Born in China in 1989, Fei Fei Sun has already become one of the breakthrough stars of 2013.
Aged 19, Sun represented her country in the Elite Models Look competition, eventually placing third. She began her modelling career in earnest one year later, featuring on the cover of Chinese Marie Claire in March, and debuting at Fashion Week that September. Walking in shows for Nathan Jenden and Mulberry, it was a strong start.
Finishing 2009 with a stint in the Chanel pre-fall show, which took place in Shanghai, Fei signed with Muse Management in early 2010.
In February 2010, Fei Fei experienced her breakthrough season, closing the Autumn / Winter show for Vivienne Westwood. Sun also scored runway bookings with Christopher Kane, Elie Saab, Issa, Jil Sander, Marios Schwab, Meadham Kirchoff, Sonia Rykiel and Thierry Mugler. It was a good spread of editorial talent, plus the high octane glamour offered by such labels as Elie Saab and Issa.
Deciding to move management again mid-year, Fei Fei left Muse Management, and signed with Women Management. In May, she appeared on the cover of China’s Harper’s Bazaar. Modelling alongside some of the key model talent emerging from Asia, including Shu Pei and Xiao Wen Ju, this was a bold, statement cover that just ten years ago, would have been impossible to compile.
A few months later, Fei Fei landed the cover of Chinese Vogue, fronting its September issue. Sun shared the cover with models Ming Xi, Shu Pei, Tao Okamoto and Estee Lauder favourite, Liu Wen. Appearing for the magazine’s 5th anniversary edition, this was a watershed moment for both the magazine and China’s ability to make an impact on the world of high-fashion.
In January 2011, Fei Fei started off the year by modelling in the Givenchy Couture presentation in Paris. The collection, modelled exclusively by Asian models, was a softly-lit rainbow of pastels which read especially well on camera. The striking textures made this collection a sure-thing for A-listers looking to find the perfect dress for Awards Season: many of the pieces made it onto the red carpet, most notably a lavender beaded gown worn by Cate Blanchett for her return to the Oscars.
January also proved a banner month for Fei Fei’s editorial career, when she landed a spot in an Italian Vogue editorial. Photographed by Steven Meisel, ‘The Power of Glamour’ played on the idea of candid, behind-the-scenes shots at a runway show. Also featuring top models Anais Mali, Arizona Muse and Freja Beha Erichsen, in terms of fashion editorial, Fei was now operating on a world stage.
In February, Fei Fei made her debut for American Vogue, featuring in a massive season preview, ‘Gangs of New York’. With models split into groups, each group profiling a key collection for that season, Sun modelled pieces by Proenza Schouler, working with fellow model Ming Xi.
Returning to the catwalk, Fei Fei’s bookings increased ten-fold, with Sun appearing in over 55 shows. The following month, she returned to her editorial work, appearing for American magazine V and Chinese Vogue. The latter saw Fei Fei appear in a beauty supplement, with Sun showing a growing talent for handling the up-and-close scrutiny of the beauty shot.
In April 2011, Sun fronted the cover of Japanese Vogue, which also featured models from Australia (Bambi Northwood-Blyth); the Netherlands (Milou van Groesen) and the U.S (Britt Maren). This was a truly international cover, with Japanese Vogue scouring every corner of the globe for the hottest new faces. Their ability to scout the latest talent proved right on the money, with Milou van Groesen becoming the face of Armani a year later.
June saw Fei Fei heading to Paris for her biggest couture season to date, with appearances for Chanel, Elie Saab, Giambattista Valli and Zuhair Murad. Her obvious flair for couture came in handy when she took to the pages of Italian Vogue again, this time for a haute couture spread, ‘Pret a Porter’.
With Fei Fei doing so well in runway and editorial, the requests to have her represent major brands came flooding in. Autumn 2011 saw Fei Fei’s campaign stock rise and rise with bookings for Chanel Cosmetics and Louis Vuitton. Sun’s standing in the industry had evolved from newcomer to must-hire.
In September, Sun had a second mammoth RTW season with 56 shows, including an opening spot for Rag & Bone. Forming a perfect blend of heritage, blockbuster and cutting-edge labels, Fei Fei walked in shows for Alexander Wang, Bottega Veneta, Chloe, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Prada, Richard Nicoll, Rodarte , Tory Burch and Tom Ford. It was a well-rounded season, neatly illustrating just how indispensable Sun had become.
The next month saw Fei Fei hit another editorial high note, with a debut for French Vogue. Photographed by Hans Feurer, in a cross-cultural reference, Sun wore luxurious American labels including Ralph Lauren.
January 2012 saw Fei Fei return to the pages of American Vogue, this time appearing in an editorial tribute to Marc Jacobs. Photographed by Annie Leibowitz, ‘A Man for All Seasons’, the editorial was a fascinating look back through Jacobs’ greatest sartorial hits. It was, for any model, an editorial you wanted to be a part of.
Sun landed one of her biggest campaign signings in early Spring 2012, with a leading role in the Valentino Spring / Summer ad. Photographed by Deborah Turbeville, the campaign was soft, gracious and feminine – perfectly encapsulating the new direction taken by the Valentino team. Staying true to the grounding principles of the label founded by Valentino, this campaign showed the brand heading in a direction that was fresh and modern, but a direction that ultimately felt like a natural progression, rather than change for change’s sake.
Taking a break from the runway circuit, Fei Fei concentrated on print work during early 2012, re-emerging in June as the face of Giorgio Armani cosmetics. A real success story, with refined, elegant textures in sleek, modern packaging, the make-up has been a critical and commercial hit. True to form, the campaign is a triumph of discreet glamour. Fei Fei’s appearance is beautifully understated but deftly controlled; a master-class in how to model beauty in the 21st century, her performance is nothing short of stunning.
Making a strong return to the runway in September, Fei Fei walked in shows for designers including Miu Miu, Vanessa Bruno, Roberto Cavalli, Prabal Gurung, Derek Lam, Tommy Hilfiger and Jason Wu.
Sun modelled the big trend of A/W 2012 for Chinese Vogue when she featured in their editorial ‘Elegant Weaving’. Led by photographer Lachlan Bailey, Fei Fei modelled knitwear done the high-fashion way. Open weaves, high necks and big chunky textures such as cable knit, this was Sun proving she could do the big trends as well as the more nuanced work, as required by beauty campaigns.
In Autumn, Sun reprised her brilliant turn for Giorgio Armani cosmetics, this time working with Patricia van der Vliet and Elena Melnik. While Patricia and Elena worked the darker, more intense shades traditionally associated with autumn and winter make-up, Fei Fei modelled the ‘nude’ make-up look. A new take on A/W beauty, this pared-back look proved a perfect match for the ornate, highly-decorated clothes that made their way onto our style radar in late 2012. As this past season was a marriage of contrasts (wild, retro prints competing for our attention alongside muted tailoring), so S/S 2013 will continue this trend of not one, but many voices. Instead of one trend seeking dominance, high fashion is now seeing different ideas emerge as equals. For those who want variety, it’s very good news.
Against a backdrop of an industry that’s still moving forward, models that exhibit depth and range are doing particularly well. Just weeks into 2013, Fei Fei has emerged as a front runner, overnight becoming one of the hottest names in fashion. This January, Sun appeared on the cover of Italian Vogue. A major achievement, Fei Fei is the first Asian model to land this prestigious cover. Photographed by Steven Meisel, ‘Global Life’ not only makes history but makes direct reference to it. Channelling China Machado (1950’s model and muse to famed photographer Richard Avedon), Sun embodies retro elegance. Putting that beauty-campaign face to good use, Meisel creates a series of images that showcase what an incredible model Sun really is. Acclaimed by both the fashion press and news agencies around the world, Sun’s glorious, confident performance has ensured that for 2013, all eyes will be on her.