We always overlook that ultimately; campaigns and fashion shows would really be nothing without one particular being – the model. The model brings life into a designer/brand’s vision, conveys the artistic message that the clothes carry as well as shows the potential buyer how a garment would look on them. There has been a growing trend in the usage of black models on the runway and campaigns, we have seen designers and brands like David Tlale, Chu and Spree using only black models – as a message of empowerment and eliminating racism in fashion. It is with that reason only that we wanted to honour those people, particularly the models of colour. The below is a list of models who were popular and had a great year in fashion. We spoke to a few industry insiders (show producers and stylists) and these were the models whose names popped up the most…. In no particular order .. here goes:

1, Tshepiso Ralehlathe
Instagram: Tshepiso_Ralahlathe
Agency: Ice Models

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Tshepiso’s face can be seen nationwide in all Foschini stores and she also bagged herself some major editorials, from Grazia, True Love to Bona magazine. Tshepiso is the quintessential of a female model in South-Africa as she has balanced a high fashion image but still managed to attain her commercial appeal.

2, Toyin Oyeneye
Instagram: TheToyin17
Agency: Ice Models

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This Nigerian born model had an incredible 2015 and his streak continued right into 2016. Appearing on campaigns for Markhams and Mr Price, as well as his runway work at S.A Menswear Week and most recently – Lagos Design Fashion Week. He is one of the few top male models in the country to not burn out after a couple of fashion seasons.

3, Samuel Mukhuwana
Instagram: SamMukhuwana
Agency: Full Circle 

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This South-African born model’s unique and memorable looks definitely made him one of the most booked models this year. Appearing on campaigns for Cell C as well as appearing on Vulkan & Edgars Club magazine covers, he cemented his place in the modelling industry.

4, Yemi Awoyemi
Instagram: Theopeyemi

Agency: Boss Models

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There is a crew of elite South-African based Nigerian models and Yemi sits comfortably in that crew and her work speaks for itself. She has bagged herself Old Khaki, Edgars and Woolworths campaigns. This stunning beauty also found runway success and is currently nominated at the ASF Awards for female model of the year.

5, Julia Otobo
Instagram: Nappyese
Agency: Ice Models

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The other half of the Otobo sisters, Julia is a runway and editorial favourite. After shooting for Luminance in designer brands such as Jimmy Choos and Balenciaga, we couldn’t help but be mesmerised. She also appeared in editorials for Elle Magazine and walked for S.A Fashion Week.

6, Yannick Konan
Instagram: Yanick_Konan

Agency: Boss Models

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A GQ favourite, Yannick’s abs are the reason why he can currently be seen strutting his stuff for swimwear brand Granadilla. However, don’t limit him to just ‘abs and a face’ – he also bagged himself a Truworths and Spree campaign – reminding us that he looks just as good when dressed.

7, Lwakhe Matiwane
Instagram: Lwakhe_M

Agency: 20 Model Management

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This young man came out of nowhere and literally hit the industry by storm. He fronted campaigns for Woolworths, Ackermans and Mr Price. When it comes to Lwakhe, It’s all in the hair and that youthful appeal. We can’t wait to see what 2017 holds for this young man as he virtually did what takes years for some – in one year.

8, Mide Ogundele
Instagram: OlamideOgundele
Agency: Boss Models

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Whether it was editorials, campaigns, commercials, this girl did it ALL and effortlessly so. From starring in the Spree commercial to appearing on billboards for H&M as well as editorials for Women’s health magazine – it is her beautiful skin tone and a smile that could light up an entire stadium; that made Mide a force to be reckoned with.

9, Sean McCollet
Instagram: SeanMcCollet
Agency: 20 Model Management

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Having walked all the major runway shows in South-Africa, Sean established himself as a powerful runway model thus doing London’s Graduate Fashion Week. He appeared on British Vogue and came back home to appear in campaigns for Jockey underwear and PQ Clothing.

10, Emy Ozori
Instagram: emytcc
Agency: Boss Models

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When it comes to Emy it is all about that sky high hair and that beautiful chocolate dark skin. She is the epitome of an editorial model and that’s why she has shot editorials for Destiny Magazine and appeared on the cover of Vulkan magazine. Emy also graced the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week runway and attained herself a Soft N’ Free campaign.

11, Nkanyiso Ndayi
Instagram: Kenzomvp

Agency: Outlaws Models14melaninfacesofsouthafricanfashion2016

Nkanyiso’s charming golden boy look has made him one of the most booked models this year. Fronting campaigns for Jet, Old Khaki and The Hub, this Durban born model has earned his place as one of South-Africa’s top male models. He was also on the runway for Durban Fashion Fair as well as S.A Menswear Week.

12, Bianca Koyabe
Instagram: bkoyabe

Agency: Ice Models

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This golden brown beauty’s social media presence is proof that she had an incredible year. She starred in a campaign for Legit and appeared on the covers of Invert and 708 magazine whilst still maintaining her visibility on print publications such as Women’s health and Glamour magazine.

13, Kwen Maye
Instagram: Mannikwen

Agency: 20 Model Management

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To say he has had an incredible year would be an understatement, the half-Kenyan and half Nigerian model was on the cover of GQ Style magazine, fronted the Tread & Miller campaign and also appeared in editorials for Edgars Club magazine. He was also a runway favourite, as he appeared at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week as well as S.A Menswear Week.

14, Lemohang Molobi
Instagram: lemohangmolobi

Agency: Ice Models

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This South-African born girl’s secret lies in versatility, she recently appeared in editorials for Destiny and Elle magazine. She then stunned industry insiders by getting signed in Amsterdam and Milan. As if that wasn’t enough, she came back home and fronted campaigns for PQ Clothing and Woolworth’s Style By SA. When it comes to Lemo, the sky is the limit and we are here to watch it all unfold.

Written and Compiled by Kimmy Grey
Edited by Arinze Nwokolo