For­ever Young

Model, singer, rower, editor-in-chief, pre­sen­ter, pro­ducer, phi­lan­thropist and ac­tor: Hu Bing has done it all. Chloe Street meets the man who’s dis­cov­ered the foun­tain of youth

Hong Kong Tatler - - Style Close-up -

need pri­vacy. I don’t want peo­ple to see ev­ery­thing,” says Hu Bing, the alarm­ingly youth­ful-look­ing 45-year-old model, singer and ac­tor as we dis­cuss the in­evitable ex­po­sure that’s a by-prod­uct of on­line fame. Hu, tow­er­ing at 6’2” and be­decked in ma­genta vel­vet when we meet (a look, in­ci­den­tally, he to­tally pulls off ), con­fides that large crowds make him ner­vous. De­spite at­tain­ing sig­nif­i­cant celebrity sta­tus in Main­land China—at­tested to by his 10 mil­lion-strong Weibo fol­low­ing—this con­fes­sion be­comes less sur­pris­ing when I dis­cover he was once in­jured by a mob of ex­cited fans there. “Some­times it can feel like there’s nowhere to hide,” he says.

Spot­ted in 1991 in a re­gional modelling com­pe­ti­tion in Harbin at age 20, Hu was in­stantly cat­a­pulted into the fash­ion lime­light and be­came the first Chi­nese male model to re­ally make it on the in­ter­na­tional run­ways. He has since en­joyed a long and fruit­ful modelling ca­reer, recog­nised last year by an ap­point­ment to the Bri­tish Fash­ion Coun­cil. Hu has also di­ver­si­fied be­yond the cat­walks, as editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar Men’s Style mag­a­zine in Main­land China for a time, and as a singer, a tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter and, most re­cently, an ac­claimed ac­tor.

“I dream of win­ning an Os­car,” says Hu, who’s cer­tainly on the right track—he was nom­i­nated for Best Ac­tor at the 2010 In­ter­na­tional Rome Film Fes­ti­val in Italy for his role in the Luc Bes­son-pro­duced film The Back. Hu is char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally am­bi­tious, yet hum­ble in his ap­proach. “I know that as a Chi­nese man I could never get the lead role in an Amer­i­can movie. So I’m aim­ing for an Os­car for a sup­port­ing role in Amer­ica, then a lead­ing role in China.”

Raised in Hangzhou by par­ents who were both in the mil­i­tary, Hu has a fo­cused dis­ci­pline and a work ethic that can be traced to an up­bring­ing he de­scribes as “re­ally strict.” He was taught that if you wanted some­thing, you should work hard at it and “never stop—if you stopped… big trou­ble.”

This parental pres­sure no doubt pro­pelled Hu for­ward into what he mod­estly refers to as his “first job.” In­spired by Lon­don’s Boat Race, which he had seen on TV and thought “looked re­ally cool,” Hu took up row­ing at the age of 14. “I thought, ‘I like this, so I can make it,’” he re­calls. Make it he most cer­tainly did: by 17, he was on the Chi­nese na­tional team at the 1988 Sum­mer Olympics in Seoul. De­spite show­ing so much prom­ise, an ac­ci­dent in 1990 meant he had to bow out of his ca­reer in ath­let­ics. It’s some­thing that Hu still finds vis­i­bly painful to dis­cuss; he broke his back and was never to row again.

Not one to rest on his lau­rels, Hu launched a modelling ca­reer in his 20s, shoot­ing his first cam­paign for Valentino in 1993—and brand founder Valentino Gar­a­vani has been cham­pi­oning him as “the best male model in China” ever since. Hu’s po­si­tion as sar­to­rial supremo was fur­ther ce­mented last year when the Bri­tish Fash­ion Coun­cil ap­pointed him as an am­bas­sador for Lon­don Col­lec­tions Men (LCM), the male an­swer to Lon­don Fash­ion Week. Hu is not only the first Asian to join the ros­ter of dap­per LCM emis­saries—the oth­ers are David Gandy, Der­mot O’leary, Nick Grimshaw and Tinie Tem­pah—but also the first non-bri­tish rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Per­haps it’s a pre­scient move, re­flect­ing the fact that Asia is in­creas­ingly a power base of men’s fash­ion. “Hu Bing was al­ways our first choice as a Chi­nese am­bas­sador,” says Dy­lan Jones, editor of UK men’s mag­a­zine GQ and the chair­man of LCM. “He is such an im­por­tant per­son in his in­dus­try. Suave, so­phis­ti­cated, suc­cess­ful and with an enor­mous so­cial me­dia reach.” It’s this reach that Bri­tish fash­ion will look to har­ness in the bat­tle to forge stronger re­la­tions with one of the big­gest mar­kets in lux­ury goods.

Hu, in­tent on do­ing more than just tak­ing self­ies wear­ing the right clothes,

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