A chance shopping trip to South Australia was to model Melissa ‘MJ’ Johannsen what a spider bite was to Peter Parker, or an all-too-juicy apple was to Snow White; unlike them however, her fate has taken her all over the (fashion) world.
Originally hailing from Alice Springs - best known for its whoop-whoop location in the heart of Australia’s very vast, very arid desert - this fresh-faced teenager with ethereal looks was discovered in 2010 while on a shopping trip to the closest capital city Adelaide. Within months she was flying to Australian Fashion Week to walk for Aussie fashion stalwarts Camilla and Marc and Yeojin Bae; not long after, she was flying to New York Fashion Week, where she was picked by Kate and Laura Mulleavy to walk for Rodarte's spring/summer 2011 show.
It was the start of a beautiful relationship; Johannsen has walked in NYFW for the past three seasons, each time appearing for Rodarte amongst other brands. The feeling is mutual - she names Rodarte is the highlight of her show schedule, and cannot be quick enough to praise their collections. “Each one of their pieces is just a work of art, so much work goes into it and there’s so much detail. I’m definitely a huge fan of their stuff, I would like, take their whole collection home and steal it if I could,” she laughs.
Not that she needs to - despite growing up in a town where “surf shops were the height of fashion”, her sartorial sense has quickly developed to the point where she is a regular subject of street style blogger Candice Lake. She describes her style as “grungy rock-chick”, with a closet full of Rag & Bone, Band of Outsiders and Mulberry. “I really love fashion now,” she says. “I’ve learnt so quickly about all the high fashion brands, and I’ve got my favourites and all the different things that I like and I’m enjoying putting little outfits together with all my clothes and stuff, so yeah.”
Indeed, the self-proclaimed “outback kid” is looking forward to being in the shows again as fashion season starts in less than a month. “I love fashion season. I love the hype of it all and it’s such a huge rush and the adrenalin of running to shows and castings and all that.
“Some of the girls don’t really enjoy it because it’s so busy and you don’t have the time to stop and rest, but I think that’s the whole excitement of it.”
MJ by Kathrin Müller-Heffter / Wilhelmina
"DUDE! You misspelled perfume!!" (Tamar Koifman) / MJ/Emilio Skuza X Nicole Bentley for Vogue Australia via Refinery29 caption contest
Fellow Aussie model Olivia Thornton debuts on the runway
Rodarte girls at NYFW
Model Renny Chivunga’s street style in Sydney