Zuoye: My Heart Started Beating Again
My real name is Zuo Ye, and I’m a Chinese girl, born in Lanzhou City, Gansu Province, in Northwest China, which is known for its best-of-the-best Lanzhou beef noodles — those are even very popular overseas, as a street food in Chinese districts — and grew up in Guangdong Province.
In the modeling world I am known by the name Zuoye, and have been modeling for almost seven years so far, since I signed up with a modeling agency in 2015. I was scouted during my second year of college, when my now mother agency came to my college and selected the New Face. Before that, I never even thought I would take the path of professional modeling!
When I was younger, my father worked in a TV crew, and due to his influence and my own innate sensitivity to words and love of literature, I was motivated to become a writer-director or a screenwriter. In addition to that, I am not a really an outgoing and cheerful person, I’m more on the conservative and introverted side, so I never thought I would be engaged in that kind of ‘in front of the curtain’ or ’under the exposure lamp’ kind of work, I am more into enjoying to immerse myself in my own small world, ‘behind the scenes’, quietly doing such things as writing, for example.
I clearly remember that day when I was scouted — I was still busy with my university’s student council campaign, still wearing my uniform, and not being someone like a person who would have any possibility to be involved into fashion and modeling. The year after I was scouted, I started my overseas modeling journey! Looking back, when I first started out, my journey was actually very smooth — I went to New York, Milan and Paris, and got some good feedback in both runway and commercials. I’m grateful for this career that gave me an opportunity to see the world when I was still a little girl. This is what I’ve been thinking of since I started my career, until now.
When I first entered the fashion industry, everything was so strange because I had never known ‘fashion’ before. When thinking back to my first fashion week trip, where I was sent by my agency, at that time such brands as Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, Kenzo were unknown to me, so I did not realize the importance of that opportunity. I also had no idea about all those fashion terms like ’casting’, ‘fitting’, ‘request’, ‘call back’, etc.
I still remember a runway show for Phillip Lim in New York, when after trying on some clothes, the staff told me they’ll see me in the show later, and I was confused because I did not know what the whole process should look like, and could not even believe it! That’s it? I can walk at this runway show?
Or as it was at the casting for the runway show of Vivienne Westwood in Paris — when at around 12 am you have a fitting, and the next morning, while still being sleepy, my agent called me saying I was selected to take part in the runway show and it starts at 8 am!
Of course there are much more funny things, like that one on a casting for Dior and Hermès, when the designers themselves and the casting team are there, and countless excellent models walking around, and at the same time, me, who’s never seen such a big stage, and felt so nervous, so when the team was willing to give me the opportunity to walk on a runway a few times, again and again, I still felt like a helpless child. There is a Chinese saying, ‘The time is right, the place is right, and the people are right.’ Looking back now, the time and the place were right, but I missed a lot of opportunities because I was too immature, both physically and mentally. At that time, I hadn’t finished my college yet, and I didn’t have a clear idea on my personal development and my future career planning, so I didn’t take the modeling very seriously. I remember while at the fashion week, when I was going to Milan right after New York, I was worrying more about my exams, whether I’ll be able to finish early and get back home.
After the pandemic, I took a break from modeling for the three long years. During that time I stayed in China, where during an almost one year I was trying to get out of the depression due to a self-imposed isolation. I had a lot of offensive comments from people on my social media at that time, but I also had a lot of support from people — both good and bad words — and I appreciate them for making me tougher and stronger.
Due to my previous experience in modeling, I got an interest in fashion and luxury culture. Chinese customers have a different purchasing behavior from that of mature markets in Europe and the United States. I enjoyed being a model at the fashion industry, but what I want to do in the future now is even more ambitious — to become a strategic talent. I yearn to enrich my artistic knowledge and establish transferable skills that can be applied in the business of fashion and luxury industry. I even got an offer from Goldsmiths University of London, to study luxury brand management, but I didn’t go there in the end because of the outbreak due to pandemic.
After that, for another year, with the help of my exposure to the various roles in the industry while being a model, I also became excited about styling and branding, so I decided to try working at a clothing company as a stylist. Working at a clothing company gave me a chance to experience that part of the downstream process of the fashion retail industry, being in the retail industry, and being in contact with the end consumers. Now I have a comprehensive understanding of the versatile fashion industry, and have the resilience and perseverance to adapt to this industry. Also, this experience of being at the totally opposite side of the modeling industry has added me more understanding of how to be a successful model.
It wasn’t until the last year, as the pandemic began to improve, that my heart started beating again, I wanted to go back to what I was forced to press the pause button on, and continue to do it well, because for me, I want everything to end up well, so I went back to modeling!
With my age and experience, I now have a more independent and free spirit and personality. I am also more willing and inclined to create and convey what I think and feel through images in front of the camera, as a model.
Now, I am walking into this direction, and I hope I can continue to walk this road, with some of the insights I have gained during the past few years, meeting all kinds of people, listening to their stories, feeling the world, and enriching my eyes… so, I am really happy and grateful to where I’m now!