Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chengdu Fashion Week 2012

Rachel Bougher... International model...Where do I start?... Midwest Fashion Week 2011, Dayton Fashion Week 2012, Chengdu Fashion Week 2012, Numerous print magazines and even acting, the face of local International designer Marlene Haute Couture for 2 years, the list goes on and on!  Born and raised in the Midwest right here in Fort Wayne Indiana she has made an impression on the local high fashion scene.  I met Rachel though socal networking and started following her modeling and soon met her at a local event.  I was immediately impressed with how this 18 year old handled and presented herself.  It was obvious from her grace and poise she was quite a model. Naturally when I heard she had been accepted to walk in Chengdu fashion week I was very excited for her.  I watched intently on Instagram for pictures and updates about her trip, as it was just about the only line of communication.  I knew when she got back I had to hear the whole story... and so I asked.  Not long after she arrived back in town we met up and I had the privilege to to hear that story complete with pictures, lots of pictures!   So without going on forever and ever lets get to the interview!  

How did you first get started in modeling?

I started out with a modeling and acting class known as Barbizon. I was enrolled in the MidWest Barbizon which took place in Fort Wayne and I was a part of the 2011 class. Having this extra help gave me a huge booster not in only feeling able and ready to start my modeling journey, but in other ways such as higher confidence and being able to sing in front of an audience. After finishing Barbizon, I started to search for work on my own. Thankfully a local photographer known as Fisher Fotography wanted to help get me started on the right track. Eventually I was able to start reaching about around town and became very close with International Fashion Designer Marlene Haute Couture. She took me under her wings and helped me grow and develop into a high fashion model.
Chengdu Fashion Week 2012
Chengdu Fashion Week 2012

The story of your modeling trip to China is fascinating. Tell us about how it happened.

Well Marlene Haute Couture was invited to Chengdu Fashion Week many months ago. My mom at the time was helping assist her and Marlene asked for my mom to come along there with her. I was very excited for MHC! My mom was in contact with a woman named Vivienne over in Chengdu, she was able to help give me the opportunity to come and model in Chengdu after I sent her my measurements, height, experience, etc. After finding out I was accepted, there were only two weeks before we had to leave for China! I was so excited and trying to wrap my head around my thoughts. All the way from getting my first passport photos, to going to Chicago for a weekend to receive a Chinese Visa AND taking all my college finals a week early! Whew!
In the end, it was very humbling to know I have had so many wonderful opportunities to enjoy what I love.

Chengdu Fashion Week 2012
On the flight to Beijing China, and things sure get interesting!!! 

From what you told me you had quite the adventure getting to China, and once in Beijing a frightening incident! What happened?
Just thinking about the trip and the way there gives me a headache, it was a long 12-13 hour flight!  When we boarded our flight in Michigan to take us to Beijing China, Marlene, Karen, and I started to experience the different culture on the plane. It was noisy, loud, smelly, and very unpleasant! We even had seats right next to a bathroom! Landing in Beijing was where things started to take another turn. It was very early in the morning when we arrived (around 12-1AM) and our flight for Chengdu didn't leave until around 7AM (If I remember correctly). It was a huge culture shock! We looked very confused and when trying to ask for help, many people didn't understand us.
It's a crazy thing to think about just simply saying "Hello, do you speak English?" and no one can understand.
When we found someone who actually spoke English, we later on found out he was a con artist trying to scam foreigners into staying at very sketchy hotels and ask for "tips" for his help. We sadly believed he was someone who worked at the airport because he was dressed in a suit and looked very professional. He was able to take us away form the airport and stick us in a hotel room, but thankfully we figured things out before our flight and got out of there and back to the airport!  I just know now to only trust yourself when traveling and to always be aware of what's going on around you at all times! 

Let me tell you that after hearing Rachel tell this story and then reading her response here... This my friends is the PG version!  There is just no way of really telling this story without writing pages and pages it seems.  I can't imagine what it would be like to arrive in a place like that  with such a communication barrier.  I would chalk this up as a character building life experience! 

Arriving in Beijing China

Once you arrived in Chengdu, what was the time line like from arrival to walking the runway the first time. 
Well all 3 of us were extremely tired but finally made it to Chengdu! Only thing was, it we didn't have our luggage because we forgot to check it in when we reached Beijing! So we had to file and claim luggage and hope the airport would bring our belongings to the hotel. We had met other designers, assistants, photographers on the flight from Beijing to Chengdu. (and we were not the only ones who didn't get our luggage) Finally reaching the hotel we met Vivienne and others in charge and were placed in our rooms. Our hotel was BEAUTIFUL! I went to my room, knowing I would be placed with a random model, but found out I was there a day earlier than all the girls. The next day came and the models started to arrive as we had to learn the new walks for the runway, figure out which rooms to go to for fittings that night, etc. My roommate was Anna Kolesnik. She was from the Ukraine and was one of the youngest models there being only 17. At first I was taken back and got the feel that she didn't like me, but we bonded over my shoes I had brought with me from back home and started a friendship.
Outside the hotel
Here they are going over different walks and learning how the show is going to run.
Diagram for different walks and designers.  That outline is the shape of the runway.
Some of the models hanging out backstage
Such a beautiful venue for the show!

You said you were the only American model at Chengdu Fashion Week. How were you received and how did you mesh with the others? 
If I could take another trip back to Chengdu, I would in a heartbeat. Modeling was a big deal to go over there for, but the friendships I brought back in my heart are ones I will never forget.
At first I had a better relationship with all of the students and helpers for Chengdu Couture Fashion Week. There were many helpers, boys and girls, for this Fashion Week. They were all students there assisting because they wanted a possible career in fashion, design, music, etc. in their future. They were so nice and polite to me! Most spoke English very well so I was able to communicate easier with them. They even knew how to pronounce my name. In Chengdu, many of them watch the show "Friends" and recognized my name, Rachel, because that was who Jennifer Aniston played in the TV show.
I had many of them ask me where I was from. I would tell them "America" and they would just reply
"Oh wow! That is my future homeland!"
"I want to move there!"
"You are so lucky! What is it like?"
They told me they loved my eyes and my hair because it was so different. Always complimenting me saying "You so beautiful Rachel!" I'm telling you, they were way too nice to me! 
Signing an autograph for one of the student helpers
Outside the Hotel with some fans
Later on in the first week I became really close with two of the models there. One was Anna and the other was a girl named Silviya. They were my two Ukranian red heads! We grew closer because Anna spoke more English to me than the other girls did. Most girls spoke their own languages to each other and I would try to act like I knew what they were saying. Silviya understood Russian but didn't speak it very well, so she spoke English all the time. Silviya took me out some nights to bars to meet some of her friends (It's legal for me over there! Don't worry!) And Anna would take me to the black markets during down times between shows during the day.
Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things for me to do the day before I left. I gave Anna one of my shirts as a "remembrance of me" And Silviya and I talk on different global phone apps still to this day... 
Rachel and Silviya out on the town

Did you have a favorite designer you wore on the runway?
Honestly, each designer brought their own unique expressions of creativity to their was hard to have a favorite! Along with Marlene there were a couple other US designers and a few from Russia, Ukraine, etc. Walking for Marlene was always an incredible opportunity and since I was able to wear her designer showpiece the last night of the show! I also enjoyed a designer from California and his partner. They were very nice to me and said I wore their dress beautifully (all black with slit at bottom of dress with a red, orange, yellow flower on the side) They keep in touch with me for any upcoming work they want me to be a part of. 
One of her favorite designers Jamil Khansa
A dress from Jamil Khansa
A collection by Marlene Haute Couture backstage. 
What was your overall experience like in China? Did it change you in any way? Is it something you would want to do again?
Chengdu, China holds a part of my heart ever since I left. Besides the dirty air and bad plane flights, I would love the chance to go back and be with some of the people who made my experience so worthwhile. Having the opportunity to be the only American model was a very big honor to me. I received a call from a random number asking me about being in Chengdu Fashion Week again, but was unable to understand the rest of their message or name to call them back. But hey, you never know! Maybe I'll have another chance to go back one day in the future.... 
I have to admit that even though I do not know Rachel as well as some I am very proud of her going for this and actually doing it!  I hear pretty often about how boring our city is and nothing is going on...  There are people doing big things and involved in big things, you just have to know where to look.  Before I got into the fashion world I had no idea there was a "Fashion World" right here in our city.  So before you think your city or our city might be boring take a look below the surface and find the stories like these!  You just might be surprised like I was.  So even with all the buzz, excitement, and pretty much non stop action, Rachel did have some time to slip away and do some sightseeing.  I will leave you with those pictures.  Thank you for reading! 

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