Style Observer

EXCLUSIVE! Saint's New Balenciaga Star Kimali Morgan

Sunday, August 26, 2018

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What a difference a year makes. Last August, Kimali Morgan was living a life of fatherhood, friends and football in the rough and tumble inner city. This month, the 6'2” Saint International model is front and centre in the global advertising campaign for French label Balenciaga, one of the fashion world's most influential labels, favoured by A-list celebs such as Beyonc , Taylor Swift and Lebron James and referenced in contemporary hit songs by hip-hop superstars Cardi B and Nicki Minaj.

In what would ultimately become a life-changing moment, Morgan went from walking down the Zone of Special Operations-policed Regent Street in Denham Town to Balenciaga's glitzy high-fashion runway in The City of Lights in March. Hand-picked with seven other Saints, and exclusively booked by Saint CEO Deiwght Peters for Balenciaga's Fall/Winter presentation in a history-making show for the number of Caribbean model faces seen on a major designer catwalk, Morgan captivated Balenciaga's Artistic Director Demna Gvasalia and stylist Lotta Volkova. “I always knew Kimali had something special. His facial features are unmistakably unique,” says Peters.

The Balenciaga power duo subsequently shortlisted Morgan for the label's Fall/Winter 2018 global advertising campaign. He was flown to Los Angeles earlier in the year for the three-day shoot with photographer Charlie White. “It was truly special being able to go from the ghetto of Jamaica to working with one of the most important fashion labels in the entire world,” the proud newly minted Saint star model and father told the Style Observer. “I was the only black model among the cast, and I felt extra-special being Jamaican. There were five different wardrobe changes that were shot in-studio by Charlie.”

Prouder is Morgan's hard-working single mom Jacqueline Reid, with whom he lives in the downtown Kingston housing development of Denham Town. She raised him and his three sisters without support from a father. “I'm so proud of Kimali,” an emotional Reid shared. “As a single mother, I struggled. Sometimes I didn't have enough for lunch money every day, but he never complained.” He was always respectful and diligently attended school.” School was the neighbouring Denham Town High. It was there, a few years earlier, that Peters spotted him in-between classes on a model scouting excursion and immediately identified potential.

“He came home from school, excited, with a form (from Saint to the parents) for me to sign,” Reid, a custodian, recalls. “Because I realised how enthused he was, I did not hesitate to give my permission, and here we are years later. He's coming from the ghetto and came out to be something.”

But the road to Balenciaga wasn't always clear and has a funny twist. After Peters submitted Morgan's photos and received the positive feedback from Paris, he realised the number he had for Kimali was no longer working. “I had to launch a social media hunt, asking all my followers to help search and find him. It was hilarious. Politicians, strangers, everyone started searching. Eventually, it was a councillor from his area who located him and told him to link Saint immediately,” Peters recalls between laughs. A week later, Peters had Morgan on a plane to Paris.

Morgan is a study in humility. Soft spoken and well-mannered he is always ready with handshakes and sincere hellos for the outpouring of congratulations from members of the community wanting to offer their congratulations during SO's visit to Denham Town last week. Not one for braggadocio, his change of fortunes is still cause for reflection. “I know this is a big deal, and I am so grateful to Mr Peters and the Balenciaga team for this opportunity. I want to use this as a start for doing bigger things in the future, in modelling with other top clients and hopefully being a part of more campaigns. My mom was my rock through thick and thin. My son, Kimali, Jr, is my heartbeat and I love him world without end, and all I do is for him,” he explains. As his life's next chapter is not yet scripted, more spectacular tomorrows could be ahead.

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