Marie Claire’s Trish Halpin meets Liu Wen, the new supermodel face of Mango.
Catwalk phenomenon Liu Wen, 28, is living life in the fast lane. Hot off the Prada and Fendi runways in Milan, and the new face of high street giant Mango, she tells Marie Claire’s Trish Halpin how she got here and how it feels to be China’s first ever bona fide supermodel.
Liu Wen, describe your personal style…
‘It’s always been very tomboy, but as I’m getting a little bit older, I like a more feminine styles as well. This new collection with Mango is called Soft Minimal and it’s my favourite kind of mix-match; comfortable boy style pants, but then with a very beautiful blouse with a sexy lace back.’
What about when you’re off-duty?
‘I just wear very nice pyjamas. When I’m at home, I love to watch movies and relax because when I’m modeling, I’m always travelling. When I’m not working I don’t put much make up, but I do love nail polish for that little bit of fun colour.’
See all the pieces in Mango’s new collection in the gallery above.
Were you always into fashion, even as a teenager?
‘When I was little I never wanted to be a model, or really thought of doing this job. I’m from a small city, Yongzhou Hunan in the south of China – not a big place for fashion. I think I’ve learned [my sense of style] from designers, stylists and being in the industry. They put their clothes on me and I learn, ‘oh this suits me, maybe I should try this style again.’ I’ve learned what looks too sexy, or too tomboy, or too cool for me! I know what suits me now.’
So if you didn’t want to be a model, what did you want to be when you were younger?
‘I was studying tourism at college and wanted to travel the world as a tour guide – that was my dream! But actually sometimes modeling feels quite similar, because I travel so much – probably even more than tour guiding. People ask me, ‘how many times have you been to Milan?’ and the answer is twenty, or thirty-five times in the last few years. I have no idea what my favourite restaurant is, because we come and leave in such a short time! But I really enjoy it and appreciate all the people I’ve met and places I’ve seen.’
What was your big break?
‘I’d started a little bit of modeling in China, but the first time I came to Milan was in 2008. I couldn’t really speak English, and even Milan here the people speak Italian – I learnt so much! My big year was 2009 as I did my first Victoria’s Secret show [Liu was the first ever Asian ‘angel’] and got the Estee Lauder campaign for 2010. Each year I’m doing different, new things, I’m now the spokesperson for La Perla and I’m doing this campaign with Mango. My life, it’s kind of changed and I always say I’m living my dream, because I’m working really hard.’
You’ve been the first Asian face of so many big brands – Estee Lauder and Victoria’s Secret, as you said – so how does that feel and is breaking barriers important to you?
‘I have to push it, I’m very pushy for this. But sometimes I have no idea, you know, how I become the spokesperson for Estee Lauder. Sometimes people ask me, [why it’s me who has managed to break the boundaries] and sometimes I don’t know! Many girls and models have different skin tones, it is the people they are that makes them unique. My personality, I’m always smiling and you just have to be yourself. Confidence is the most important thing for any woman.’
How did you master your walk?
‘Well, I have quite big feet. In my hometown it was really hard to find high heels (which is why you’ll always see me in sneakers) so that first Milan Fashion Week I did was when I bought my first ever heels. I didn’t even know how to handle them, I didn’t know how they worked! And I was walking for Burberry, one of my first shows who used to do Milan Fashion Week at that time, and the designer Christopher Bailey was really nice, he taught me to just walk naturally. I was like, ‘I can not handle these shoes, they are so high!’ But he was so funny, he said ‘oh we don’t want you be like a model, we just want you be a natural and feel like these clothes are yours.’’
What do your family and friends back home think of your success?
‘My parents are very supportive of me, I’m their only child, of course, so I always have to call them before I leave and when I arrive somewhere. Sometimes I still don’t think they really understand what I’m doing! I think they’re just happy that I’m happy and I love my job.’
What’s next for you?
Could you ever see yourself becoming a designer? ‘One day, yeah. I’ve really enjoyed working on this Mango campaign as this is the first time I’ve talking about a collection and I feel like a designer right now! I know [the collection] very well, I’ve been very involved and I’ve got so many favourite pieces. I just posted this jacket (above) actually on Instagram…’
…Cue 14,000 likes from Liu’s adoring 1.4 million followers. Watch out, fashion world, the unstoppable Ms Wen is clearly set to take over completely.