A new group of Asian models from Japan, Taiwan, China and South Korea are redefining the face of international fashion.
They are not yet household names, but they are sharing international runways and starring in lucrative advertising campaigns alongside the world’s highest-paid beauties.
Chinese model Liu Wen is the most successful of the group.
From Beijing, Wen’s trajectory started on the pages of the Chinese editions of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
In 2008 she made her first appearance in Paris on the catwalk for Jean Paul Gaultier and Chanel. Recently, Estee Lauder signed her as a new face and she is the 10th-highest-paid model in the world.
The Taiwanese actor-turned-model Godfrey Tsao is the latest to join this crop of mainly female models.
Taller than most of his countrymen at 1.85 metres, Tsao has become the first Asian male to star in a menswear advertising campaign for the French fashion house Louis Vuitton.
Stephen Lee from New York’s NEXT Model Management, which represents the Chinese model Shu Pei Qin, who is the world-wide face of Maybelline cosmetics, believes this is not a fleeting trend.
”There’s been a very significant rise and demand towards the Asian look in the last five years, specifically from the Chinese market with its burgeoning economy and accessibility to a huge population.
I do believe it’s now an established market that will only grow as high-end products become even more accessible to the Asian population,” Lee said.
In Australia, the Eurasian models Rachel Rutt and Jessica Gomes are redefining the sun-kissed blue-eyed blonde stereotype.
Rutt is of Singaporean and British heritage and grew up in Japan before moving to Australia in 2005.
The Sydney-based model has featured in campaigns for Sportsgirl, Saba, General Pants and on the pages of Marie Claire, Grazia and in Vogue Italia.
Gomes was born in Perth of Singaporean and Portuguese heritage. Now based in New York, she has worked with DKNY and was the face of the Sean Combs Unforgivable fragrance.
Naomi Campbell is an outspoken campaigner on the issue and in 2009 caused controversy when she told Glamour magazine that the fashion industry was racist.
”You know, the American president may be black, but as a black woman, I am still an exception in this business. I always have to work harder to be treated equally,” Campbell said.
A Lanvin designer, Alber Elbaz, recently said he did not see colour when he was casting his catwalk crew. ”I use blonde, brunette, redhead, black and Asian models – I never do it to be politically correct.”
Elbaz may be speaking the truth or pulling expensive wool over our eyes. Not one luxury fashion house could deny that its bread is now buttered in Asia.
Both Louis Vuitton and Gucci have grown exponentially in China during the past five years. Gucci opened its first store inside the Peninsula Hotel in 1997 and now there are over 25 boutiques in 16 cities.
Louis Vuitton first set up shop at the Peninsula Hotel in 1992 and now operates over 20 boutiques across China.
According to a TNS Retail Forward study Strategic Focus: China’s Retail Landscape by 2015 China is expected to have passed the US and equalled Japan as the world’s biggest market for luxury goods.
”Everybody in the fashion/beauty industry recognises the importance of global markets, and currently China, Taiwan and South Korea are at the forefront,” the make-up artist Dick Page told American Vogue last year in a story dedicated to Asian beauties.