Supermodel Liu Wen: How I survive fashion week


Story highlights

Even supermodels turn up at Paris Fashion Week with no bookings

They have to sit it out and wait for a call from a designer

Chinese model Liu Wen says: "It's a little bit crazy."

She once walked a record 74 shows in one season

Paris CNN —  

There’s more to being a model than just looking pretty, according to Liu Wen. And she should know.

Liu is one of the world’s highest-paid models and the first Chinese face to crack the top five in Forbes’ annual list of top earners.

She says that far from being a week long party, Paris Fashion Week is an arduous mix of shoots, shows and limited sleep.

Models, even well-known ones like Liu, turn up at fashion week with no shows booked and are often slotted in just 24 hours before the shows are scheduled to start.

In the meantime, they just have to sit it out and wait for a designer to call, although when you are as big as Wen, you know the phone will ring.

Next come fittings, and although models like Liu look exquisite in whatever they wear, not every collection will suit her body shape or complexion.

“(A designer might) design a big coat,” explains Liu. “So … the model (must have) big shoulders to hang the clothes.”

That means, that even after a fitting, Lui still won’t know if she’ll walk the show.

The 26-year-old admits it can be a whirl: “When I am in Paris, I have no idea what my schedule (is) … everything is always last minute. You don’t know exactly what you are doing. You only know you have to wake up, the driver take you, you go in the back seat, you have make-up, hair, and then walk in the show and then the driver take you and you go and walk in another show.

“Sometimes you know, we have a crazy schedule. One time, I did 27 shows in London, and 22 or 23 shows in Paris. I don’t know how I did it!”

Looking fresh in the midst of a tough schedule requires insider knowledge. Here Liu shares with CNN the survival secrets that get her through fashion week.

Always be prepared

“During Fashion Week, you always know about your schedule at the last minute,”says Liu, who walked a record 74 shows during the Fall/Winter 2009 season. This means models must always be ready to dash out to a fitting, casting or catwalk at the drop of a hat.

Get plenty of beauty sleep – when you can

Between early call-times and late-night runway shows, Wen can be up and about from 5am to midnight. But it’s still important for her to squeeze in as much sleep as possible. “I think (sleep) is really good for skin,” she says. “When you sleep very well and eat healthy, you look well and very beautiful.”

Stay hydrated

“For Fashion Week, the girls are always running around backstage from a show to another show,” Liu says. “I always have one bottle of water because sometimes you are very thirsty.” It’s also not rare for stylists to use bottled water to rinse wash a model’s hair when there are no sinks available.

Find your relaxation technique and stick to it

For Wen, this means bringing her own music to listen to backstage, as well as a good book. And to unwind physically? “I bring a very cute massage ball. Sometimes in the evening I do a little bit massage to make my body more relaxed.”

Show off your personal style

Wen may have made her fortune showing off others’ designs, but she feels that showing off her own style is also important. “I think the personal style for model is very important because I think it can show that all the girls have very different personalities,” Liu says. “When you have your own style you just represent yourself.”

Make time for your friends

“Most of the time we live in different countries or different cities,” Liu says. “We don’t have that much time to hang out, and only (during) fashion week we can see each other a lot backstage. That’s why I love to take a picture, and then sometimes just have fun!”

Don’t forget your map (or at least Google Maps)

“After six years doing shows I still don’t know Paris very well!”

Enjoy yourself

In spite of the stress of the shows, Wen is appreciative of the chance to be working in the City of Lights at all. “I do love Paris Fashion Week because Paris is a very beautiful city,” she says. “When I was young, I dreamed (of coming) to Paris.”

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