Chinese models are becoming more and more visible in the world-wide fashion industry.
It’s only just over 40 years since China’s first international fashion show was held in Beijing by Pierre Cardin and, since that time, the number of Chinese models has surged to nearly six million However, only a handful of Chinese models can stand out from the pack to become highly-recognised at home and abroad.
The first Chinese model to be crowned at an international contest was Peng Li in Italy in 1988 and, since then, the number of Asian and Chinese internationally known models has reached just over 10 percent of those working the major catwalks.
Brands such as Louis Vuitton, Lanvin, Alexander McQueen, Fendi and Valentino, have staged elaborate runway productions with Chinese models in Beijing and Shanghai, and Chinese models have also been placed in barrier-breaking campaigns in the West as well as at home, as the greater China region has grown to become the world’s second-largest luxury goods market—a $300 billion industry.
However, it’s only really been over the last decade that the industry’s leading Chinese models have been introducing new notions of beauty in the East, whilst simultaneously breaking stereotypes in the West.
Some such famous Chinese models include:
Chen Juanhong: is widely seen as the first Chinese model to go global. Born in 1969 in Zhejiang Province, Chen is 1.79 metre former basketball player who became a professional model. In 1991 she was crowned at the 2nd China Super Model Contest and later placed fourth at the 12th World Super Model Contest, making herself the first Chinese model to become an international known supermodel. Chen has worked with many major fashion labels at home and abroad and is now running her own training school for Chinese models.
Qu Ying: is one of the most popular Chinese models. She was born in Hunan Province in 1971, is 1.75 metres tall, and is a fashion model, actress, hostess and singer. Qu, or Joie as she is sometimes known, is one of the few Chinese models who are the spokesperson for global brands, in her case including Pantene and Maybelline. She began her modelling career in 1990, and was runner-up in the 1991 New Silk Road Model Look China and then, later, second at the 2nd China Super Model Contest. Qu has appeared in a great number of Chinese films and TV series.
Ma Yanli: is a renowned Chinese model, actress and fashion designer who was born in Henan Province in 1974. Ma, who is 1.78 metres tall, was originally a provincial-level rowing champion, but left professional sports to pursue a career in modelling in 1994. She became known as one the top Chinese models when she won first place at the First Shanghai International Fashion Model Contest in 1995. Ma’s increasing popularity with famous designers and top advertisers made her the undisputed top Chinese model between 1998 and 1999. She is now a fashion designer who has successfully created her own fashion brand, the Mary Ma series.
Zhang Zilin: is a world-renowned Chinese model who was born in Hebei Province in 1984. She graduated from the University of Science and Technology Beijing (USTB), and was the first Chinese model to win the Miss World title in 2007. The beauty queen, who is 1.82 metres tall, began her modelling career in 2003, and was acclaimed as one of the top 10 best professional Chinese models in 2006.
Zhang, sometimes known as Eileen Zhang, was one of the first Chinese models to grace the covers of well known fashion magazines and has served as the spokesperson for famous brands such as L’Oreal Paris, Swarovski and China Merchants Bank.
Mo Wandan: was born in 1987 in Guangdong Province, and is an internationally known Chinese model with facial characteristics quite different from those of traditional Chinese beauties. Since she won the China Model Star Contest in 2004, Mo has been a sensation in both China and the rest of the world for her versatile performances on the catwalk. Mo, who is 1.80 metres tall, was the only Chinese model to walk in all four international fashion weeks in 2008, and has graced the covers of Elle, FHM and L’Officiel. She is one of the few Chinese models to undertake advertising campaigns for Emporio Armani, Rocco Barocco Enrico Coveri, Martin Grant, and other major labels.
Liu Wen: is one of the favourite Chinese models on the Paris, London and New York catwalks. She was born in Hunan Province in 1988 and is 1.78 metres tall, and can be found in prestigious fashion magazines working for global luxury brands including Calvin Klein and Lane Crawford. Liu was the first and only Chinese model to walk the Victoria’s Secret fashion show for two years running in 2009 and 2010.
In 2010, Liu became the first Chinese model for Estee Lauder’s campaign and was ranked 43rd among Askmen’s Top 99 Women of 2012, the only Chinese model to appear there. Liu is ranked No.5 on MDC.com, the highest-ever position for a Chinese model.
Du Juan: is an internationally-renowned Chinese model, is 1.79 metres tall, and was born in Shanghai in 1982. Jennifer, as she is sometimes known, is a former ballet dancer, and was crowned at the 2002 New Silk Road Model Look China. Du gained prominence as a leading Chinese model in 2006, when she became the face for five global fashion leaders, including LV, YSL, Roberto Cavalli, Gap and Swarovski. She later became the first Chinese model to grace the cover of Vogue Paris, and is renowned for her elegance and delicacy.
Jiang Peilin: was born in Heilongjiang Province in 1979 and, before she became a famous Chinese model, was a volleyball player. Jiang is 1.78 metres tall and, after she won runner-up at the 1999 Shanghai International Model Contest, became widely known as a talented Chinese model, enjoying success in the US. Jiang graced the covers of major fashion magazines and undertook advertising campaigns for many famous cosmetic products, being one of the first Chinese models to do so. Jiang, sometimes known as Shirley, is now a TV hostess and the CEO of an Internet company.
Yu Na: was born in Guizhou Province in 1981, and is a famous Chinese model who became an actress, and appearing in several Chinese TV series. She is 1.77 metres tall and won many local modelling contests, before becoming an internationally known Chinese model. Yu was crowned New Silk Road Model Look China in 2000 and later that year was awarded the Best Asian Image Award at the 7th World Supermodel Contest held in France.
Lv Yan: is from Jiangxi Province and began her modelling career in 1999 when she was 18. At 1.77 metres tall, although a well known Chinese model, she does not have the classic looks of Chinese beauty. However, she has become a supermodel on global catwalks, going to Paris in 2000 when she was only 19, becoming an internationally known Chinese model. In 2000, Lv won second place at the International Supermodel Pageant, the highest-ever ranking for a Chinese model in an international contest at that time. She has also appeared on the covers of top fashion magazines including Elle and Cosmopolitan and is the face of various luxury brands, including Hermes and Benetton as a very well recognised Chinese model.
Of course, there are plenty more Chinese models making their way onto international catwalks and, with the fashion industry in China expected to triple by 2020, there are sure to be a lot more new faces of Chinese models in the coming years.