Career & Education

Model student

Saint star Naki Depass balances university studies and international modelling career

Sunday, September 30, 2018

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Naki Depass is at a near picture-perfect crossroads in life. Enrolled at t he University of the West Indies, Mona where she's a third-year accounting major, the college student devotes as much passion to mastering mathematical equations and concepts as she does to her jet-setting model duties that frequently call her away from school.

The statuesque and strikingly beautiful student is also a successful Saint International model who struts the runways of Paris, Milan, London and New York for Giorgio Armani, Michael Kors, Burberry, Balenciaga, Victoria Beckham, Calvin Klein, Hermes and Givenchy, among the lengthy list of fashion-elite clients.

Modelling, surprisingly, was not a career option Depass ever contemplated in her younger years as she was laser-focused on attaining a tertiary education. But fate had other plans.

“I was discovered at my school — Edwin Allen High — in December 2015. It was just a normal day of school for me as I had no idea about the model scouting Saint was conducting that day,” she recalled. “I was heading to class when my teacher Miss Newman approached and asked if I would be interested in modelling. She said Deiwght Peters would be coming to scout new faces. I told her I wasn't interested, but she insisted that I try out as I had nothing to lose. I eventually agreed to meet him.”

Sparks immediately flew.

“When I walked into the room he got very excited,” remembered Depass, the elder of two daughters for her entrepreneur mother and fisherman stepfather.

“Mr Peters said: 'We can stop the search now. we have found a star'. At that point I had no idea what he was talking about but I trusted his instinct and decided to see where it took me. Less than two months later, I started off my international career with my very first runway show as an exclusive model for Burberry in London. I did Prada in Milan, and Givenchy and Celine in Paris for my first show season, and today here I am loving what I do.”

For the now 20-year-old Jamaican model who hails from Vere, Clarendon, global fashion industry approval came swiftly, with no less than the fashion bible Vogue anointing her “one of the top new female faces”. The renowned publication also penned a profile feature in 2016. The soft-spoken Depass said it was an honour to be recognised.

“It was a big deal for me, but I think Deiwght better understood than I did how important it was because I was still learning about how this industry works. But it was an incredible feeling to know that my very first season was so successful,” she told Career & Education.

With the glamorous world of modelling now a-calling and quickly racking up a swathe of photo shoots for magazine editorials, among them American Harper's Bazaar, Italian Elle, Mexican Vogue and the British Dazed, Depass did not deter from the pursuit of her initial love: crunching numbers.

“I really think it's important to have a back-up plan or just something else outside of your modelling career,” the final-year UWI student opined. “I chose to major in accounting as I've always wanted to become an accountant or something else in that field, so I wanted to be able to continue pursuing my first dream as well as my new career in modeling. At this point I'm not sure what I'll be doing with my degree when I graduate; however, I plan to do my Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, then I'll see where next.”

She continued: “I've always preferred mathematics to English language. Grasping and applying mathematical concepts just seemed so much easier to me. Also, I was advised that the accounting field is a good career to pursue because it pays really well and I can be more than just an accountant. Therefore, I will have a lot of other career options, plus I've always been very good at accounting since the ninth grade.”

Taking off from The UWI twice annually for the continent-spanning Fall/Winter designer collections in February, and Spring/Summer designer collections in September, Depass explained that she juggles her double duties as model and student by “travelling with the necessary school equipment I need to complete my studies, and my friends at school are a big help. I communicate with my friend who's also an accounting major to get detailed explanations of what's being done in class as well as details about various assignments to be completed”.

It's a true challenge managing school while flying between international fashion cities doing multiple designer shows days and weeks at a time, but for Depass, everything's taken in perspective. She relayed: “It isn't possible to do school work in-between shows because it's always so busy with so much going on. I need to just focus on what's going on around me. When I'm doing school work, on the other hand, I have to be working in a quiet place where I can concentrate without a lot of distractions. I usually do school work at the end of my work day when I get back to my apartment or whenever I have a free day.”

For the 5ft 11-inchesDepass, who's worked or crossed paths with such major celebs as Cardi B, Naomi Campbell, Kendall Jenner and sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid, her international modelling career which also pays for her annual tuition and on-campus boarding at university, has provided her with a wealth of opportunities she does not take for granted, particularly being a catwalk mainstay for the past two years for the biggest designers in the world.

“I don't have just one particular fashion house that I love. However, my favourite for New York would be Michael Kors because the designer and the entire MK team is super-nice all the time, plus their designs are amazing. For London, it's definitely Burberry. I'm very grateful for the opportunity they have given me and they have remained loyal to me every season. I also love working with Giorgio Armani; it's a very elegant fashion house, and Balenciaga because they are one of the most creative I've seen. They always have something different to offer the industry.”

Her client to-do-list isn't exhausted, said Depass, who is aiming to shoot major global advertising campaigns.

“In the long-run, I would like to continue growing as a successful model. But I also would really love to work with Balmain, Dolce & Gabanna and Chanel as those are my three main clients I haven't worked with.”

With her summer vacation of 2018 now over, she's back in model mode for the fashion season that began in New York last week and wraps up in Paris in early October.

“Life outside of school and modelling is pretty simple. I try to get as much relaxation time before work starts again and just enjoy some good family at home in Vere since I'm hardly ever home as I live on campus in Kingston. Also, I take some time to go out with my friends and visit family members I haven't seen in a while.”

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