In a classic rags to riches story, a 14-year-old Israeli girl from Holon with no prior modeling experience has been signed to Dior, one of France’s top fashion houses as its in-house model, and opened its show at Paris Fashion Week this past week.
Tall, blonde and blue-eyed, Sofia Mechetner, the daughter of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, is officially the “new face” of Christian Dior, a dream gig for any model.
At the modest home in the Tel Aviv suburb she shares with her mother and two younger siblings, Mechetner’s life seems far removed from the bright lights of the fashion world.
Her mother works a series of odd jobs, including cleaning homes and offices, sewing and caring for elderly persons, and it’s often up to Sofia to care for her younger brother and sister once they all get home from school.
Israel’s Channel 2 accompanied Sofia for several days leading up to Paris Fashion Week and the job that would change her life. In a report aired Friday night, Sophia is seen cooking afternoon meals, cleaning and folding laundry for her family while her mother is away.
She shares a bedroom with her siblings and has few friends over because she’s embarrassed, she says, of the modesty of their apartment. Her mother sleeps on the sofa in the living room.
Mechetner stumbled into the modeling world by accident, according to the report, and it was series of coincidences that led her to be signed to Dior as her very first foray into modelling.
The teen, who bears a striking resemblance to a young Kate Moss, was discovered in Israel by the Roberto modeling agency, whose owner decided that so unique was her look, he would take a chance and aim for the big leagues in Paris.
Roberto suggested Sophia to the small, exclusive Viva Agency in Paris, which works with just 70 models worldwide, none of them Israeli. The agency agreed and flew her out for a photo shoot and an audition.
But upon her arrival, chaperoned by a representative from her Israeli agency, the owners of Viva were taken aback by Sophia’s youth and canceled the shoot.
Disappointed, Mechetner and her escort wandered around Paris, when they walked past a Dior store and decided to go in. Her chaperone immediately recognized Dior’s head designer Raf Simons, who happened to be in the same store.
Mechetner’s escort told Channel 2 that she excitedly approached Simons for a photo, seizing the opportunity to introduce the fresh-faced Sofia.
She and Simons exchanged contact details, and the two Israelis left the store. Simons then called Dior’s casting director to tell him about the young Israeli model he had encountered. The casting director promptly called the Viva Agency, asking for Sofia.
The Paris agents were stunned at the request for the young Israeli model, who had never even booked a single shoot or walked any runway, but with Dior calling, they raced to secure Sophia.
Back in Israel, several weeks have passed and Sophia is slowly getting back into her routine, when her Israeli agent calls with an urgent summons to his office. He tells her she is to be the new face of Dior.
In return, he says, she will be paid “close to a million shekels.”
Sofia, so attuned to the hardships faced by her family, promptly calls her mother and tells her the news.
“You can quit your job, mom,” she says, half crying, half laughing.
Several days later, Sofia has had a crash course in how to walk a runway and is opening the Dior show — and a new chapter for her and her family.
Asked what she’ll do with her million-shekel paycheck, Sofia says laughingly: “I expect we’ll move to an apartment where I will have my own room.”