Lily KwongModel @ Elite and Philanthropist
“I don’t really care about trends or what’s ‘cool’ because that stuff is so fleeting.”
[Ed. Note: Lily Kwong is a model at Elite Models and the East Coast Managing Director of Nuvana, a charity organization that funds various aid projects all over the globe. She has appeared in the pages of Vogue and served as a muse for Altuzarra, a fashion collection shown at New York Fashion Week founded by Kwong’s cousin Joseph Altuzarra. Kwong also graduated from Columbia University's General Studies program summa cum laude this Spring with a degree in Urban Studies.]
“I know it sounds funny, but what shaped my relationship to fashion the most as a young person was having absolutely no interest in fashion. My mom was beautiful and very fashionable, but she never forced anything on me. Even though my cousin, Joseph [Altuzarra], was always really into fashion it didn’t touch me until much later. San Francisco, where I grew up, is an amazing place for creativity – I read a lot, watched a lot of movies, and gathered all these references, but I didn’t realize it had anything to do with style or fashion. … When I was 18, fashion hit me with a one-two punch. I moved in with my cousin, Joseph, and I started modeling.
I got to Paris for modeling literally the day Joseph quit Givenchy and launched Altuzarra. It was totally serendipitous. … We were living together in Paris and he needed help launching his business, so I became his little minion for a year and a half. … Joseph taught me everything I know. He was my FIT. ... Joseph’s image of female beauty is very empowered and very strong. He infuses that mentality into the brand, and I really respect that and identify with that. Joseph taught me that fashion can capture emotions, ideas, and cultural themes which is a more interesting way to approach fashion than just thinking about a certain hemline.
I always try to dress in a way that’s very timeless. I don’t really care about trends or what’s ‘cool’ because that stuff is so fleeting. … I like mixing things up: feminine and masculine, high and low. It’s fun to do things that are unexpected. … I really love to wear Altuzarra, obviously! I love Prada too because I think Miuccia is so smart and savvy. She is a powerful woman, and that really comes through in her clothes. ... It may seem silly, but I feel better wearing things from people that I know and really respect. I love Prabal Gurung, Reed Krakoff… I even saw Derek Lam at the gym this morning!
My dad is Chinese and my Mom is a super tall and gorgeous white woman. … I am just so fascinated with Asia and I feel such a strong desire to be there. People like me who are half-Asian have a great opportunity to act as a bridge between two cultures. … I think the West and the East have a lot to learn from each other. Commerce, trade, and art have always been a way for different societies to exchange ideas, so fashion can be a great hub where all these different industries and ideas can intersect. I would love to see more collaborations between China and America. I really want to spend some time in China and reach out to Chinese brands, taste-makers, and photographers who are looking to have more of a relationship with the West. Hopefully I will make it to China this fall.” -- Lily Kwong to Shop Ghost
Lily Kwong photographed in New York by Stevie Dance.
“Right now it’s gala season so I’ve been getting really dressed up. To the Tribeca Film Festival I wore this vegetable-print dress from Dolce and Gabbana, which was amazingly fun. The first couple of years I lived in NY it was all about black, sleek, and clean, and then a couple of collections ago Joseph did all these tropical prints. I realized fashion is supposed to be fun! Let’s not take ourselves so seriously.”
“I love social media because it opens up a so many channels and opportunities that we haven’t seen as a civilization, ever. I studied sociology, so I am really fascinated in how social media adds a whole other layer to people’s relationships. … At the same time, it can be damaging to the fashion industry because it takes away so much of the mystery that makes fashion exciting and alluring.”
“Joseph and I have always been really close. We are really in our element when we’re cooking dinner at home and watching a rom-com, preferably staring Meg Ryan. That’s our thing. We are all about the 90’s rom-com!”