Fashion model David Chiang rises from his Burnaby roots
To say that 23-year-old Taiwanese-born, Burnaby-raised men’s fashion model David Chiang stands out in a crowd is an understatement. At six-foot-two, the Burnaby South Secondary and Blanche Macdonald graduate has a slender frame—almost alarmingly so—and straight, jet-black hair that reaches his collarbone.
“I used to have longer hair and was a little bit skinnier and pale,” Chiang tells the Straight during an interview at Blanche Macdonald’s CurliQue Beauty Boutique on August 14. “I was backstage at Dior and really awkward-looking, and Karl [Lagerfeld] walked by and told me I was a beautiful Chinese girl.”
Chiang’s brief encounter with the “Kaiser” of haute couture isn’t the only time he’s been mistaken for or compared to a woman. Androgynous is a label that Chiang has begun to embrace, even if he isn’t quite as comfortable with wearing women’s clothing as his model friend Andrej Pejic might be.
“I don’t mind [being called androgynous] because being a model, it’s to your advantage…especially nowadays, people are very open-minded,” he says. “Androgyny is a special case because it could be a trend or it could be a statement for fashion.”
Before gracing the pages of Vogue Hommes Japan and walking runways for Rick Owens, Paul Smith, Missoni, rag & bone, Diesel, John Varvatos, and Yohji Yamamoto, Chiang was a self-described “nerd” who was more interested in reading science and history textbooks than fashion magazines.
“I was that dorky guy that hung out by myself, no friends.…I spent most of my time in the library,” Chiang recalls. “When I graduated from high school, I decided to pursue my dream of being a teacher, so I went to SFU for a year and a half, and then I decided it wasn’t really for me.…I took a half-year off, and then I realized my passion was actually fashion.”
Chiang enrolled in the one-year fashion merchandising program at Blanche Macdonald in 2008, around the time more and more people were telling him he should consider modelling.
“I was a little bit surprised. I never really saw myself as a model.…I didn’t really know what modelling was before getting into fashion,” he says.
In fall 2009, Chiang finally decided to upload a photo of himself to online modelling directory models.com, and within two weeks, he received an email inviting him to a photoshoot in Toronto. Chiang was signed to Toronto’s Elmer Olsen Model Management before the end of the year, and at the start of 2010, he travelled to Milan Fashion Week to walk for Emporio Armani—as the Italian designer’s first Asian male model—and Alexander McQueen.
“I did Alexander McQueen’s last personal show in Milan. It was very emotional for me,” Chiang remembers about the late British designer. “He was my favourite designer…so when he passed away two weeks after fashion week, I pretty much stopped modelling.”
After a season away from the fashion world, Chiang resurfaced on the runway at Dior Homme’s fall 2011 show—where he met Lagerfeld—and he hasn’t looked back. Now an internationally in-demand model, Chiang says the hardest thing about modelling is being away from his family, who still live in the Lower Mainland, and never quite knowing when he’ll be back in Canada.
“Fashion is not glamorous or easy.…You have to work hard and believe in yourself,” he says. “But I don’t regret it. I like it and I make enough money for myself.”
While he plans to stick to modelling for another year or so, Chiang is looking forward to discovering other avenues of the fashion industry in the future.
“I will definitely stay in fashion for sure, but fashion is broad,” Chiang says. “There is still so much for me to learn, so many amazing people out there to meet and learn from them.”
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