Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli is the one of the only designers who makes Adut Akech feel accepted.
The 19-year-old model was born in South Sudan and lived in a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to Adelaide, Australia with her mother and five siblings when she was eight.
In a joint interview with Piccioli, Akech admitted she struggled with her confidence when she was growing up and faced racism when she first started out modelling.
“I always had low self-esteem when I was growing up. Being in the Western world, everybody was different to me. Nobody was accepting of me because of where I was from, and when I was getting into this industry, I wondered who’s going to want to work with this little girl from South Sudan,” she told Business of Fashion.
However, she holds Valentino’s creative director close to her heart and sweetly revealed that the Italian fashion label’s base in Rome is where she feels at home.
“It’s one of the only places where I am accepted and befriended and welcomed for who I am. I can come here for a fitting and I could be having the worst day, but I just leave everything behind that door. Pierpaolo puts me in clothes where I can really be myself. I love that,” Akech shared.
The Italian designer, who has made the South Sudanese model the face of Valentino, is fully accepting of diversity and will keep including black models, and those from ethnic minorities, in his shows until it becomes the norm in fashion.
“You just keep doing it till people’s attitudes change,” Piccioli said. “These are values I believe in. If you stand up for rights, I believe you don’t just stand up for some rights. You stand up for them all.”
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