What Makes a Top Runway Model in 2024?

There is one model who walked in more fashion shows than any other in 2023.

Yilan Hua is from China. She stands 5-foot-11, with a sweep of shoulder-length jet black hair, full lips and pointed nose and appeared on a staggering 89 runways last year, according to the fashion search engine Tagwalk, outpacing her nearest rivals, América González of Venezuela and Victoria Fawole of Nigeria. She was cast in the shows of some of the biggest names in the industry, including Chanel, Fendi, Michael Kors, Stella McCartney and Christian Dior. She was photographed on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival and appeared in fashion features and advertising campaigns in Vogue and other glossy magazines.

Ms. Hua, 24, is the leading face of a new generation of popular Chinese models that includes He Cong, Chu Wong and Ying Ouyang — despite a family death this season that kept her off the runway for much of Paris Fashion Week. So why is the industry so taken with her, and what does her ascent reflect about the importance of China to luxury fashion?

According to Margaret Zhang, the editor in chief of Vogue China, Ms. Hua is part of a group of models who don’t have the classical Han Chinese features that defined beauty standards in China for centuries.

“Yilan doesn’t necessarily embody the traditional beauty standards revered by Chinese audiences,” Ms. Zhang wrote in an email. “What’s different about her is that she is a real chameleon. Any photographer or designer can see in her a version of a woman they’re looking to convey in their work, and as a result she hasn’t been pigeonholed into one aesthetic or one category of shows.”

From left: Ms. Hua walked in the fall 2024 shows at Molly Goddard in London and Jason Wu in New York, as well as the Chanel spring 2024 show in Paris.Credit…Ben Broomfield, Dan Lecca, Chanel

Julia Lange, a casting director who has booked Ms. Hua since 2019 for clients like Simone Rocha and Mugler, pointed to her instincts and formidable work ethic.

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