New York Fashion Week: Chinese Supermodel Standouts, But "Whitest In Years"

    Asian models only walked 6.2 percent of the looks at New York Fashion Week this season, down from 7.1 percent last September. Still, there were standout supermodels and Ralph Lauren's China-inspired show employed the most Chinese faces.
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Events

    New York Fashion Week Stacks Up As Least Diverse In Recent Years#

    Liu Wen in Jason Wu's Fall 2011 Show. Photo: Marcus Tondo /

    This week, Jezebel released their seasonal report on New York Fashion Week, and found that this year was the least diverse since 2008. While white models walked an 84.8 percent of the looks featured at the Fall/Winter 2011 shows, Asian models only walked 6.2 percent, down from 7.1 percent last September. At that time, Jing Daily saw high hopes for the growing numbers and rising Chinese models, but this season proved to have the lowest percentage of Asian models since Fall/Winter 2008.

    Despite the statistics, Chinese supermodels Liu Wen and Fei Fei Sun walked 18 shows each, more than any other model of color and placing them directly behind Women’s Wear Daily’s Model Call: Leaders of the Pack. Though they both tied with number five ranked Estonian model Karmen Pedaru, it’s likely they weren’t included because neither Liu Wen nor Fei Fei Sun opened or closed any shows at New York Fashion Week. Liu Wen walked in notable shows such as Oscar de la Renta, Proenza Schouler, Donna Karan, Derek Lam, and Alexander Wang. Fei Fei Sun was seen on the runways for Marc by Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez, Rodarte, and Rag & Bone, among others.

    The AFP has noted the popularity of models such as Liu Wen and Fei Fei Sun, whose faces appear in cosmetic campaigns for Estée Lauder and Maybelline respectively, and male model Godfrey Gao, who recently became the first Asian face of Louis Vuitton. Shaun Rein, the Shanghai-based managing director of China Market Research Group was quoted by the AFP as saying that "savvier companies are using Asian models to penetrate the China market and try to create an emotional bond with consumers, and to give an aspiration that Chinese can look up to." However, this wasn't apparent in the diminishing numbers at this year's New York Fashion Week.

    Within the shows listed as most diverse, which include 3.1 Phillip Lim, Thakoon, Rachel Roy, and Tracey Reese, it is no surprise that Ralph Lauren’s China-inspired show casted the most Asian models. Ralph Lauren casted six Chinese models to walk eleven of the looks in the show, making Chinese faces 20.8 percent of his show. Ralph Lauren employed Lela Rose, Jing Ma, Ming Xi, Liu Wen, Lily Zhi, and newcomer Sui He. The new model Sui was the first Asian model to open for Ralph Lauren in the American label’s history and is likely to be a face we’ll see again.

    Nonetheless, despite these standout supermodels, the overall numbers are discouraging. Hopefully designers won't limit the casting of diverse models only to China-inspired collections.

    Fei Fei Sun in Tommy Hilfiger's Fall 2011 Show. Photo: Yannis Vlamos /

    Sui He in Ralph Lauren's Fall 2011 Show. Photo: Monica Feudi /

    Discover more
    Daily BriefAnalysis, news, and insights delivered to your inbox.