Inside South Sudanese Model Mary Ukech’s Breakout Fashion Week

Heading into the week, Ukech says she had an idea of what to expect for castings and fittings in New York, but she didn’t anticipate walking in some of the buzziest shows of the week as a newcomer. “I always thought only ‘big models’ were the ones coming to do shows in New York,” says Ukech. “I thought I would do a maximum of 3 shows.” To her surprise, she booked eight presentations, including Jason Wu, Gabriela Hearst, Dion Lee, Simkhai, and Area. Don’t ask her to pick a favorite show of the bunch, though. “I loved every runway I walked,” she says. “I looked glamorous in all of my outfits; I was in love with the designs and creativity of all the designers and stylists.”

Since it was her first time navigating the chaotic back-to-back show schedule in New York, Ukech says she learned a few lessons while on the job. Number one: Organization is key. “Before I went to sleep, I would go through my schedule for the following day, plan on which casting to go to first, and see how close the castings or fittings were to each other so I could jet from one to another,” says Ukech. She also learned quickly that self-care is crucial. In other words, sleeping beats attending Fashion Week parties. “Getting as much rest as possible [was important] so I don’t or feel exhausted the following day,” says Ukech. “That would make it hard to go to castings.”

It’s not to say the model didn’t squeeze in time for fun, though. While she loved her moments strutting down the runway, Ukech also enjoyed meeting fellow models backstage or in between shows. (She snapped some photos with fellow models like Alex Consani and Anyiel Majok during the week.) “It’s always good to get to know someone and learn something different from them,” Ukech says. “It felt so easy to socialize with the models.” She was particularly inspired by her peers’ street style. “It was amazing to see everyone come out with their own creativity of style,” says Ukech. As for her own model-off-duty taste, Ukech describes it as “simple, classy, and clean—both masculine and feminine,” she says. “I feel and look good when I wear all black outfits; my must-haves are a trench coat and black handbag.”

Backstage at Carolina HerreraVideo: Courtesy of Mary Ukech

Even though NYFW has wrapped, Ukech’s fashion month isn’t over. Having just walked the Molly Goddard, Erdem, and Conner Ives shows in London this weekend, you can expect to see the rising model dominating the rest of the shows in Europe. “I will be a part of the shows in Milan and Paris,” hints Ukech. Where Ukech was once apprehensive about modeling, she admits that she’s now all-in. “ I am really enjoying this new career I’ve created for myself,” says Ukech. “I crave more and more shows and runways. I’m going to do my best, and make my fashion weeks stunning.” 

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