FEI FEI FATALE

VOGUE Australia - - Contents -

Chinese model Fei Fei Sun talks about her hopes to help change the per­cep­tion of Asian beauty.

Fear­less in some of the strong­est looks of the sea­son, Chinese model Fei Fei Sun talks about di­ver­sity in the fash­ion in­dus­try and her hopes to help change the per­cep­tion of Asian beauty. Styled by Katie Moss­man. Pho­tographed by Robbie Fim­mano.

YOU STUD­IED FASH­ION DE­SIGN BE­FORE MOD­EL­LING. HOW LONG HAD YOU BEEN IN­TER­ESTED IN FASH­ION? “My home town of Weifang, in the Shan­dong prov­ince, is known for its beau­ti­ful tra­di­tions of paint­ing, kite fly­ing and the art of pa­per cut­ting de­signs, but, be­cause it’s a small town, I didn’t have much ex­po­sure to fash­ion. In ju­nior high I was taller than the other stu­dents, so my mother sent me to a mod­el­ling school over sum­mer break to cor­rect my pos­ture. Th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences I had grow­ing up gave me a small taste of fash­ion. After high school I chose to ma­jor in fash­ion de­sign. My uni­ver­sity was lo­cated in Suzhou, a larger city very close to Shang­hai. This was the first time I had chance to re­ally be ex­posed to fash­ion. Friends I met in Shang­hai en­cour­aged me to en­ter the Elite Model Look con­test, which I was lucky enough to win.”

HOW DID YOUR STUD­IES IN FASH­ION DE­SIGN IN­FLU­ENCE YOUR MOD­EL­LING CA­REER? “The ba­sics of fash­ion de­sign were taught dur­ing my first year. Mod­el­ling has in­tro­duced me to some of the best stylists in the world. Th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences have been like a com­pletely hands-on school of fash­ion de­sign. Work­ing with them, you can see how they make a nor­mal piece look in­ter­est­ing and chic. Those ex­pe­ri­ences helped me dis­cover my per­sonal style, which is very im­por­tant for a model.”

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM BE­ING A MODEL? “So many great things: pa­tience, self-con­fi­dence, team­work. Also, when this job brought me at­ten­tion, I felt I should use this at­ten­tion to help oth­ers in need, es­pe­cially in China. A few years ago I had a chance to visit to a small, im­pov­er­ished vil­lage in the south-west of China. I brought some books and food for them. Th­ese things can’t solve their prob­lems, but I hope love from peo­ple can give them the courage to face life – this is some­thing I hope to con­tinue.”

HOW HAS THE FASH­ION IN­DUS­TRY CHANGED SINCE YOU’VE STARTED MOD­EL­LING? “It has been open to dis­cussing and ad­dress­ing di­ver­sity. From mag­a­zine cov­ers to lux­ury cam­paigns you can see more of a range of faces than ever be­fore. I was so hon­oured to be the first Chinese woman on the cover of Amer­i­can Vogue. I will never for­get the mo­ment I held it in my hands. The theme of the cover was ‘In­sta­girls’, which made me re­alise that to­day be­ing a ‘fash­ion model’ means so much more; mod­els have so many more op­por­tu­ni­ties. China has an old say­ing: ‘Flow­ers are beau­ti­ful be­cause the sea­son is spring’, which is about how we are so lucky to have the right op­por­tu­ni­ties in this time. Now it is in­clu­sive of more races, gen­ders, shapes, colours, ages, with more op­por­tu­ni­ties for mod­els to grow as busi­ness­women, phi­lan­thropists, have a voice, and con­nect with peo­ple around the world.”

YOU HAVE MANY FIRSTS IN YOUR CA­REER – ES­PE­CIALLY AS A CHINESE MODEL, SUCH AS BE­ING ON THE COVER OF AMER­I­CAN VOGUE AND VOGUE ITALIA. WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE TO BREAK NEW GROUND? “It has been such an hon­our. This is more than my per­sonal achieve­ment; in the mod­el­ling in­dus­try you can’t do the job all by your­self. My hope is that young Asian girls can see that their dreams can come true as well. Ev­ery­thing hap­pens at the right time. High fash­ion is a bur­geon­ing in­dus­try in China, but there have been more and more Chinese de­sign­ers at in­ter­na­tional fash­ion weeks, too.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE PER­CEP­TION OF CHINESE BEAUTY IN THE WEST­ERN WORLD HAS CHANGED SINCE YOU’VE STARTED IN THE FASH­ION IN­DUS­TRY? HOW ABOUT IN CHINA? “It hasn’t changed, but it has been a process of dis­cov­ery. Chinese beauty has such rich mean­ing in­side and out. I have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to help peo­ple see more views of Asian beauty and more pos­si­bil­ity for Asian women. I have to bring some­thing new and show my po­ten­tial and what other pos­si­bil­i­ties there might be.”

HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR IN­CREAS­ING CELEBRITY HAS CHANGED HOW BEAUTY IS PER­CEIVED IN CHINA? “I was born in very small city in China where there was no high fash­ion at all. To­day I work with some of the most lux­ury fash­ion brands in the world. This might help en­cour­age peo­ple in China. If I can do it, I think ev­ery­body has a chance.”

WHAT ARE YOUR MOST MEM­O­RABLE CA­REER MO­MENTS? “One of my most mem­o­rable ca­reer mo­ments was work­ing with Steven Meisel for Amer­i­can Vogue for the ‘Go East’ ed­i­to­rial cel­e­brat­ing the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art’s Cos­tume In­sti­tute’s ex­hi­bi­tion in 2015. That year, the theme was China. It was my first time wear­ing archival gar­ments from ge­nius de­sign­ers all in­spired by China. There were sev­eral pro­fes­sional ar­chiv­ists there to help dress me; they wore white lab coats and gloves. The out­fits are very pre­cious; ev­ery­one did their best to pro­tect them. I re­mem­ber the most lovely thing was that we had Chinese songs play­ing on set! Tra­di­tional ro­man­tic Chinese songs. I felt so at home. After that shoot I saw that all the out­fits were in­cluded in the China: Through the Look­ing

Glass ex­hi­bi­tion at the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art. The ex­hi­bi­tion was a big mo­ment of Chinese cul­ture. I felt so lucky I was a part of this shoot with the dream team and be­ing part of that story!”

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