Model LIU WEN takes charge in stand­out tai­lored styles

InStyle (USA) - - Directory - pho­tographed by PHIL POYN­TER styled by VANESSA CHOW

Liu Wen in a Givenchy jacket, blouse, trousers, and pumps. Pho­tographed by Phil Poyn­ter.

Fair warn­ing to Liu Wen’s New York City neigh­bors: The model re­cently ac­quired a ukulele and has big plans to learn how to play it. “I’m ac­tu­ally re­ally bad at mu­sic,” she ad­mits. “My [child­hood] teacher used to say I have no ta­lent at all.” But for Liu, hav­ing nat­u­ral abil­ity (or not) has never fac­tored into her choice to take on a chal­lenge. “When I’m ready [to try some­thing], I just put all my power into do­ing it.”

That was cer­tainly the mind-set she brought to a mod­el­ing com­pe­ti­tion near her home­town out­side Yongzhou in south­ern China at age 17. “My friends were go­ing, so I fig­ured I would too,” she says. Still, Liu, who con­sid­ered her­self a gan­gly tomboy, had never seen a cat­walk let alone imag­ined walk­ing on one.

Cut to win­ning the grand prize (a lap­top), land­ing the oc­ca­sional re­gional gig, and catch­ing the at­ten­tion of well-con­nected cre­ative di­rec­tor Joseph Carle at a fit­ting in Bei­jing in 2007. Sud­denly she was strut­ting in some of fash­ion’s big­gest shows, from Burberry to Jean Paul Gaultier, for the fall 2008 sea­son. And while Liu felt com­pletely out of her league (“I had never even worn high heels be­fore mod­el­ing!”), she was de­ter­mined to rule the run­way.

“I didn’t know any­thing [about fash­ion], so I would study mag­a­zines and watch videos of other mod­els,” she re­mem­bers of her whirl­wind early ca­reer. “I was try­ing to learn some­thing from them but use it to be my­self.”

To­day it’s hard to imag­ine Liu as any­thing but a pro. Now 30 years old and of­ten called the first Chi­nese su­per­model, she has been in this busi­ness for over 10 years and is still at the top of her game, with a spot in Chloé’s 2018 cam­paign and a con­tract as a face of Chanel’s Les Beiges makeup col­lec­tion.

Al­though she re­mains in high de­mand with the in­dus­try’s big­gest houses, Liu is con­tin­u­ally look­ing for other ways to push her­self. She posts charm­ing videos abouther life and her trav­els for her 22 mil­lion fol­low­ers on Weibo (ami­cro-blog­ging site that’s be­come one of China’s largest so­cial-me­dia net­works) and cur­rently has a cof­fee shop un­der con­struc­tion in Ningbo, a town just south of Shang­hai, that she hopes will serve as a place where she can meet on­line fans. And this fall she will début her first-ever cloth­ing line with Chi­nese cash­mere brand Er­dos, which she painstak­ingly de­vel­oped from first sketch to fi­nal pack­ag­ing.

“It re­ally helped me grow,” she says. “Ev­ery de­tail is mine. It was stress­ful, but I learned a lot.”

So what will she be tack­ling next? “I have lots of things I want to try,” she says en­thu­si­as­ti­cally, rat­tling off a list that in­cludes act­ing (she re­cently did a short-film project in China) and ex­plor­ing ways to pro­mote sus­tain­able fash­ion ( her shop­ping bags for Er­dos en­cour­age reuse). Then she pauses for a mo­ment, pen­sive. “But who knows? I might just re­tire in 10 years and have a lit­tle house with a gar­den in some vil­lage—that is the dream!” Sounds like the per­fect place to mas­ter the ukulele.

Gucci jacket, shirt, and skirt. Ver­sace beret. Maria La Rosa socks. Valentino Gar­a­vani loafers. Hair: Ben Sk­ervin for The Wall Group. Makeup: Yuki Hayashi for Streeters. Manicure: Kelly B. for De Facto Inc.

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