What do capybaras and Kiko Kostadinov have in common? Probably not much, other than that they’ve both played a significant part in Aussie model Dechen’s life over the last few months.
With long bleached blonde hair and matching eyebrows, the stunner of Tibetan heritage moves about the world with a confidence that makes it easy to rock bright neons and fully sequined ‘fits—a skill in its own right.
Scouted via TikTok, Dechen represents a new gen of models who serve to swap out conventional or overly perfectionistic beauty ideals in favour of authentic self-expression.
“My friends and I were getting ready for a party, and I filmed a TikTok video of myself doing my makeup – I remember it was so much fun to make, but I didn’t really anticipate anyone seeing it,” she shares. “One of the lovely agents at Kult came across the video and reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in modelling, and it all just kind of happened from there. I still can’t believe how everything has come to be, my agency is so wonderful, and my life has completely changed since signing with them.”
In her short time modelling, the Melbourne-based cool girl has gone on to lay the foundations for being a major player in the Australian industry and beyond. Fast forward to just over a year after being signed, and the up-and-comer is currently starring in a worldwide campaign for London-based designer Kiko Kostadinov. Um, major!
While a distinctive look can sometimes leave models boxed in, Dechen has proven she's a chameleon in front of the camera, having lent her face to everything ranging from Bonds campaigns to fashion spreads for 10 Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar. Give Dechen all the vibes, and she will deliver.
When it comes to the job of a model, Dechen shares the pressures of having a lot of emphasis placed on your appearance. “I’ve had to learn to be less critical of myself. But strangely enough, I think working in a creative environment has helped me understand beauty from a less conventional perspective,” she says.
When asked what the best piece of advice she’s received is, Dechen relays words of wisdom from her stepdad, who once told her, “You can never guarantee you’ll please other people, so as long as you make yourself proud, there will always be at least one person happy.”
Her idea of happiness is “a combination of peace and excitement – feeling content with the present, but hope for the future,” and if she could say anything to her 16-year-old self, she’d tell her not to take life so seriously. “It’s not that deep, and everything is so much more enjoyable when you accept that life is just embarrassing and funny.”
Looking forward to what the second half of 2022 has in store, Dechen says, “I’m just generally excited for the unexpected! I’ve had so many incredible opportunities this year, and I just want to keep working really hard on modelling and see how it progresses.” The model-to-watch also notes her plans to scope out the Big Apple. “I’m also going to New York with my boyfriend this month, and I couldn’t be more excited for all the new experiences from that trip.”
Definitely one to keep on your radar—get to know more about Dechen and catch her rip around the streets of Sydney, during her recent visit, in the punchiest numbers that Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Anna Quan and more of our fave designers have to offer.
Where do you live now and where do you consider home?
I live in Melbourne but spend a lot of my time in Sydney, too. Sometimes little parts of everywhere feel like home!
How do you think your upbringing helped to shape your worldview?
I grew up feeling a little disconnected from my heritage, but I think there are aspects of Tibetan culture that have really impacted the way that I see the world - learning about the power of compassion is something I feel lucky to have grown up with.
Where would you take someone visiting your hometown for the first time?
I would take them for coffee down around Degraves st - all the tiny cafes and graffitied laneways feel so quintessential ‘Melbourne’.
How did you get into modelling? Can you tell us the story of how you came to be signed to your agency?
My friends and I were getting ready for a party, and I filmed a TikTok video of myself doing my makeup – I remember it was so much fun to make, but I didn’t really anticipate anyone seeing it. One of the lovely agents at Kult came across the video and reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in modelling, and it all just kind of happened from there. I still can’t believe how everything has come to be, my agency is so wonderful, and my life has completely changed since signing with them.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
Being able to be a small part of bringing someone’s vision to life is the most rewarding feeling I get from my work. I feel really lucky to work with creatives that put their everything into what they do – there’s so much that goes into each project, and it’s a really special experience seeing it all come together.
And the most challenging?
There's a lot of emphasis on your appearance, and I’ve had to learn to be less critical of myself. But strangely enough, I think working in a creative environment has helped me understand beauty from a less conventional perspective.
Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
I don’t feel super in touch with my spirituality, to be honest! It feels really special hearing about other people’s experiences and beliefs, and it’s something that I hope I can explore more myself.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My stepdad once told me that you can never guarantee you’ll please other people, so as long as you make yourself proud, there will always be at least one person happy.
What is your idea of happiness?
Maybe a combination of peace and excitement – feeling content with the present but hope for the future.
What would happen if you had to give up social media for a week?
I’d probably be way more productive and clear-headed, and I would love to use that time to be more creative or try something new.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I make tea or a coffee and crawl straight back into bed.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Dumplings! They’re my favourite food; I’d never get sick of them.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
A morning person, for sure, I love the feeling of starting a fresh new day.
What’s the coolest or most interesting thing you’ve learned recently?
I’ve been really into Capybaras lately and recently learned that other animals use them as chairs. There are photos of other animals like birds and monkeys just sitting on them, and it’s the cutest thing ever.
How can we make the most of our time on Earth?
By expressing our love – for the people around us, for the world we live in and for ourselves.
Can you recall reading, watching or listening to something that completely changed your mind on something?
I took a class at uni on the global impacts of the fashion industry that gave me a much deeper understanding of the social and environmental repercussions of mass production. It was a really valuable topic to be learning about in detail, and I feel like it changed my relationship with consumerism for the better.
If you could say something to your 16-year-old self, what would it be?
I’d tell her to not take life so seriously - it’s not that deep, and everything is so much more enjoyable when you accept that life is just embarrassing and funny.
What are you most looking forward to this year in 2022?
I’m just generally excited for the unexpected! I’ve had so many incredible opportunities this year, and I just want to keep working really hard on modelling and see how it progresses. I’m also going to New York with my boyfriend this month, and I couldn’t be more excited for all the new experiences from that trip.
What books are you reading at the moment?
I’m currently reading Gone Girl – I fall in and out of phases with reading, but I recently picked it back up and was reminded how addictive of a book it is.
'Int’l Players Anthem' by UGK – a classic.
I don’t think I have a favourite movie, but I just finished watching the series Succession and am already dying for the next season to come out.
Are there any social or cultural shifts you hope will happen in the next ten years?
Generally, I hope to see more accountability held for both corporations and government on issues like human rights violations and environmental impact. It’d be great to see those in power use their influence not only responsibly but for the interest of the wider population.
Why do you think friendships are so important?
It always feels really special to be able to have such a deep appreciation for another person, and being able to share all that love with your friends is such a wonderful connection to have.
What values do you look for in friends?
I love all the people in my life for such different reasons, and they all have their own individual qualities that make them who they are. As long as I can feel that they’re a genuine and kind person, I know that friends can come in all different forms.
Features Writer: Sabina Sysantos Photos: Sarah Adamson Fashion: Chloe Hill Beauty: Tracy Terashima
Dechen is represented by Kult
We acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation as the traditional owners of land on which this shoot took place.