Josie Borain. Photo: Supplied
Josie Borain is a fashion world anomaly, from her unlikely path into the fashion world and her striking androgynous looks to her decision to settle down in Cape Town, she is a model mother like no other.
JOSIE grew up in the leafy northern suburbs of Johannesburg and after a frustrating battle with matric she decided to head to the mother city to start a life for herself. “I was terrible at school,” she says, “I failed matric twice and then went to Cape Town to start a career in fashion buying.” She soon discovered that she needed a matric certificate to enter the industry and after a brief, forgettable internship, a friend encouraged her to give modelling a try and it wasn’t long till the Parisian and New York fashion worlds beckoned. Her unusual androgynous looks made Josie one of the most sought after models of her era and she ushered in a brand new direction in the fashion world.
“The modelling industry was very different back then,” Josie notes. “We used to work with designers on a day-to-day basis, we’d be clothes horses for them before they showed their work to the rest of the world. This work, she says, is something models today are far too precious to do, “it’s something they’d see as beneath them.”
Josie took this incredible opportunity to work with designers like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren up close and personal and learnt much about the industry along the way.
With her good looks and great South African work ethic, it’s not surprising that Calvin Klein quickly contracted Josie after a rumour that Ralph Lauren was planning to do so. Their collaboration brought with it numerous campaigns that catapulted Josie into the fashion industry spotlight. The most famous of these is her run as the face of the brand’s Obsession fragrance. “I still have an old bottle of the perfume from those days,” Josie reminisces, “It’s past its expiry but I still love it.”
After a few years in the industry, a friend suggested she start documenting her life as a model and start photographing her day-to-day experiences. This hobby soon became a career and she is today an accomplished photographer, having published the very successful anthology, Josie, You & Me, in 2003.
Although she still loves to photograph she isn’t always able to do the photography she’d like to. “I’d still love to work,” she says, “but I’m not one of those photographers who enjoys shooting real life situations. I’d like to do more set up and conceptualised work and that requires money.” She is a big fan of legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, who is known and celebrated for this type of photography. “I love her work as an art director” she says.
About 15 years ago, Josie Borain settled down gently in beautiful Hout Bay where she now lives with her husband, actor Langley Kirkwood, and their three children, Peter-Raven, Willow and Phoenix. Her life now as a stay-at-home mom is in vast contrast to her modelling days and it suits her just perfectly,
“As corny as it sounds, I’m most proud of my children,” she says, “I’m incredibly proud of who they are and the big futures they have ahead of them.”
Despite the change in lifestyle, Josie still has the same wholesome fashion taste that she had back in the 1980s. “The clothes from the ’80s were never really my style, I always found the shoulder pads a little too robotic for my liking,” she admits,
“I have always preferred to keep it pure and classic, I’m a jeans and T-shirt kind of girl and don’t think you need to make a big statement with what you wear, I like brands like Country Road, GAP and Banana Republic.” In case you’re wondering what she smells like, Josie currently wears Calvin Klein Beauty, a delightful floral fragrance with a light woody musk base. Some loyalties, it seems, die hard.
Josie has travelled extensively. “I absolutely loved Costa Rica with its beautiful beaches. I visited the country only 10 years after it opened its borders to the world,” she says “It was such an interesting en