This generation's catwalk darling Ming Xi had barely stepped off the runway at Chanel's most recent couture presentation this summer when she found herself en route to Hong Kong. The Chinese model-of-the-moment was appearing before an audience to speak on the rather apt topic of her inflight beauty routine at an event inaugurating T Galleria's new First Class Beauty emporium in Causeway Bay.
This type of jet-setting is typical for the Shanghainese beauty, who rose to fame in the world of international modelling when she was handpicked by Riccardo Tisci to walk in his spring 2011 couture show, as well as star in the campaign – no small feat for a then-unknown. Since then, she's charmed fashion's biggest influencers, names ranging from Michael Kors to Karl Lagerfeld, continuing the domination of Asian faces that has been such a salient trend in the last half-decade.
She's hit many of the modelling milestones in her still-rising career, whether it's storming the Victoria's Secret runway, starring in beauty campaigns for the likes of Sephora or Vichy, or appearing on billboards for retailers both high fashion and low, from H&M to Lane Crawford. And at 25, she has years in her yet.
You were discovered early in your career by Riccardo Tisci and cast in Givenchy's campaign. What did you know about fashion then?
I knew nothing about it. I literally didn't even know him. I knew the big brands like everyone else, because when you walk down the street you see them, and I was raised in Shanghai and it's a city. But I knew nobody – not even the names of the designers or stylists. Nothing.
What do you think Tisci saw in you?
I don't know – at that time he had just started with the unisex look – he put girls in menswear, he used a transgender model. He really liked the way strong women looked, strong girls. I don't know, maybe it's my cheekbones? I never asked, and now I'm wondering as well! Maybe he just thought that I fit that collection.
Who are some of your favourite designers, now that you know more?
I love Karl Lagerfeld. He's so talented, and he's non-stop. It's incredible because I can't imagine myself being awake like that! No holidays, he just keeps going. He's like, “I woke up at 5am this morning,” and I'm like, “Oh, good to know.”
As a model, your look is so important. What's your typical beauty routine?
I'll clean my face with a cleanser. I'll put on a mask first, like a cream mask, and apply it for five or 10 minutes while I do other stuff. Then I'll wash it all off and follow with toner. I don't put essence on in the morning; I put on moisturiser. But at night sometimes I only put on essence, or I put on a mask that you can leave overnight.
What are your make-up must-haves?
There's one thing – I never go out the door without mascara on. I really like mascara and I always try different ones. I like the Lancôme one, it's really good. Estée Lauder has one that vibrates – you open it and it has batteries inside. I was quite impressed – I was like, what? But it's fun to use. The Lancôme make-up remover is really good, because I think cleaning is a very important step before you put on anything.
Models nowadays often dabble in other careers in beauty, fashion or film. What are you interested in, outside of the runway?
I did try a little acting, and I like it. It's a really different experience. As a model, you always are yourself – you just make the clothes look good – but you cannot really tell the camera what you want to say. There's always a mood, but no sentences. As an actress, you really need to express your emotions, and try hard to let people get what you want them to know.
Would you be interested in exploring that more?
Yeah. I'm interested in reality shows as well, that looks really fun. Keeping Up with the Kardashians – that blows my mind. It's obviously not an intelligent show, but it's fun.
Asian models are the all the rage now – why do you think that is?
It's the market. Fashion is a business, and I guess the economy in China is so good, everyone wants to focus on that.
Top models have such close relationships with designers – what's the best gift you've ever received from one of them?
Once, after I did Karl Lagerfeld's campaign, I went to Colette in Paris. I bumped into Karl and he bought me a book about his cat [Choupette]. Choupette is on Instagram too, and there was his book right there, and I was like, “I didn't know you had this book!” and so he bought me one.