Alek Wek

Fascinating icon - Interview

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ALEK WEK, the most involved and smiling top model of the last ten years talks to us about her best show memories and her designer projects. A fascinating icon that we could follow until the end of her dreams.

GM: Are you a fashion icon or a black icon?

: It's hard to answer this question, I'm first and foremorst a person !I had the good fortune to work at the very beginning with multi cultural teams , open to the world, and who believed in me.In certain ways, fashion is like The UN, lol. Hopefully I helped the evolution of criteria for beauty.

met NELSON MANDELA. What political personality would you like to meet, and what would you say to them?
: As my father did before me, I support political education. There again, those are people who are inspiring me: First my father, who died in Sudan, but also ROBERT REDFORD and his environmental activism, OPRAH WINFREY and her philanthropic spirit.

GM: Who is your favorite photographer to work with, and why?
: It is difficult for me to compare because they each have their style and different methodology. However my collaboration with GILLES BENSIMON (my first American Elle cover) STEVEN MEISEL and PETER LINDBERGH all have a special mark.

GM: We love your adorable smile : But usually models are asked to make a long face in the shows, what do you think?
: Why should life be so rigid ? It's so good to laugh ! We can't take ourselves seriously : Fashion is not this big of a deal ! And also one has to be inspired in order to inspire others, and be able to show it.

GM: Have you ever been a bride top model?
: I was the bride for CHRISTIAN LACROIX once, who is a fantastic man! Without taking himself seriously, it was a huge surprise for me, a very special moment, very beautiful. I would have liked for my mother to be present.

GM: Can you status accomplish miracles in Africa?

: I've had the tremendous luck to leave Sudan , ravaged by civil war, and to be discovered in london when i was a refugee.
But the great majority of the Sudanese population wasn't this lucky. It's very important for people to realize the situation of the refugees, to support groups like « doctors without borders » and their «  bracelet for life » operation. It's the system that doctors and nurses use on the field to spot children suffering from malnutrition : their arms is wrapped with a paper band, red indicates that the child will die if not treated urgently. Those people really perform miracles. Seeing that with my own eyes helped me develop a social consciousness. My own Foundation, WEK (working to educate Kids), created in honor of my father, is a team work. The foundation funds education programs in Sudan, but also in New York. If we transform their lives, we'll also transform the future generations. There again, we can develop the social consciousness.

GM: You launched a handbag collection. What attracted you to design?

: Before i was discovered, in London, I was attending an Art and design School, the London Institute. Similarly to writing and painting designing has been a work in progress for years for me, until I showed my sketches to some friends, who confirmed their qualities. I create these bags from A to Z, including the design in the lining.

GM: Women like your bags: What famous woman would you like to see with your creations?
: ANGELINA JOLIE has one, as well as LIV TYLER, who owns one of my pochette. But my bags are designed for every women.

GM: Is there a particular designer you would like to design bags for?
: First it has to be a challenge, a collaboration with the right people and a very specific project. For example, i draw a diamond necklace for Forevermark,, with each stone being numbered to prove its origin . I went to Honk Kong at the beginning of February, it was completely unreal to see my design become a diamonds necklace of 168 carats, made out of 20 000 stones.

GM: How do you come up with your hand bags designs?
AW: A handbag must be customizable, resistant, functional, and chic. It can be worn day or night. I use all kinds of materials : crocodile skin, leather, but also fabric. Locks and hooks are also very important. For example, some of my handbags are foldable. There are pockets, pochettes or satchels.I even have a gentlemen line !

GM: What culture would you like to pass on to your children?
: If I were so lucky to have children, i would like for them to know their father's culture, but also mine. To know where you come from is quintessential in personal development.
I would especially like for them to do their best in the betterment of society.

GM: What fascinates you?
AW: Everyday brings its own lot, what a wonderful challenge !


Alek Wek


Book: Alek. From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel
HarperCollins Edition
Cover: Marc Baptiste