My dad once told me that in theatre, actors in crowd scenes repeat the word "rhubarb" to create the hum of casual conversation. Last night at LG Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2012, if you listened carefully you could hear in the din, "Andrej Pejic, Andrej Pejic," the name of the model opening the runway show for designer Arthur Mendonça.
Andrej, 20, is experiencing a hella rise in the fashion industry. The willowy, six-foot model was scouted about a year-and-a-half ago, and has already appeared in shows for Jean Paul Gaultier and a campaign for Marc Jacobs, is the subject of countless covers, features and blogs, and has been ranked the 98th sexiest woman in the world by FHM. Brilliant for any model, but especially for a boy of Croatian and Serbian heritage from Melbourne, Australia. A boy with killer cheekbones, thick lashes, winged brows, full lips and poreless, gleaming skin.
Frequently associated with terms such as "androgynous," "gender-bender," and "is-it-a-he-or-is-it-a-she," Andrej thinks there's something organic about her career path thus far. "It wasn't exactly explained to me how my career was going to pan out, whether I was going to be doing womenswear or menswear -- it was all very experimental. But I worked it. It was a very natural thing," she says. Being dressed in women's clothing was nothing new, either: "I wore those kinds of clothes before modelling."
While the high-fashion crowd is eager to embrace Andrej's uniqueness, mainstream retailers are understandably more of a challenge, says her agent, Alan Thomas Smith of Push Creative Management. "It's our nature to label to try to figure something out, but once you start doing that, you ask, 'how can a man sell womenswear?'" he notes. "But if you relate to beauty, you relate to beauty. When Andrej walked in today, it didn't matter if you were a man or woman, people were like, 'wow.'"
Naturally, because Andrej grew up in sun-soaked Australia I have to ask about her UV-exposure strategy. "I've been staying out of the sun since I was 14," she says. "It gives you wrinkles and cancer."
Her unbelieveable skin says thank you.
UPDATE 2015: Andrej is now known as Andreja Pejic; she has undergone gender-confirmation surgery to transition fully into her female identity.