It’s not every day that a Singaporean model makes waves in the international fashion community, but Layla Ong, 21, did exactly that when she walked the runway at Milan Fashion Week exclusively for Gucci’s fall/winter 2018 show yesterday. Fresh off her runway coup, we speak to the breakout Singapore fashion model about her experience and her key takeaways from Milan.

Hi Layla, how was your first experience walking at Milan Fashion Week? How did it feel like when you first stepped out on the runway?

LO: “I was super thrilled! It was more than exhilarating throughout, and after the show it is like you’ve accomplished a major milestone. When it was almost show-time, with Alessandro Michele standing just in front of you, it was all so surreal—I have never ever been so nervous for anything—I could just feel my stomach turn cold before stepping out into the limelight.”

Tell us about the scene backstage at Gucci. What was it like?

LO: “Well, surprisingly, it was not like any chaotic backstage scenes as what I would have imagined. It was very organised; everyone was at their designated position; they knew what to do, where to go. It was a breeze. Not to mention a buffet table was set up at the venue, so during our free time, the models were just mingling around and munching away. They took care of the models really well.”

How was it like meeting Alessandro Michele and being with him at the fittings?

LO: “He has that aura, man! He doesn’t speak much though. He had a team of 30-40 crew members who assisted in dressing, accessories styling, photo-taking… The entire fitting took less than 30 minutes. Alessandro Michele has a clear vision of what he wants exactly and is audacious in his style. That’s probably why he is able to lead the Gucci gang!”

You’re the first Singaporean model to walk the Gucci runway in a long while. Can you tell us what that means to you?

Mega SG pride! It is a true sense of national identity. Hopefully it will help to pave the way for our fellow Singaporean models in opening up to more opportunities in the international fashion markets.

From your time on AsNTM till now, how do you think you have grown as a model?

LO: “I would have to say that I am definitely more mature and focused now. There were times when I felt lost, but that’s alright now. There is a clearer picture of what I want to achieve in life and what I want to achieve in my modelling career.”

What is one key thing that you have taken away from this experience?

LO: “Nothing is impossible, never be afraid to do anything that is out of the norm.”

What’s next for you? Are you heading to Paris for fashion week too?

LO: “I’m on an exclusive contract with Gucci for Milan Fashion Week, which means I won’t be able to take part in the remaining shows for this season. I might be off to Paris and London afterwards, then back to Singapore for the Outsider Fashion Festival, and then off to Japan and Korea for work. My agency is planning to send me to New York for September’s fashion season, we are waiting for that to be set in stone.”

See other Asian faces who stole the show at the AW’18 fashion weeks:

Go #TeamAsians!

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As Fashion Week draws to an end, we look back on the Asian models who stood out while walking the Fall/Winter 2018 show. The lineup of “rising models of the moment” like Cong He, Yoon Young Bae and Hyun Ji Shin were seen at most shows, while social media favourites Fernanda Ly and Kiko Mizuhara also made appearances. Here, the ones that stole the show.

#1: Soo Joo Park at Philip Plein

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Image: @paperiidollxrunway Instagram

31-year old Korean top model Soo Joo Park is known for being the first-ever Asian face of Prada. Her icy blonde locks and unique facial features give her an edge above cookie cutter-type beauties in the modelling industry – and we think she couldn’t have looked better than at Philip Plein’s A/W’18 show. Dressed in a glittering disco ball of a jumpsuit and a PVC trench, the model sauntered through soapy artificial snow and giant moon rocks at the space odyssey themed show.

#2: Mola Matsuoka at Ulla Johnson

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Image @monamatsuoka Instagram

Fresh-faced Mola Matsuoka is a 20-year old half-Japanese, half-American beauty from Tokyo who debuted on the A/W 2014 international runways for brands such as Kenzo, Chanel and Miu Miu when she was only 16. At the Ulla Johson A/W’18 show during NYFW, the pretty model donned romantic ruffled frocks and pristine white knits.

#3: Yoon Young Bae at Erdem 

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Deemed as “Korean model of the moment” by Vogue in 2016 and “South Korea’s Rising Top Model” by W Magazine in 2017, it’s safe to say that Yoon Young Bae is the model to watch right now. The sharp-eyed doll face has walked international runways and starred in campaigns – for brands like Prada, Loewe and Dior – after she caught the eyes of fashion editors at Seoul Fashion Week 2015. At the Erdem A/W’18 show during LFW, the 21-year old took on an elegant vintage look in a brocade tuxedo suite.

#4:  Hyun Ji Shin at Burberry

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Reality television fans may recognise Shin from her stint (and win) on Korea’s Next Top Model cycle 4 in 2016 and she has since been a rising runway star. The 21-year old model has been praised by many publications for her seemingly flawless complexion with Vogue naming her as the model who “has the best skin in the business”. At Burberry’s A/W’18 show, which also happens to be Creative Director Christopher Bailey’s last collection at the helm, the South Korean model had on a pink structured coat in childlike scribbles and colourful embroidery – a whimsical and stunning look which brought out her youthful features.

#5: Cong He at Simon Rocha

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Image: @conghe Instagram

According to The Fashion Spot, the Chinese beauty walked the most shows for any model of colour during A/W’17 presentations – an impressive feat which symbolises an industry-wide shift to diversifying its model castings. Famed for starring in Rihanna’s Fenty campaign back in 2016 next to Korean model Kim Sang Woo, the instantly recognisable 20-year old is on her way to becoming the next It model of the century. Decked in an early 19th century inspired dress on the cusp of Victoriana and swathes of black see-through fabric, Cong He evoked regal glamour.

#6: Sora Choi at Calvin Klein

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Image: @sorachoi Instagram

25-year old South Korean model Sora Choi first rose to fame in 2012 when she completed and subsequently won Korea’s Next Top Model. Since making her debut at Louis Vuitton’s Resort show in 2014, Sora has been climbing the proverbial ladder in the industry with her edgy, rock-chic look. As her face peered out from a hand-spun balaclava, Sora made quite an impression on the runway of Calvin Klein’s A/W’18 show as she sauntered down confidently in a gingham folk dress.

#7: Fernanda Ly at Noon by Noor

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The powder pink-haired Australian model’s rise to stardom began when she first stepped onto the Louis Vuitton A/W’15 runway as a newcomer to the modelling industry. Within seconds, hers was the name on everyone’s lips: Fernanda Ly. Now she’s an international fashion star. The Chinese model took to the Noon by Noor A/W’18 runway to brandish what is appearing to be one of next season’s biggest trends: chunky faux fur sleeve cuffs.

#8: Kiko Mizuhara at Adam Selman

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It girl Kiko Mizuhara is big on Instagram. And by big, we mean 4.8 million followers big. Having been blessed with a gamine personal style and alternative dressing sense, the model of American and Korean descent draws a big group of fans and followers from the world over. Kiki walked the runway at the Adam Selman A/W’18 show in a pair of cat-eye sunglasses (you can’t really see it here but they’ve got cute heart motifs on them) and an ensemble fit for a rock star: a sweater with metallic red hearts and a mini skirt detailed by zippers.

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