At 14, I gave up trying to pretend to be a boy: Androgynous model

Melissa Law
Singapore Showbiz

He is as sexy as they come. Yes, you read right -- sexy.

Bosnian-born Australian model Andrej Pejic is currently the darling of the fashion world, wanted by all the top fashion designers to walk their runways. His lithe, thin, 1.88m -frame has been hailed as the perfect "clothes hanger" frame and his androgynous looks allow him to walk both the men's AND women's fashion shows.

But it wasn't always that way.

Ironically, Pejic said the day he stopped pretending to be a boy was the day he became comfortable in his own skin and paved the way for him to be talent-scouted by fashion's bigwigs.

"When I was 13 or 14, I got over that shy period, that period when I was trying to be a boy, trying to play sports and things like that," Pejic told Yahoo! Singapore on Wednesday.

"At the age of 14 or 15, I said 'I can't do this anymore, I can't act' so I bleached my hair and never looked back," said the 21-year-old model with silky long platinum-blonde hair and milky skin.

Dressed in a black vest, a mesh panel dress, leather jacket and studded leather boots, the supermodel said that despite living life between genders, he was never really bullied when he was growing up.

"People accepted me and I gained a lot more friends. People were drawn to me more," said the gorgeous supermodel, who will headline this weekend's Digital Fashion Week.

Born in Bosnia to a Serb mother and a Croatian father who divorced shortly after his birth, Pejic and his older brother fled to a refugee camp in Serbia together with their mother and grandmother when the war in Bosnia broke out. They later moved to Melbourne, Australia in 2000, where they now live.

He describes his mother as "one of those mothers who love their children unconditionally", and despite fighting a lot when they were younger, his brother was very protective of him when they were teens. He added that his family, his school and the liberal environment that he grew up in played a huge role in validating him and building up his confidence.

Having modelled for Jean Paul Gaultier and Marc by Marc Jacobs in 2011, Pejic revealed that he shot to fame really quickly after being discovered before he turned 17, but it was tough to break into the industry.

"Agencies didn't know how to market me, they didn't know whether to put me on the women's board or the men's board, clients weren't sure… There was a lot of doubt until really big people saw me and recognised me and everyone else followed," he said.

"During the beginning maybe there were some people that didn't feel that I deserve to have womenswear jobs because, you know, I'm not a genetic female," he said as he fiddled with the gold necklaces draped across his neck.

At just 21 years old, the model seems to have the maturity and confidence of a person beyond his age.

Bitchy industry

"I mean it's a bitchy industry and people are always going to talk, and you have to come to terms to that," said the model known for being vocal about gender issues.

Together with Sophie Sumner, the winner of America's Next Top Model: British Invasion, Pejic will be walking the runway in Singapore for the very first time at this weekend's Digital Fashion Week (DFW), where they will model looks from Singapore's top designers and China's avant garde couturier, Guo Pei.

Sumner, the 22-year-old British model, spoke about the importance of social media in the fashion industry and how DFW is creating a wave in the online and social media movement.

"Social media is so important at the moment. All brands look towards it to see how people can endorse their products and how many followers they have. It's becoming more and more important and it's only going to get bigger and bigger," said the sweet and demure model in her British accent.

Streamed live on YouTube, Facebook, its website, Google+ and the iPhone app, DFW is the world's first live streaming only fashion week. Viewers will also be able to pre-order clothes online as they appear on the runway — a real feat compared to the usual wait of a few months in traditional runway shows.

"It's a very interesting concept… and it feels like something really new, like something that could be part of the future because you read articles that say in 10 years' time, we won't even do catwalk shows," said Pejic.

Local designers also noted that DFW will propel Singapore's fashion scene and help emerging talent.

Pauline Lim of local fashion label PAULINE.NING said, "Digital Fashion Week can potentially lead a revolution in the way people consume fashion. I look at it as a blurring of lines between entertainment and online commerce."

"In Singapore, there's still this idea that fashion shows and the whole concept of high fashion is a bit exclusive in a bad sense. I like the idea of reaching out on all platforms — iPhones, iPads, YouTube — and being so connected in Asia would really help broaden everybody's exposure for the different brands and raise Singapore's profile as a platform for emerging talent," said Eugene Lin, a Singapore-born, London-based designer of the label with the same name.

Digital Fashion Week will be streamed LIVE from 20-22 October. Visit DFW's website or Facebook page for the runway schedule.