Ask who the current top models are in the world and Liu Wen will pop up easily. Vogue’s March cover is an easy testament, but Liu established herself long before that. Walking for Jason Wu, Givenchy, Chanel, and Jean Paul Gaultier while starring in campaigns for Alexander Wang, Calvin Klein, and Marni got her there. In 2013, she was the first east Asian to be included in Forbes’ Highest Paid Models list.
The 29-year old from China isn’t going anywhere anytime soon when some speak of retirement or venturing out as 16 year olds invade the scene. As ageist standards fall away slowly, Liu proves that relevance is also about impact outside the runway.
For now, though, we’re with her backstage at NYFW as she shows us how it’s done and how it’s always a new experience every time.
What is your preparation for fashion week like? Do you have any workout or nutrition secrets you can share?
The key to a good fitness routine is persistence and endurance. I try to maintain a consistent routine even if it’s not fashion week, so that there isn’t any desperate rush at the last minute. All in all, relaxation is a workout in itself—Pilates always helps me improve stress levels, and I actually find taking care of my skin (with even more care than usual around fashion week) to be very therapeutic as well.
What is the best part about fashion week for you? What are you most excited about?
The best part is seeing old friends backstage! And I’m always the most excited about seeing and wearing the new season’s trends before anyone else. (Laughs)
What is the hardest part of fashion week?
Jet lag and time zone differences. And how to have fashionable street style in all those thick layers when it’s winter!
Which beauty products are always in your bag when you’re running around from shows to parties and everything in between?
Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair is my go-to. It helps restore my skin’s flexibility and heals it after all of the endless makeup applications and removals.
A colorful lipstick—I love Pure Color Envy in Red Ego. It helps brighten my overall look and warms my complexion, even when I don’t have makeup on. And, of course, it;’s always good to have it on hand for any events at night!
A small bottle of perfume, if my bag has enough space! The Modern Muse Rollerball is perfect because it’s so easy to carry.
What else is always in your bag that helps you survive the week?
A portable charger, chocolate, comfortable shoes, mints, eye drops…so much!
How does your beauty routine change leading up to and during fashion week? Are there any special things you do to prep your skin?
Similar to fitness, persistence is important when it comes to skincare. I never get lazy about my daily routine. I always cleanse and moisturize, but I am extra attentive to every step during fashion week. On top of that, I make sure to massage my skin more often than usual. And I never forget to apply eye masks and face masks—the Advanced Night Repair PowerFoil Mask and Concentrated Recovery Eye Maks (both coming to the Philippines this March—ed.) are so easy to slip into my overstuffed bag.
What do you do after fashion week to help your skin recover?
More face masks (Laughs) or a spa visit.
How did you feel during your very first fashion week? How different is it now after having walked a few runways and been to all of the parties?
Even though I’ve already walked 20 seasons of fashion week, I treat every single one as my “debut.” This way I am still excited and energized as the first.
How do you keep your energy up throughout the hectic days?
Keep smiling at every turn. Also, listen to your favorite tracks on repeat or find a good book to distract yourself with.
And then how do you find time to relax and wind down? What do you do to center yourself?
Using any spare time to do something I find relaxing yet fun, even if I only have 10 minutes for a quick afternoon tea.
Any guilty pleasure you can’t get through fashion week without?
An ice cream cone or an intricate dessert.
What is your no-fail trick to looking bright-eyed, awake and camera-ready, even when you’re feeling exhausted?
Smiling is the best secret. Also, maintaining a thankful attitude and appreciating my job, Even though models get extremely tired during this period, so do all the designers, stylists, editors, seamstresses, interns, press, photographers, etc. But if you still enjoy what you’re doing despite the fatigue, your body tends to rejuvenate itself.
Of all the fashion weeks around the world, which city is your favorite and why?
Probably New York. It’s the most convenient because I have my own apartment there, so I don’t have to worry about luggage and I can wear whatever I want each day. (Laughs) That said, I love all four of the main cities for different reasons since it’s always a refreshing environment. It’s just more tiring to be in the European cities when jet lag and lugging bags around are part of the experience.
What is the first thing you do after you’ve wrapped up your last show?
Sleep for three days and three nights straight! Just kidding. These days, the fashion season has been much more relaxing for me than ever before. I even have time during fashion week to tape my web series, Wen Li, -link to web series and playing while working with my production team is always a fun experience.