Interesting articles about demand for foreign models versus Chinese models in China. On the one hand they're suppose to be "better" looking than Chinese models, which is debatable but foreign models in China are considered second and third tier ones that can't make it in the fashion capitols of the world.
BEIJING, June 29 -- In a sprawling office-turned-showroom in downtown Guangzhou, auburn-haired Eloisa parades in front of a group of fashion directors and production assistants striking a variety of poses before exiting the room. Carol, another long-legged Brazilian, shows off another of the Ecico fashion company's designs.
A few minutes later, the girls will be told whether they have made the short list of applicants who will grace the company's upcoming autumn/winter catalogue.
This time they have not been so lucky.
Undeterred, the pair look forward to their next casting, later that afternoon.
The stunning youngsters are just two of hundreds of foreigners, mostly female, that come to the city each year to seek experience, money and with a bit of luck, fame, as models in China's burgeoning fashion industry.
Drawn by the prospect of regular work, these girls, often still in their teens, hail from Russia, Slovenia and other Eastern European countries or Latin America, where modeling jobs are scarce and competition plentiful. "There are so many beautiful girls in Brazil," says 16-year-old Carol. "For us it is very difficult to (find) work."
"In China, we do the same work as at home, but there are more jobs here for the same money," says 18-year-old Eloisa, who has already modeled back home as well as in Thailand and South Korea.
While opportunities are good, the girls need to work quickly. Visa restrictions mean models are only permitted to stay for two weeks or so, says 18-year-old Dagmar, a Slovenian who had already modeled in Hangzhou and Shanghai, before trying her luck in Guangzhou.
At any one time, there are only 30 to 40 foreign models working in the city, says Johan Wen, head booker of local agency Modeling. "There are about eight to 10 agencies that specialize in providing foreigners but each of them only has the girls for a short period of time."
This relative scarcity puts foreign services at a premium - anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 yuan ($132-158) per hour and upwards of 4,000 yuan ($526) for a 4-hour session, compared to the 2,000 ($263) to 3,000 ($395) charged by local models for a full day (6 hours).
For fashion houses pitching to international markets, foreign faces are a must, while local companies need them to make their clothes appear more international and, by association, of higher quality, says a representative for Ecico.
The Italian-owned company's mid-market OBM and ODM casual and evening wear exclusively targets customers in Europe, the Middle East, US and Canada.
"Local companies looking to expand into international markets do need foreign models," agrees Ding Jun, of Manzusaka Model Agency. "But companies targeting local markets do better with Chinese models."
"Foreign models are better in photos and their posing is better," says Ding, but not at runway shows in which their 3,000 yuan ($395) to 4,000 yuan ($526) fees are debatable value for money compared to locals charging a quarter of the price.
Charlie Chan, a production manager for one of Guangzhou's major brand management consultancies, believes foreign models are more professional.
She also insists they come better prepared, ready to work, fit the clothes better and are more expressive than their local counterparts. Plus "their attitude is more positive", she says.
"Local models can't wait for the shoot to end so they can get paid and leave. Foreign models want to stay to get the job done well."
Chan says foreign models and those from Hong Kong tend to be better because agencies in these markets are more selective and often provide better training. This leads to a better standard of modeling and models of "higher quality".
But despite this image, not everything is rosy for foreigners. Depending on the company and the market it is trying to reach, being a foreigner can sometimes be a disadvantage.
Chen Desheng, chief editor at Business Travel, a local magazine, which includes fashion articles aimed at traveling professionals, believes foreign models, while exotic commodities, are often too young or inexperienced when they are brought in. And in local markets, consumers relate better to a Chinese rather than foreign face, when buying, he says.
Other views are that local models, usually older, have more experience and actually work harder due to greater competition for work.
Plus, industry players say foreign models are believed to be "past it" by the time they are 25, while Chinese models keep their youthful looks for longer.
Even Ecico concedes that the company's foreigner-only policy, when it comes to models, targets 16 to 25 year olds.
With an arguably shorter shelf life, foreign models have a smaller window of opportunity to make their name in the industry. But is Guangzhou the place to do it? Despite Guangzhou developing much earlier as a manufacturing and production region than other areas in China, it has been leapfrogged by Shanghai and Beijing in the fashion stakes.
With its northern counterparts having larger populations, more fashion-oriented consumer markets, and strong arts and cultural communities, local and international designers have bypassed the south and concentrated on these big cities.
These major metropolises also attract stars from music, film and entertainment - perfect platforms for showcasing high-profile fashion.
There has also been the emergence of international fashion magazines, such as Vogue, Elle, Harpers Bazaar and Esquire, and the very best photographers, stylists and other professionals are all part of a premium fashion industry.
Throw in elite events such as Shanghai's Fashion Week, similar events in Beijing, and Hong Kong's bi-annual fashion weeks, and it's no wonder Guangzhou remains a blip on the fashion radar.
It's no surprise to see Chinese supermodels such as Du Juan, Wang Wenqin, Tong Chenjie and Sheng Dailiu landing on the northern fashion runways.
The reality is that "many foreign models that come here, are second or third tier," according to Ecico. "All the top international models are in Europe, the UK or the US, where the fashion capitals are, the famous brands are and the pay is much higher."
Dickey Deng, fashion director for Elle China, says with local supermodels dominating the catwalks for Chinese designers and its overseas content already containing foreign faces, the probability of the next Gisele Bundchen or Gemma Ward being discovered locally, is slim.
"A model's best chance (here) is to get chosen by an agency that has good connections," she says.
"If she can get onto a photo spread for a good magazine and get chosen for a show, she might catch the eye of a local designer."
(Source: China Daily)
BEIJING -- China's Next Top Model may well be a blue-eyed Canadian blonde named Nicole.
Nicole Vos, 19, has been modeling in Canada for four years and was doing runway shows for Toronto Fashion Week when "my agency one day just told me that I'm going to China." Now just halfway through her three-month contract in Beijing, Vos has been photographed for catalogues, magazines and commercials.
"I love it here!" Vos gushed, shouting over the blaring house music at Touch, a club at the Westin Beijing Chaoyang hotel, the models' watering hole. "I definitely want to come back!"
Vos isn't alone. Western models, it seems, are everywhere these days in the People's Republic of China: on department store display ads, in catalogues for clothing brands, on billboards, in commercials and on the runways at fashion shows. They are blue-eyed American and Canadian blondes like Vos, sultry Eastern European brunettes and hunky male bodybuilders with Los Angeles tans and six-pack abs selling products from jeans to underwear.
A walk through the Guiyou department store in central Beijing is instructive. On the third and fourth floors, where designer brands from Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou are showcased, there's a display of a blonde modeling over-the-knee boots and red-and-black pumps for Hongke shoes. A pouty brunette advertises Baykal, a local brand of wool products. Even the mannequins have Western features.
It may seem incongruous that a country of 1.3 billion people -- roughly half of them female -- would have to import models. Or that designers and clothing brands would want to use blondes and redheads to market to a nation of black-haired consumers.
But the use of foreign models has been growing in China's fashion industry, as brands jostle to be known as "yangqi," or trendy -- literally "foreign-style" in Mandarin Chinese. The alternative, using only Chinese models, is interpreted as making the brand come off as "tuqi," or countrified.
"It's all relatively new," much like China's fashion industry, said Angelica Cheung, editor of Vogue China.
"It just reflects the growth of the fashion industry. It needs a variety of girls now. If it's a local Chinese brand, they want to show their clothes look good on Westerners, especially brands that want to sell overseas."
Other factors, Cheung said, include the relative lack of professional training among Chinese models. "They are very wooden, or they don't have any experience responding to the camera," she said. The Western models, often with more years of professional training, come with a certain attitude and, in the end, it's all about selling attitude as much as clothes and watches.
Ou Haibin, head of the Yuanjin Modeling Agency in Shenzhen, said 20 to 30 modeling agencies in China use foreigners, and 300 to 500 Western models are here during any given month, almost always on short-term contracts of up to three months.
"My clients feel that their products will look international if they use foreign models," Ou said, and so they are willing to pay the higher fees, which are about a third to a half higher than those for Chinese models.
Then there is the matter of the Chinese sense of what constitutes beauty in a globalized world. "The foreign models' faces are much more three-dimensional," Ou said. "They look nicer in pictures."
He added that he never hires black models. "Our clients don't ask for black models," he said. "It's an issue of Chinese people's aesthetic view."
* * *
How much the models make depends on their workload. Natalia Tydir, 25, from a small town in Western Ukraine, said that in her best month she made 50,800 renminbi, or about $7,440. Other models said a good haul from a three-month contract might be $10,000 to $30,000. But the models must begin by paying back expenses, often including the cost of the plane ticket to Beijing.
Many models live together in relatively cheap apartments. Tydir started out in a two-bedroom with five other girls and a single bathroom, paying $878, before she moved into another place with one roommate.
And many, like Tydir, come from Eastern European countries, where opportunities are fewer. Tydir said she was teaching at the university and tried modeling and acting in Ukraine when she learned about modeling in China. "I heard you have an opportunity to go abroad and make money," she said. "I'm 25 years old -- I need money."
Jezlan Moyet Decator, 22, was modeling in Los Angeles when her "mother agency" told her there was a talent scout from Beijing. "We sat, we chatted for maybe half an hour," she said. Two weeks later he sent her a ticket to Beijing.
The scout was Mike Chen, originally from Las Vegas. Chen said he usually brings over 10 to 15 girls each month. And he knows what type of models will make the cut for his clients in Beijing.
"In the summertime, it's usually blondes," Chen said. "For the winter collection, it's more likely they want brunettes." Brunettes, he said, photograph better in furs. He's not big on height, and prefers a fuller figure. But most important, he added, "it's all about attitude."
* * *
Brandon Waarbroek, who is 28 but looks much younger, is one of the few male models on the Beijing circuit. He was working as an instructor at a small gym in Southern California and doing some modeling when Chen sent him to China. Now he's planning to return, to learn Chinese and maybe even go into business here. "I love China -- I really love it," he said.
Waarbroek also tried to explain his take on the local fascination with foreign models. "The fascination is they look different," he said. "They might have a million models who are Chinese. They like what they don't have, like tall blondes." In his case, he said, "they really like muscle here, and there's not a lot of us."
The models' life here is far from easy. Most complain about working far longer hours than they would in the United States or Europe. There's often no lunch, or just a bag of McDonald's hamburgers dumped onto a common table. And the girls get measured; if they gain weight, they can get shipped home before the end of their contract.
And they all complain about the waiting. Early wake-up calls, followed by hours of waiting.
"They work crazy hours here," said Vos, the Canadian model. She often has to wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning. In Canada, she said, "a casting before 9 would not happen. . . . And they work weekends here."
The language barrier has created misunderstandings and mishaps. Tydir understood she was going on a shoot once but had no idea where. She ended up on a 10-hour train ride to Inner Mongolia in freezing weather, and she was wearing only T-shirts and flip-flops and had not packed an overnight bag.
But most said they would recommend China as the new "in" spot for modeling.
"If you can get rid of all your insecurities, you can model in China," Waarbroek said. "If every day you can take getting lost, not knowing how to order food, and looking at symbols all day."
He added: "You're either going to love China or you're going to hate it. . . . The strong people survive." Staff researcher Zhang Jie in Beijing contributed to this report.
How interesting article! We never hear about those ones modelling outside of fashion capitals, because they`re not IT girls here. But it sounds to be really hard there, how many teen agers can make it? I highly doubt if most european models could handle it there..