EXOTIC CHARM: Chinese supermodel Liu Wen poses at the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in New York on September 9 (AFP)
A Chinese debutante garnered most of the limelight at the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in New York in November last year. He Sui, a newcomer to the modeling world, was the focus of many photographers as the dark haired beauty walked down the runway in a mermaid inspired ensemble.
He was followed by another Chinese supermodel Liu Wen onto the stage. Liu broke the mold at Victoria's Secret in 2009, becoming the first "Asian Angel" to take part in the company's lingerie event.
The growing profile of Chinese models in the fashion world is creating a stir. The just-concluded 2012 New York, London, Milan and Paris spring/summer fashion weeks saw a host of established Chinese faces as well as fresh models from China.
"We are making history everyday," said Liu, who is widely considered to be among the country's top models.
White European models have dominated the runways and magazines of the high-end fashion industry for decades. But as China becomes an increasingly important market for luxury goods, major fashion houses have begun to pay more attention to Chinese models.
"In the past, Chinese and other Asian models were invited to participate in thematic shows with oriental elements. But today, more brands employ Chinese models as their global ambassadors," said Yao Ge, General Manager of modeling agency China Bentley Culture Development Co. Ltd.
Modeling as a profession has become established in China in the past 20 years. Chinese models have stormed the world stage from 2009 to 2011.
Du Juan was China's first supermodel. The world's fashion stage opened up to Du when she became the first Asian cover girl of Vogue magazine in 2006. The next year, she appeared in the spring/summer shows of the biggest names in fashion, including Louis Vuitton, YSL, Chanel, Valentino and Givenchy. She became the first Asian model to be featured in Time magazine in 2007, leaving the Chinese fashion media slack-jawed.
Liu Wen, who made her name as the first Asian Victoria's Secret model, continued to push boundaries for Asian models. Liu was named the global spokesperson for Estée Lauder in 2010. Best known for her bright smile and sculpted, diamond-shaped cheekbones, the 179-cm supermodel was the first Asian face recruited by the American beauty products powerhouse.
Liu attributes everything to fate, but her success is more than a matter of chance.
Liu is extremely hard working. The Chinese beauty began her modeling career in 2005 when she entered a local Chinese modeling contest to win a laptop. Following that success, she appeared in a number of advertising campaigns, runway shows and magazine editorial pages. Her success was such that the Chinese media nicknamed her Fashion Show Queen.
Even after she established herself as a fixture on the runways of New York, Milan and Paris, Liu continued to work equally hard and was reported to have participated in 74 catwalk shows in one month during last year's autumn/winter fashion season. At the same time, she became the second Chinese woman, after Du, to be included in the World's Top 50 Supermodels list compiled by Models.com. The 23-year-old is now ranked No.6 on the list, the highest ranking ever for an Asian model.
Another leading light in the Chinese modeling world, the 27-year-old Emma Pei, first appeared at the Paris Fashion Week in 2007. At the Christian Dior Haute Couture spring/summer fashion show in 2008, fashion designer John Galliano took Pei's hand, walked down the catwalk, and announced that she was his favorite model.
While Liu, Du and Pei have emerged as internationally renowned supermodels, still more Chinese models are rapidly rising to prominence.
Shu Pei, who is just 21, becomes well known on the catwalk circuit after signing with New York model agency Next Management in 2007. She walked in 22 shows at New York Fashion Week in 2008. In 2010, Style.com featured Shu as a top-10 newcomer.