Recently I had the pleasure of working with supermodel Ha Vu Anh and I must admit that the experience was exhilarating. It is unusual to work with a model who is not only professional but also charming and graceful on and off camera. I left the shoot feeling slightly enthralled with her whole persona, not to mention thrilled at her performance in the shoot.
Models in Vietnam have come a long way. My first fashion shoot was in Hanoi around 1998. I asked my staff to get me a famous model here in Vietnam. When she turned up for the shoot, I had no idea what to expect. She had nice features but wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous. I flew in a British photographer, William Furniss, for the shoot and borrowed fabulous gowns from my renowned Hong Kong designer friend Barney Cheng. The whole shoot was done in black and white and there was a rugged glamour to it when we juxtaposed fabulous couture gowns against a backdrop of shabby eateries and buildings. It was difficult, though, to get our model to have the right look due to the language and cultural barrier.
She never complained – possibly because she couldn’t. In the years since, I have come across so many popular models that seem to look the same to me. They are all tall, lanky, pretty and really care about what they look like on the show: so much so that some would refuse to wear what was organised because they did not like it or it did not fit (as they had not come in for the fitting ahead of time). After the show and the change, they would squat on the sidewalk and talk on their phones. So much for model grooming. But sure enough, 10 years down the line, everywhere you turn in a high-end restaurant is a model or talent in waiting.
I guess I am the privileged one. In the early 90s, I covered European fashion shows and brushed shoulders with the likes of Elle McPherson, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen and Claudia Schiffer – they really defined the word supermodel. It was not just because they were striking in real life, but you could feel their persona and their sensuality as they sashayed down the catwalk. They created a powerful kind of energy, they were great actresses and every show they did was a blockbuster. Off the catwalk, they held their grace and poise, and looked as glamorous as one would expect.
I have yet to see, or experience again, another similar model moment since, but my Ha Vu Anh experience came pretty close.
Christina Yu is the creative director and founder of Ipa-Nima, an award-winning accessories brand. Email your questions to Christina@ipa-nima.com or visit Ipa-nima.com.