When American designer Carrie Hammer made her mark at last month's glossy Shanghai Fashion Week, it was not just with the clothing on show but with the models she used. Because her models were not professional runway models but women at the top of their professions across Asia. Thus the name of her show: Role Models not Runway Models.
U.S.-based Hammer didn't start out as a designer. She was in digital ad sales in New York. "You know those ads on the internet that you have to sit through before you watch a video? That was me," says Hammer. She became a designer out of frustration at searching for professional outfits that were comfortable and attractive.
Hammer, who started her company nearly four years ago, told CNBC, "I ask my clients what they want. They say they want simple things like pockets. My biggest joy are from emails and photos from my customers who say 'This is me on a panel. I felt amazing.' "
Meet some of the stars of the Shanghai show.
—By Pauline Chiou
Posted November 26, 2015
Peggy Fang Roe is chief sales and marketing officer for Asia Pacific at Marriott International. Roe agreed to take part in the fashion show after learning about the designer's mission to inspire women through the vehicle of fashion and role models.
On her own approach to fashion, Roe is "always thinking about what kind of 'look' I'm in the mood for that day." It requires reviewing my schedule,thinking about the impression I want to make and deciding how comfortable I want to be that day.
While on the surface, it may sound like I'm focused on impression, I think it's really more about how my look makes me feel."
Cathy Hau is executive director of the real estate group CITIC Capital Holdings in Shanghai. Her definition of a role model is someone who is constantly evolving.
"Role models are people who might be outstanding in a certain area. They may also be someone who is less than perfect, but is working to improve himself or herself. A role model is a real model who has influence in your life."
Cindy Lin is CEO of Chunhui Children, an organization that supports disadvantaged children in China.
Lin reckons the "role models not runway models" could go one step further. "Why not both?," asks Lin.
"Role models are inspiring because we don't sacrifice our inner or external beauty for our career or life's devotion. In fact, we don't sacrifice anything! I want to encourage myself and others to dare to dream more and achieve beyond our wildest dreams!"
Hannah Wanjie Ryder is the head of policy and partnerships in China for the United Nations Development Program.
She was born in Kenya, where she lived until moving to the U.K. at the age of 10. Now based in Beijing, she is an economist working on development and climate change issues in China.
Designer Hammer says,"What is so incredible about her is that she has an ability to be feminine, powerful and professional all while being herself and not losing her personality. In fact, it's one of her greatest assets."
Li Si is the chairwoman of HaoCorp Group and one of the founders of Luxury Fox, a retail chain that promotes luxury designs throughout Asia. She is also the first Chinese national to have been named a general manager of the American Chamber of Commerce South China.
Designer Carrie Hammer says, "The dress we made for her had an attached superwoman cape. It has power built in!"