Model breaks the mould

28 September 2012 - 02:12 By ANDILE NDLOVU
Thando Hopa is the face of designer Gert-Johan Coetzee's new collection at South African Fashion Week at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Rosebank, Johannesburg, Friday night.
Thando Hopa is the face of designer Gert-Johan Coetzee's new collection at South African Fashion Week at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Rosebank, Johannesburg, Friday night.
Image: Hannes Danzfuss

Thando Hopa found the fashion industry "shallow", until Gert-Johan Coetzee snapped her up for his show at tonight's penultimate day at South African Fashion Week.

The 23-year-old prosecutor is used to one call time - 8am - before heading to court with a car boot full of dockets to present to the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court.

"And then I usually head home with a stack of work under my arm," Hopa joked yesterday.

But Coetzee won't want her to pitch up at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosebank, north of Johannesburg, with bags under her eyes before even making her ramp debut later tonight.

Hopa, who was born with albinism, was spotted by the designer in July at Cresta Centre in Johannesburg. He convinced her to showcase some designs off his winter/autumn 2013 range, which he recently showed at Vancouver Fashion Week in Canada.

Although Hong Kong's Connie Chiu was the world's first albinistic fashion model, having made her fashion debut over 15 years ago, models with albinism have became all the rage in the fashion industry recently.

Last month, Refilwe Modiselle was announced as one of youth fashion label Legit's ambassadors.

American Shaun Ross, whom The New York Times referred to as a "rare enough commodity in the business", has featured in the British edition of GQ and the Italian version of Vogue.

Hopa said yesterday: "I've had three offers to do modelling before, which I dismissed.

"A few months ago, my sister told me that this may be a way to help people - that modelling may give me a way to change people's perceptions of albinism, and her words came back to me as I was considering [Coetzee's offer]."

She said this time around the opportunity was "exceptional".

She believed that the high-profile platform Coetzee offered her gave her the opportunity to educate people on albinism, "and make others aware of how to refer to people like me without it being uncomfortable".

Coetzee's collection in Canada had a space age theme to it, with a colour palette that was predominantly black and lime green, and the same range will be on show tonight.

Other designers showing tonight include Rubicon, Palse Homme, Amanda Laird Cherry and Mzantsi. Ephymol will close Fashion Week tomorrow night.

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