Yilan Hua & the Rise of the Chinese Supermodel

    Yilan Hua talks to Jing Daily about the potential of the domestic market, and why luxury brands need Chinese models on their runways.
    Yilan Hua talks to Jing Daily about the potential of the domestic market, and why luxury brands need Chinese models on their runways. Illustration: Yvan Deng
      Published   in Fashion

    Chinese supermodel Yilan Hua is the next rising star to be welcomed into the Jing Daily community of individuals shaping China’s booming luxury fashion industry. These profiles highlight industry leaders who contribute to the national and global ecosystem, from creatives and influencers to business executives and entrepreneurs.

    Chinese models have been increasingly featured in top luxury brands' fashion shows and campaigns, and a tie-in with the right faces can bring massive traffic to a company. Hangzhou’s Yilan Hua is part of a new generation of homegrown supermodels taking the international stage by storm.

    In less than three years, she now ranks alongside well-known local faces such as Juan Du, Wen Liu, and Ming Xi — and has made the Hot List on the global industry’s leading site Hua caught the eye of insiders at her debut for Bottega Veneta. Following this, she walked ten major runways including Mugler and Elie Saab. Since then she’s been featured on campaigns for Max Mara, Fendi, and Chanel Beauty, and finished fourth in the world at the Autumn 2022 Fashion Weeks runway this year, making her a breakout star.

    Yilan Hua in Max Mara's Spring/Summer 2022 campaign. Photo: Max Mara
    Yilan Hua in Max Mara's Spring/Summer 2022 campaign. Photo: Max Mara

    Behind Hua’s rise lies the support of those who appreciate her professional performance back home, and she is quick to point out that luxury firms’ interest in China’s models is thanks to domestic consumers. Seeing well-known Chinese faces on the runway and in advertising campaigns shows locals they are being taken seriously.

    Jing Daily met up with Hua to learn about her career so far and the significance of Chinese models in the local luxury market.

    What a career you’ve already had in such a short space of time. What do you feel is the reason for your rapid growth in this career?#

    It’s the passion for what I do. People often see us looking glamorous on the runway, but countless rounds of cruel interviews are behind such scenes. Many of us start modeling as a part-time job for extra gains, including me. But getting to where I am now, I’ve made modeling my life. It is now my full-time job for which I must keep in good shape all the time — and jump at every opportunity. There’s no other way. My passion for what I do leads me to the dream stage, and I enjoy every moment of the shows. I love the runway and the shoots for magazines, for they’re where the creation happens.

    What are the essential qualities that make a successful model?#

    First, you must be tough enough. This career relies on being seen and selected. So without a strong mental quality, one will have a hard time holding on in the case of long periods of failure in interviews. Second, punctuality is crucial, which can show the spirit of an individual or a team. If you often make your team wait for you and delay the work process, it might lead to no brands later being willing to work with you. Third, you need to keep learning. Only by staying in learning can we move further forwards.

    And on that point, how has your mindset shifted over the past three years?#

    Actually, I’ve grown so much. Models are like goods awaiting being picked up by brands. In my first days as a model, disappointment would drown me if I failed the interview. Now I have my way of processing the ups and downs. I will wrap up the reasons for failures and strive to look forward to seizing future opportunities. It’s not that the brand is not satisfied with your performance, but that your image doesn’t fit the way it aspires to promote and present itself.

    Of course, aesthetics are changing so much. What advice would you give to brands who want to work with local faces?#

    It is essential to find the models who match their tone so that models can accurately render what brands desire in their advertising campaigns. Young generations enjoy following the modeling trends, especially Chinese models. In this sense, brands’ tie-ins with local models can quicken their pace of winning exposure.

    Jil Sanders worked with Yilan Hua to promote its Resort 2022 collection. Photo: Yilan Hua's Weibo
    Jil Sanders worked with Yilan Hua to promote its Resort 2022 collection. Photo: Yilan Hua's Weibo

    What attributes do you think Chinese models in particular have?#

    They’re all hard-working, always making their best effort. We cherish every opportunity to work. Actually, the visa barrier makes it impossible for any of us to show abroad. If not, we’d have seen more excellent Chinese model figures worldwide. When I was abroad for fashion weeks, some foreign models would give up a show for a stomachache. That is never going to happen with us.

    Currently, given the pandemic, how are you feeling about the future for Chinese models globally? Or will it be more local?#

    I believe there are huge opportunities in the industry because there is demand if there is a market. Where there is demand, there is a market. It promises a bright future for our models. Besides, some luxury brands are making a point of launching campaign shoots in China for occasions like Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day. This would bring more opportunities indeed.

    The modeling industry is no longer as strict as it used to be, and opens its doors to everyone with potential. For example, elderly and plus-size models have come to the stage due to the diversified development of brands.

    Finally, can you share an unforgettable experience on the runway?#

    Ah yes, well this is surprising. Once I got an almost “see-through” look in the Fendi Fall/Winter 2022 show, and I asked them for a way to avoid wearing see-through clothes. To my surprise, they sewed three layers of fabric on the top to cover up my concerns. They said, “we are happy to do so, as long as you feel comfortable.” I was really touched.

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