SHIRT, VINTAGE SHIRT FROM THE LION THE WITCH VINTAGE, H&M EARRINGS
LOOK 2
MISS GLADYS SYM CHOON SHIRT, MODEL’S OWN T-SHIRT
LOOK 3-5
HARVEY THE LABEL TOP AND SKIRT, SPENDLESS SHOES
LOOK 6-7
AUTARK TOP AND PANTS, SPENDLESS SHOES
LOOK 8-10
THE FIFTH LABEL TOP, KEEPSAKE SKIRT
LOOK 11-13
ZARA SUIT AND T-SHIRT, NOVESTA SHOES
LOOK 14-15
STYLE SOCIETY BOUTIQUE DRESS
LOOK 16-17
STYLE SOCIETY BOUTIQUE SHIRT AND PANTS, VINTAGE SHIRT FROM THE LION THE WITCH VINTAGE, H&M EARRINGS
LOOK 18-20
STYLE SOCIETY BOUTIQUE JUMPER, VINTAGE PANTS FROM THE LION THE WITCH VINTAGE, SPENDLESS SHOES
LOOK 21-22
VINTAGE RAINCOAT FROM THE LION THE WITCH VINTAGE, AUTARK JUMPSUIT, MISS GLADYS SYM CHOON TOP, COLETTE BY COLETTE HAYMAN EARRINGS
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