An 18-year-old Rwandan who came to New Zealand as a refugee following civil war and genocide is among models vying for a position at Fashion Week.

Cynthia Urayeneza, of Unique Models, came to New Zealand when she was 4 months old with her mother and five siblings to escape the dangers in Rwanda.

Fast-forward 18 years - she has left school, moved from Wellington to Auckland, signed with a model agency and has high hopes of landing a spot modelling in this year's New Zealand Fashion Week.

"I did Fashion Week last year and it was so much fun," she said.

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"I loved being backstage, getting hair and makeup done, and meeting people in the industry."

About 350 models yesterday took part in casting for Fashion Week, which begins on August 22. The week features top New Zealand fashion, including designer clothing, swimwear and a hair show.

It has been a launching pad for models including Ashleigh Goode, Maia Cotton and Georgia Fowler.