Chinese models in vogue in Western fashion world

Chinese models in vogue in Western fashion world

KEN MORIYASU, Nikkei staff writer

DALIAN, China — The latest “Top 50 Models” list on features five women from China. This 10% of the list marks a significant, and growing, portion of an industry that is mostly Caucasian.


Sui He
Taylor Swift (R) performs and model Sui He walks the runway
Ming Xi
Sun Fei Fei & Xiao Wen Ju - Diesel Black Gold Fall 2013
Fei Fei Sun

The Chinese models on the list include: Sui He, who in 2011 became the first Asian model to open a Ralph Lauren fashion show; rising star Ming Xi, who has been one of the busiest models during this year’s fashion weeks as she walks for Chanel, Dior, Lanvin and Diane von Furstenberg; and Fei Fei Sun, who has been featured on the cover of Vogue Italia and Elle France.

Fashion shows in Paris, Milan and New York are turning to Chinese models in a bid to attract their compatriots who spend lavishly on high-end items. Chinese are the top consumers of luxury goods by nationality, accounting for 29% of global share, according to consulting firm Bain & Co. Responding to global demand, a modeling school in northeast China is busy training an army of future supermodels.

The next step

Dalian Model Art School, a government-authorized modeling school located in the sunny beach resort of Jinshitan, is about an hour’s drive from the center of Dalian, Liaoning Province.

Visitors to the center are greeted by two motionless, yet smiling, models dressed in evening dresses.

Students of the Dalian Model Art School take to the runway at the Dalian International Fashion Festival.

“They’re training to hold beautiful postures for long times,” Principal Yu Mei said as she came out of the domed building at the center of the campus. A former top model in China, Yu approached in all her 175cm, wearing a red Issey Miyake dress. “Come in, I’ll show you what we do here,” she said, taking this reporter to the main hall, which consists of a huge pool with a catwalk above it.

Once Yu took her seat, loud music began and students in swimwear took to the catwalk. This impromptu fashion show was a class for second-year students. One by one, they proceeded down the catwalk, smiled for Yu at the end, and made way for the next student. After swimwear came cocktail dresses, then casual wear.

Yu watched the students intently, before suddenly applauding one girl. “She’s amazing. She’ll do well,” Yu said, referring to an upcoming competition in Beijing. Yu clapped the whole time the model was on the catwalk.

Why did the principal have such esteem for the girl? Yu gave several reasons: good body balance; so-called small faces; a gorgeous smile; and the ability to express herself on the stage.

The right moves

A small face is not something that can be taught in a modeling school, but that is the harsh reality in the world of fashion.

Aspiring models learn how to stand, walk, sing and dance.

The school has around 300 students, mostly female, aged between 16 and 18. They watch videos of the latest Western fashion shows on a large screen during classes to study trends in color, hairstyle and makeup. This year’s trend is “cool and slightly masculine women,” Yu said. This is necessary knowledge for these students as they prepare themselves for competition.

The students also take classes in liberal arts, English, gymnastics and ballet to prepare for careers as models in outside of China. Extracurricular activities include the giving of bouquets to VIPs at airports and serving as attendants at store openings. These duties are seen as making the models more conscious about being watched and the importance of looking beautiful at all times.

Chinese models are becoming ever more in demand in the industry. The most successful of them, Liu Wen, is estimated to have made $4.3 million in 2013, which would make her the fifth highest-paid model in the world. The New York Times Style Magazine called her “China’s first bona fide supermodel” in a cover story in 2012, which profiled her journey from being a daughter of a construction worker in Hunan Province, to walking the runway for Dior, Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Students at Dalian Model Art School dream of such success. Recruiters from modeling agencies in Beijing and Shanghai visit the school and sign contracts with top graduates. Some alumni have already appeared in shows by Chanel, Hermes and Gucci.

Those not chosen by agencies often find jobs as flight attendants, staff for foreign-owned hotels or members of Dalian’s popular mounted policewomen unit.

Published by

Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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