Odell Mun: Vinnies to Vuitton


Ethiopian born Melbourne based model Odell Mun (used with Mun’s permission).

From designing looks out of shopping at thrift stores, Odell Mun now poses before photographers draped in vintage designer gear.

Adorned in the multicoloured and delicate garments he once dreamed of, twenty-year-old Odell Mun’s fragile frame tensed as he struck a dignified pose before the lens. His silhouette casts a magnified shadow against the plain walls of the studio as if to represent the influence he holds.

Little did Mun know that it would be moments like these that would grant him a lifestyle he had only ever thought existed in fashion magazines. Sporting kaleidoscopic patterns and geometric jewellery, Mun now graces the covers of magazines as his name is brandished in headlines and the number of his social media followers steadily rise.

While Mun always had an interest in Melbourne’s diverse fashion scene, it wasn’t until he’d begun a collaborative project during Melbourne’s first coronavirus lockdown that he established his reputation. Becoming quickly recognised for his bold and experimental taste, Mun quickly accumulated millions of views across social media platforms over a short period of time.

“I know I was the only one who felt like they were going crazy during the lockdown,” he said.

“I felt like my creativity was stifled and needed an outlet. At the time TikTok was a relatively new platform and I saw some of the most creative and clever content being made on there and thought I’d give it a shot. I had no expectations of going viral or even getting followers really, but out of nowhere people started hyping up the stuff I was putting out.”

Transforming his bedroom into a runway, Mun would record himself effortlessly strutting along with the widths of his room in outfits curated from pieces he’d found at his local thrift store. Mixin and matching fabrics and hand altered garments would barely come to represent half of the creative inspiration Mun felt as he gained admiration from thousands globally.

“It was intoxication, honestly…the compliments, the feedback, the criticisms. I had never really taken my own fashion seriously but it’s a physical manifestation of everything happening in my head, so to have so many people like my art is so humbling,” he said.

Like any other hobby, Mun found that forking out hundreds of dollars a month on new clothes wasn’t beneficial to his wallet nor the environment. Sticking to mainly second-hand stores, Mun learnt to never underestimate the hidden gems disguised as clutter at his local Vinnies or Savers.

“I think a lot of people overlook thrifting – before it became the trend it is now, it was a status thing; people thought it was only for poor people,” he said.

“I almost strictly use recycled clothes now. The fact that they have already been worn in lets me be as creative as I want without worrying about completely ruining them. I also feel that new pieces, especially ones straight from the catwalk, already come with a certain aesthetic. I don’t like that pressure to wear something the way someone else wants me to.”

While Mun had always had a creative flair, his parents had always emphasised the importance of education and often vocalised their expectations for him to integrate into the corporate world. Despite his parent’s concerns, he continues to pursue a highly ‘unpredictable but exciting’ career in fashion.

“As immigrants, my parents saw nothing but sacrifice and loss. I share the same fears as them about the path I’m on but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to take,” he said.

“Of course, I have backup plans if it doesn’t work out but it’s one of those things I know I’d regret if I didn’t do now while I can. As cheesy as it sounds, it really is about the journey. Every day I’m learning something new about both the fashion world and myself.”

Alongside the doubts of his parents, Mun also battles the harsh critiques that come along with being a presence on social media. As hard as he says it can be sometimes, Mun refuses to let online hate affect him.

“I knew what I was getting when I started putting myself on the internet. At the end of the day, I know my goals and capabilities and won’t let people’s projection interfere with them.”

Overshadowing the negative attention, Mun’s recognition goes beyond just a couple hundred-thousand people on the internet. Partnering with global brands and notable photographers has allowed him to get represented by a modelling agency.

Mun is continuing to use his newly acquired platform to not only gain recognition for his creative endeavours but also bring awareness to the lack of diversity in the fashion industry. While focusing on his own blossoming career, he’s actively encouraging young creatives of diverse backgrounds to take a shot at modelling.

“I never saw people who looked like me on magazine covers or on runways. Designer brands aren’t made for kids like me – kids of immigrants who shop at second-hand stores,” he said.

“I’ve always been stubborn so when I was constantly told I couldn’t be what I wanted to be, it only made me more determined. What I’ve been able so far achieve so far is more satisfying because I know I’m nowhere near done.”

Achol Arok is a third-year student in the Bachelor of Media and Communication (Journalism) at La Trobe University. You can follow her on twitter: @acholarok