Yi Zhou, Artist


“I do sculptures and film; my speciality is 3-D animations. I’ve been doing this since 2003 and I think I’ve really made my style in 3-D…I actually do things that are difficult. Especially nowadays, a lot of people in the fashion business or even from any business, you can just make sort of short films with all the technology you can buy. But I’ve always wanted to do things that are difficult and I think 3-D animation is something not everyone can make, on a certain level. Sometimes I appear in my work, but not always. You know, I’ve always been a fan of Hitchcock and I think Hitchcock always had a flash appearance in his own stuff. You know, it’s very difficult—though these days it’s better because people are so into branding with art—kind of finding credibility, because there are all the people who are really orthodox with art, you know, art people who are like, ‘Oh, you went there? I hate it.’ And then, I just think you have to be who you are, you cannot be someone else. You wouldn’t be you if were another girl, doing what you’re doing. We’re all very individual if we keep on doing what we believe in and being who we are. Being authentic. You cannot say, ‘I’m going to be someone else because that’s the way art works’. I just think that art, or even whatever in whatever other industry, you just have to not be afraid. Me, I’m not afraid of saying, ‘This is who I am!’ You take it or leave it.

I’ve always been very active, since I was a little girl. I remember I was three and my teacher—you know, there were sixty in the class in China because it’s a big country with a huge population—I was always the one where the teacher would be talking and I would be just doing airplanes with paper or doing all sorts of creative stuff. The teacher would always say, ‘This girl, she’s smart, but, you know, she’s very very ADD. Attention Deficit Disorder.’ I was never diagnosed, but I think I have a very severe one. So, I always do many projects at the same time. I was selected for Sundance four times, always in the animation section, and last year, since I also became an art director of the Chinese YouTube, I invited Sundance Institute members to be part of Tudou, which is the Chinese YouTube video festival where a lot of Chinese young talents get selected by posting their video. We created an award which is called Independent Spirit Award and it’s given to Chinese talents that just post their stuff on the net and they get the chance to have their exposure to Sundance…and also, it’s good to have Sundance members get to see, really for the first time, what’s happening in China and all the talents. I’m also an ambassador of the Chinese Twitter—I’m the fashion and art advisor, so, basically, I create content and debates and stuff for any fashion issue or art issue we want to talk about.

I think I’ve always travelled since I was little, and for me, I associate my emotions and my memories with the idea of moving from place to place. I think there are some people who can only love people when they’re always together, family and friends or people you work with, but for me, I think the idea of love, this feeling of love, this feeling of habit migrates with me through different places and so that’s my approach. In terms of beauty, I’m the only child from the only child policy in China, and then my father is a perfectionist, so he always told me to look the best and everything. He always said, ‘This shirt is not so good, you have to go change it or buy a new one or something!’ And then when I was eleven, he started buying me masks for my face and then I started doing masks. He would buy this brand in China that is called SK-II. But can you imagine, eleven years old? You think it’s almost like a toy! You know, glued on your face and you would leave it on. And so, I just got into the habit. I do a lot of these masks. Of course, I go to spas as well. I was a brand ambassador to Clarins for a year in China, last year. I think taking care of your skin should be something that is daily. I think it is good to go a spa to have an in-depth treatment, but I think if you take care of yourself, just like fashion—I mean, look at you, you look very stylish, and I’m sure you sort of pay attention to details and to beauty on a daily basis which almost becomes a habit. And so for me, beauty and cosmetics should be something where it’s more for yourself, to raise your own self-esteem. Sometimes you just want to have your hair washed, or whatever! [Laughs] It’s also a way to say, you know, ‘Just for one day, I want to relax and let it go.’ But it’s also almost like a mood or a lifestyle, you see what I mean? And then you’re back to taking care of yourself and blah blah blah. It should be something where it’s a pleasure.

I am obsessed with cosmetics thanks to my father, so we always try these masks and different things, but I alternate different products. I think for the skin, it’s good to—I mean, it’s my opinion, I might be wrong—but I think it’s good to not let the skin get used to one product only and I think because our skin changes with age, with time, with the country we live in, I think if you let the skin adapt to something different every year or every six months or every two to three years to change maybe face cream, I think you should take that risk as well. I use the Clarins oil every day, I like that a lot. It’s the Clarins Blue Orchid Face Treatment Oil. I also use this mask everyday, the Clarins HydraQuench Cream-Mask. For when I have puffiness from travelling—I was born with puffiness under my eyes!—I use the Clarins Eye Contour Gel. It helps a little bit. I also use La Mer products because they sponsor one of my projects so they gave me a lot of it. I also give a lot to my mom and I also have some men’s products just in case…if a man comes over or whatever! [Laughs]

Mane 'n Tail is something that I put in my hair, not as a conditioner, but to make it more textured because I don’t have so much hair. You can put it on dry hair and it makes it more textured. It doesn’t make it greasy. I mean, if you put a lot, of course, but if you put a little bit, it makes it a little bit more textured. I heard about it from a hairstylist while I was in LA and we tried it once and it was so good! This is a hair shampoo, Heidak, which I bought in a pharmacy in Switzerland and it’s only in Switzerland, that’s the only place you can get it—it’s for fragile hair. I selected it from a pharmacy. And The Body Shop Candied Ginger body wash was a birthday present from a friend. I like it very much. I like souvenirs from my trips, so I stole some soap from the Mandarin Oriental in Thailand, some Hermès soap from them. I don’t take all the stuff, maybe just that, but because I think it’s cute, the packaging. This is my day cream I use that I buy in Italian pharmacies for like €20—it’s called Lichtena. It has a lot of beeswax and because I have very sensitive skin, it’s very good. The beeswax is very comforting. I go to Italy often. My mom’s Chinese, but she lives in Rome. My dad lives between Hong Kong, Shanghai, different places.

The idea of beauty products, also, is that I collect beauty products, and friends and families give me stuff. I collect nail polish. I have a lot of Chanel—the one I used today is called Pêche Nacrée. This is a perfume a friend of mine did the bottle of, it’s called Idylle for Guerlain, his name is Ora-ito. I’m really into perfume.I leave a Chanel No. 5 next to my door to remind myself of Marilyn Monroe. [Laughs] I like all the Hermès perfumes, their Brin de Réglisse. I like the fact that it looks like leather, kind of. They stay for a long time. I like to mix them. I mix that one with some of the others and it becomes kind of a new fragrance. This is a really old one that I bought so many of them, Yves Saint Laurent’s Love. It’s so good because it has grapefruit and I’m crazy for grapefruit! This is from Jo Malone from a long time ago and it’s from someone I used to work with and she gave me a bottle of it. I like to keep it because it’s, in a way, a sort of vintage cosmetic. I don’t know if I will ever use it, or even sometimes I can mix it with something. I think even a smell sometimes can be very trendy for a while but then it goes out of the trend. I like to keep that smell because it’s like clothing—it might come back or you just edit it or you mix it with other perfumes and it becomes something very personal that is yours.”

—as told to ITG

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  • http://twitter.com/YayaGagaFashion Messamet serdane

    So nice to read this interview ! I love the way she describes herself as her active person because I am too and I understand that we never can be an other person than what we are and find a job which could fit with it !


  • atb

    This lady is gorgeous!

  • Victoria

    Yay! TOP SHELF is back! :)
    Nice interview. I agree with her about the masks. Once I asked an Asian girl who has a beautiful skin what was her (and all Asian women) secret (they have beautiful skin!) and she said, "MASKS! we do lots of masks". Since then I've being trying different ones, lots of Asian brands that are not marketed in the US but that I can find at a store in Chinatown that carries all Asian brands including SK II, The History of Whoo etc.

    • Renaphuah

      Hi Victoria, I wouldnt recommend too many masks, you dont need that many. One for hydration and one for purifying. But I do rely on my Mario Badescu Whitening mask to lighten my acne scars.

      My beautician friends (caucasians) would just need one for soothing/calming or hydration. Mario Badescu has good ones.

  • http://thesparkle.net/ erin

    mane and tail... omg, love that. sometimes, the cheapest products are the best! x


    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SLEGVRNNNB7IDWFSCAM35P5RNM Berenice

      I tried that shampoo and didn't work for me, my hair was stiff and dry, the worst shampoo ever! :(

  • Jenny

    Good grief, I'm so glad to see a Cowshed product on ITG (that'd be the one sandwiched between the Chanel N˚5 and the Bleu de Chanel. Cowshed's a British brand not very well known stateside, but it's gorgeous! I love their shower gels and hand cream.

    I'm not a big fan of Clarins myself, but it works like a dream on many of my friends' skins. I do love the Hermessence range though. Ambre Narguile and Rose Ikebana are my favourites.

  • Mrs Singh

    Great interview! Love her look - torn light colored jeans and tough boots (Doc Martens?). Also, I agree about masks - they really take your skin from "great" to "amazing"! Love SK II sheet masks.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/WYXCKYSRVDALJZVMP66QNNICVA anita m

    Love the pictures, especially her nigh table with all of her books!
    Going to look up two items I spotted in the jpgs.

  • http://materialfixations.blogspot.com/ Material Fixations

    I love her daring attitute and perfectionnisme.
    Material Fixations

  • yessie

    Love Top Shelf!!

  • sashka-young

    Really interesting post! Love the cultural incite as well!


  • Renaphuah

    I have been reading a lot about Yi Zhou since my Art History classes, who is a very fortunate and amazing artist.

    The secret to a good Asian skin is hydration and clear pores; the SKII Treatment Essence and I use the Origins Clear Improvement mask as well :D!


  • http://pinklemonincrystal.blogspot.com/ Pinklemonincrystal
  • sashi

    All right! that was a lot to read and I loved it. I appreciate reading her belief that it's good to try new things because even though I get the importance for the skin of a routine to see results, buying the same same product because that's what you have always used is boring! Keeping an open mind is the way to stay fresh. Her sense of humor is sweet.

  • A Reader

    I thought You Tube was censored in China. I'm surprised to learn that they have an "art director." What does this mean, exactly? Not beauty related, I know, but I would like to understand.

    I don't know what to think about her dad giving her a face mask at age 11. I would have been very hurt, but to each her own I suppose...

    • JC8

      It's not actually 'YouTube'. It's China's version of a 'YouTube'. Same concept, different thing. Same deal with Twitter.

    • Susan

      I think ITG was a little befuddled on this point, Tudou is a Chinese version of Youtube and not a Youtube festival. So her position is kind of a art director of the Chinese Youtube.

    • Guest

      Note specifically she said Chinese Youtube, 'Tudou'. It is essentially a video plaform in China equivalent to our version of Youtube. It's hugely popular throughout the country and slowly gaining more awareness around the world. You can easily google 'Tudou' or 'Weibo' (Chinese Twitter) to learn more.

  • http://twitter.com/Mirror_Reality Phil

    She's got some interesting things in that cabinet/sink of hers. I do have my doubts about using facial masks every single day and it's effect on your skin. Why not go for something a little heavier if she likes the deep hydration then?
    It is funny to see her dad buying her those expensive masks as she was only11. Beauty is something you start with at an early age it seems.


  • Fiftyfourgrams

    I like these interviews with people outside the beauty and fashion industries (though I like those too!)

  • http://www.thecuriouscameragirl.com/ TheCuriousCameraGirl

    The Clarins Blue Face Treatment Oil sounds amazing - I just got back from a ski trip and my face could use the extra moisture!


  • Madison

    I love all of these white bathrooms. I just purchased a ton of acrylic containers for mine. Can you say obsessed?


  • LisaC.

    I dig this lady's outfit and her mess of bottles on her sink! You can see her artist's eye in the seeming chaos... I'm so glad to meet Yi Zhou!

  • Raphaelle

    I LOVE Yi Zhou. Thanks for this ITV!


  • Jolie Jouel

    I love Clarins too! Great article and photos. Looks like real life vs. perfectly cleaned and staged :)


  • Guest

    So nice to have another woman of color on ITG! I love her perspective on art. Also glad she was able to make the most of her father's perfectionism.

  • HipSwap

    What an interesting person with clearly great taste! Her style, perspective, and passion are definitely inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.popcosmo.com/ PopCosmo

    Such a cute interview allowing us to witness her personality: dabbling, creativity, and authenticity! Love that she tries so many products and has fun with beauty, especially after starting so young. A SK-II mask at age 11! Wow, hard to imagine parents suggesting it. Such a unique perspective -- thanks for sharing.

  • chila

    Nice interview, and lovely photos.

  • Xeana

    A nice girl young woman. An interesting creative person!

    From http://www.xeanafashion.com

  • http://thefomergirlatbar.blogspot.com/ Alexis

    I love that her father introduced her to high end skincare...I don't see my husband doing any father-daughter facial masks time. I am just happy that he does the tea party thing with her.

    She sounds all kinds of awesome with the work she has done.


Clarins Blue Orchid Face Treatment Oil
Clarins 'HydraQuench' Cream-Mask
Clarins Eye Contour Gel
La Mer
Creme de la Mer
Mane 'n Tail
Mane 'n Tail Color Protect Shampoo
SK-II Facial Treatment Mask
Guerlain Idylle Eau de Parfum