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- 8 Oct 2010
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Courting China with Familiar Faces


China’s top models graced the cover of Vogue China’s September issue

As new Chinese consumers claim a growing share of the luxury market, Felice Jiang of Jing Daily has been looking at what global luxury brands have been doing to court these consumers. With the luxury industry continuing to look East for profits, this is an opportune moment to focus on Chinese participants in the global luxury industry, and how they are being received by the Chinese market. The New York Times has noted the growing proportion of Asian Americans climbing the fashion ladder on an international scale, but China’s emerging market presents a different situation.

New York’s recently ended Fashion Week marks the beginning of the fashion calendar, setting the tone for the rest of the season. Diversity among fashion models has been a recurring issue; in the Fall-Winter 2010 shows this past February, it was noted by that a mere 16 percent of slots were given to non-white models, with Asians garnering 6.4 percent. For the Spring-Summer shows that just ended, Asian models walked 7.1 percent of the total looks, their highest percentage of recent seasons, though it leaves plenty of room for growth. As more international fashion brands vie for a greater share of Chinese markets, it’s worth spotlighting some of the Chinese models who’ve made it to the top, and their current status int he industry, both in China and internationally.

Liu Wen

At the Jason Wu S/S 2011 RTW show (Photo: Yannis Vlamos /


Liu Wen, discovered at the New Silk Road Model Contest in 2005, is one of the top names. A runway veteran since her discovery, she’s also been featured in various editorials, including Vogue China. In this year’s New York Fashion Week, Liu Wen had an opening slot for Alexandre Herchcovitch and was also seen on the runways for Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs. Her strength in China has also grown: in 2010 alone, she landed five Chinese magazine covers, including the model-filled 5th anniversary Vogue China September issue as well as an earlier solo cover. Liu Wen is indisputably the top Chinese model, having walked a total of 18 shows for the Spring 2011 season so far, and walking more than 70 shows in the Spring 2010 RTW season. Those stats made her the second-most-booked model for that season, after French model Constance Jablonski. Liu Wen was the first woman of East Asian descent to walk the Victoria’s Secret show in 2009 and the first Asian face of cosmetics company Estée Lauder. Senior vice-president Aerin Lauder points to China’s fast growing market as their reason for selecting Liu Wen, adding that “We’re doing very well in Asia, and we’re No.1 in China. so Liu Wen sends the perfect message at the perfect time.”

Shu Pei

At the BCBG Max Azria S/S 2011 RTW show (Photo: Monica Feudi /


Shu Pei (Shu Pei Qin) is a rising star who has become fairly ubiquitous over the past few seasons. This season she appeared in 16 runway shows with more looks at New York Fashion Week than Liu Wen. She walked for Proenza Schouler, Narciso Rodriguez, among others, and was one of the few non-White models to walk for Max Azria. She landed a solo cover for Vogue China in February, and has snagged a cosmetics campaign with Maybelline, joining actress Zhang Zhiyi as a Maybelline spokesperson.

Ming Xi

At the Tommy Hilfiger S/S 2011 RTW show (Photo: Yannis Vlamos /


Ming Xi is relatively new, having been discovered as a finalist in the 2009 Elite Model Look contest. Even so, she appeared on the New York Fashion Week runways for many of the Asian designers, including Richard Chai, Alexander Wang and Peter Som, as well as sharing the September 2010 Vogue China cover with Liu Wen.

Fei Fei Sun

At the Phillip Lim S/S 2011 RTW show


Fei Fei Sun also shared the model-draped September Vogue China cover, as well as appearing on several Chinese magazine covers in 2009. She’s been prolific on runways since last year, and walked 8 runway shows in addition to closing Phillip Lim’s show this season. Fei Fei Sun has also been selected to be this year’s ambassador for Shanghai’s Fashion Week in October, last year’s being Emma Pei.

Du Juan

At the Carolina Herrera S/S 2011 RTW show (Photo: Yannis Vlamos /


Du Juan is a veteran model who is well known in China and beyond, having won the 2003 Miss China title. She has appeared on covers in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea, as well as runways since the S/S 2006 Season. At New York Fashion Week, she walked for Lacoste and Carolina Herrera.

Emma Pei

At the Cynthia Rowley S/S 2011 RTW show (Photo: Yannis Vlamos /


Emma Pei has been seen on the runways of Cynthia Rowley and United Bamboo this season, as well as those of Alexander McQueen, Rodarte, DKNY, and Ralph Lauren in seasons past. Notably, she has also been on print advertisements in China for Me+City as well as Lane Crawford, guaranteeing that she is a nationally recognized face in China.

Bonnie Chen

At the Vivienne Tam S/S 2011 RTW show (Photo: Yannis Vlamos /


Various fashion presentations over the week also introduced newcomers – for example, Bonnie Chen, who walked for Ohne Titel and Vivienne Tam, among others. While Asian-American designers have often selected a few Chinese models to walk for their shows, there is still room to grow. Paul Rowland of Ford Management has established goals for diversity, setting up a satellite office in North Africa and seeking to discover models from “Egypt or Sri Lanka or India,” and other locations agencies do not normally look. East Asian countries should be increasingly prominent among them as China’s consumer power continues to grow.

In addition to discovering new Asian talents, we should follow The Cut in asking if China’s growing market share will pave the way for more top Chinese models. The answer seems to be a firm yes. Chinese consumers have been known to respond to celebrities better; but there is now a strong group of standout Asian models, a majority of them being being Chinese, and the strength of the Chinese consumers has the potential to turn them into stars. To connect with Chinese consumers, luxury brands should follow the lead of companies like Estée Lauder which has strategically hired Liu Wen as a new face of their company.

This article has been published courtesy of Jing Daily where it first appeared under the headline, ‘Chinese Models Rising In The Ranks’ as the leader a two-part series. Find out more in the second part, ‘Chinese-American Fashion Designers Looking East’.