“I was fortunate enough to work with Andrej after the grueling week he had of running to fittings and shows. We shot from midnight to 3AM. The Narcissus myth is a theme I’ve wanted to explore for years and when given the opportunity to shoot Andrej, I knew he would be perfect.” - Alexander Hankoff
Tall and impossibly skinny, with impeccably arched eyebrows and cheekbones sharp as diamonds: on first impression, fashion’s latest darling looks no different to any of the other freaks of nature gliding through the offices of Storm model agency.
Except this season’s most-wanted model isn’t, for once, a she – it’s a he.
Right now, Pejic is very much in demand. As well as editorials with prestigious photographers such as Steven Meisel and Mert & Marcus for Paris and Italian Vogue, he is the gender-bending face of the new advertising campaign for Marc by Marc Jacobs. Tonight he will be back in women’s clothing, modelling on the catwalk for Vivienne Westwood as part of London Fashion Week.
So which does he prefer – men’s or women’s? “I’m comfortable doing both,” he says, “although womenswear is more glamorous. The clothes are more exciting. In menswear I have to work more at having a masculine presence. But then that’s my job. If they put me in, say, a rubbish bag and I feel completely unattractive, I still have to show it to its potential.”
Pejic’s androgenous look is entirely his own creation – today, for instance, he’s wearing a light grey micro-mini dress, thick black tights and biker boots. “Around the age of 14, I decided to experiment with my look,” he explains. “As a kid, you get to the stage where you realise the gender barriers that exist in society and what you’re supposed to do and not supposed to do. I really tried being someone else during that period. It was hard for me – not being able to express myself and feeling I had to be someone else.”
Originally from Bosnia – his mother is Serbian, his father Croatian – Pejic was born shortly before the start of the Balkan conflict. His family moved to Serbia and, when he was eight, to Melbourne, Australia. “I had to learn a whole new culture as well as a whole new language,” he says. “At school, I was thrown in at the deep end. It took me a year to learn English.”
His refugee status has meant living as an outsider – and fashion is full of outsiders. “Fashion is quite inclusive and good at embracing different things and different forms of beauty,” he says. “It’s a very liberal industry. You can be yourself. Just not overweight,” he adds, drily.
Pejic was spotted shortly before his seventeenth birthday. “I was working in McDonald’s part time, and this guy came in – he wanted a cheeseburger. He then told me to see him at his modelling agency.”
Did he think you were a woman? “I don’t know, he didn’t say. Obviously, when I went into the agency, they figured it all out ... But they signed me up right away.”
Initially, the agency was unsure about which direction Pejic should go. “In the beginning they wanted me to be more masculine – they told me to go to the gym because the menswear clients would like me more. That wouldn’t be such a good idea now because I wouldn’t be able to fit into womenswear.”
And how does the average Aussie macho male deal with his looks? “I’ve been getting chatted up by men ever since I was 14. In Australia, you’ve got your Greeks, and your Italians ... I haven’t had any horrible experiences. Sometimes they’re shocked, but most of the time they still want to buy me a drink.”
Post-modelling, Pejic hopes to study either law or economics (before fleeing to Australia, his father was an economist and his mother a lawyer). “My favourite author is Leon Trotsky – the political philosophy and the way he writes is beautiful, and really relevant, too.”
Along with the transgender model Lea T – the current face of Givenchy and Kate Moss’s co-star on the latest cover of Love magazine – Pejic is very much in demand. But fashion is a fickle business – something he is only too aware of.
“At this point, yes, everything’s going well. I’m still a sample size, so I can fit into designer womenswear. The only thing I have a problem with is my shoulders.”
Well, nobody’s perfect ...
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