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Updated: Nov 9, 2019

Cao Ziwei, born in the Chinese province of Anhui, is part of the growing presence of Asian models in the fashion industry. With her fresh and angelical face and with an elegant presence on the catwalks, Ziwei has managed to walk for the most important houses in her short career. She tells us in this interview about her beginnings, her goals, the differences working in different countries and what it has meant for her to have walked in the shows of Chanel, Dior and Loewe, amongst others.

Words by Andy Durán. Photographed by Edwin S Freyer.

Tell us about how you got into the fashion industry.

My teacher at a small modelling school in my hometown in the Anhui province in China introduced me to my mother agency, ESEE Model, in Shanghai. That's how I got started in the fashion industry.

What these three words mean to you. Fashion, Style and trends

Fashion is about what’s popular. This can be in clothing, décor or lifestyle but it looks at what people like at a particular period in time.

Style is based on different looks or certain ways that a particular group of people use as a form of self- expression or it can be your own unique sense of identity.

Trends are about what looks are in at a given moment that a lot of people like and want to copy.

What was it like to walk at Fashion Week for the first time? How did it feel when you first stepped out on the runway?

My first Fashion Week was in New York. That was the first time I had ever travelled overseas and done castings in a foreign country. Everything was so new to me. I finally got my first show – Thom Browne confirmed, got ready back stage and then walked my first step on the runway, it was like a dream come true.

You were incredibly fortunate in that you got the opportunity to walk for Chanel. Can you tell us what that meant to you? And what do you remember most about it?

Almost every model would say that to walk for Chanel is the ultimate goal. I was incredibly lucky to walk for Chanel in Chengdu, China. Honestly, I was too excited and nervous to really remember but I don’t think that Karl was there. It’s such a shame that I’ll never again have the opportunity to meet him, but I’m so grateful to have been able to walk for Chanel under his helm.

Ziwei walking for Chanel Resort 2018 in Chengdu and Dior Couture Spring Summer 2018

In the same way you have been a Dior girl. Tell us about the experience of working with Maria Grazia Chiuri and her team?

My first time walking for Dior was during Couture Week. I was so surprised when my agent informed me that I was confirmed by Dior. That particular show in Paris was one of the best looks I've had since my career began. I was so lucky that Michelle Lee gave me a very delicate white dress to wear. And that look is still on the first image of that show on The best of all was that Dior did the show in Shanghai after Paris, so I got to walk again in my country. That was really amazing and so humbling.

As you have experienced the best of the industry in the East and in the West, what are the differences between the Asian, European and American modelling industries?

In different cities, the tastes of different Show Directors and designers can be quite different. The way they organize castings, fittings, rehearsals, backstage, and the show are also very different. Show Directors and clients overseas tend to like talents that have distinct personalities, while in China, there is far less interaction between models and clients or Show Directors. But I embrace every opportunity as its comes and consider myself to be so lucky for every experience that I have.

What do you miss about China when you are working in other countries?

I miss Chinese food, especially hotpots. That's my favourite food. And I also miss my family and my two little puppies.

Prada Chinese New Year Eve 2019

Who have been your favourite designers to work for, either for a runway show or a photo shoot?

Working for Dior was the most amazing experience. I loved those gorgeous outfits and I really like the Casting Director, Michelle Lee. She’s always very sweet to us.

How active are you on social networks? What opinion do you have of them in relation to your work?

I like to post my work on social media and interacting with followers can be really fun. It gives me the

chance to learn about how people see more both professionally and in my real life. Weibo and Instagram are the two social media sites that I use the most. I have more than 20K followers on Weibo and 2K on Instagram. I think social media is something that people use as a tool for self-expression nowadays. A place to show who you are and what you like.

If you weren't modelling, what would you be doing?

If I wasn't modelling anymore, I would like to try acting… or perhaps become a pop star??!!

What’s next for you? Are you working on any upcoming projects?

I would like to refine and build up my book. I want to shoot campaigns for international luxury brands and walk for more top shows during Fashion Weeks.  We shall see what happens.

Cao Ziwei appears courtesy of Titanium Management.

Loewe Spring Summer 2018

Chloé Resort 2020

Del Pozo during NYFW Fall Winter 2017


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