Dr. Qin Huilan on Meeting Miuccia Prada and Walking Miu Miu’s Runway

There has long been a certain image associated with the archetypal “stylish woman.” But a Jackie O, Jane Birkin, or Audrey Hepburn type doesn’t reflect the diverse ways in which a woman can be considered chic today. And while the fashion industry has played its own role in bolstering these unfair beauty standards, over recent years, some brands have begun prioritizing diversity in their runway castings when it comes to race, age, body type, and gender. This past season saw many septuagenarians take on the runway—a reminder that a sense of style doesn’t expire with age.

Dr. Qin Huilan was one of those first-time models. A doctor by training, the Guangxi-born 70-year-old was asked to hit the runway for Miu Miu’s fall/winter 2024 show earlier this month in Paris, where she carried her brooch-covered wool coat like a professional. But Huilan is fairly new to the fashion game. Upon her retirement from medicine, she traded in a white coat for her son’s Prada jackets. Huilan’s style is colorful and androgynous (thanks to the many pieces borrowed from her son), but also feminine and playful. She gravitates toward Miu Miu and Prada while dabbling in Maison Margiela, Celine, and Marni. And on Instagram, Huilan shares her outfits with her 17,000 followers, adding nuggets of wisdom in the captions. The photos are joyful and inspiring—and they even caught the eye of Miuccia Prada herself, who requested that Huilan be cast in the fall 2024 show. After her whirlwind trip to Europe, Huilan is back at home with her husband of over 40 years, “letting everything take its course.” She chatted with W via e-mail about her relationship with clothes and her big moment at Paris Fashion Week.

Have you always been interested in fashion?

In fact, I don’t understand fashion, because I am a doctor and was busy in the hospital most of my life, so I gave up some pursuit of beauty. My son, who was an art major, started buying art magazines when he was in middle school, and I would read them when I was home. I liked the beautiful pictures—the clothes and the models. But actually, most of my clothes are from my son. Looking at Instagram, you can tell that most of the pieces are men’s clothes.

Do you take things from his closet often?

When he’s not at home, he doesn’t mind me going through his wardrobe and wearing his clothes. His men’s jackets seem to fit me perfectly. And that way, I save money and it’s environmentally friendly.

Why did you start posting on Instagram?

In 2022, my son invited me to travel to Shanghai, and I found that everybody in Shanghai is very fashionable. So I started trying different styles, and with encouragement from my son, I posted my first image. At the same time, it helps me learn about fashion from around the world.

Has working with your son on your Instagram brought the two of you closer?

Yes, this does bring us closer as mother and son. My son’s aesthetic is unique and imaginative—in my opinion, at least. I have always been proud of him and always believed in him. He gives me suggestions and helps me with styling.

How has your world changed since you started your Instagram account?

I’ve learned a lot of new ways to wear clothes, and I’ve been encouraged by my followers, which makes me want to keep doing this even more. I also want to encourage people who are confused at a certain period of time to keep on doing whatever they want to do.

Huilan on the Miu Miu runway.

Victor Boyko/Getty Images

Congrats on walking in the Miu Miu show. How did that come about?

I received a message from the team on Instagram. At first, I couldn’t believe it was real. It was like a dream. Several days later, after my invitation was confirmed, I still felt like it was a dream.

Was that your first time visiting Paris?

Yes, it was my first time in Europe. My son was unable to accompany me. To be honest, when you are in a foreign country and you don’t understand the language, even though everyone was very warm-hearted and helpful, you still instinctively feel lonely and scared. But I overcame it, and I think I did pretty well.

You did! What was it like to walk the runway?

Amazing! It was my first time walking on the runway, and I think I did a pretty good job, didn’t I?

And what was it like to meet Miuccia?

She is a legend. The first time I met Ms. Prada was in December last year, when she came to Pradasphere II in Shanghai, but that time I just looked at her from a distance. She was elegant and beautiful. During the fitting [for the show], I saw her again, as elegant as ever, and I greeted her sincerely and told her that I admired her very much. Out of my duty [as a doctor], I asked about her physical condition. She is healthy. She also told me that she likes how I style the Prada clothes.

Now, onto our Style Notes questions. How would you describe your personal style?

Free and undefined. I dare to try things.

What was your style like when you were a teenager?

When I was young, I dressed more conventionally, usually concisely and comfortably. After all, my work required me to wear a white coat every day. Now that I am retired, I like to combine colors. I think every woman is born with a love for beauty and color, and I am no exception.

You seem to gravitate toward Miu Miu and Prada designs? Why is that?

At first, it was because my son had a collection of Prada clothes. Later, I gradually got to know Prada and Miu Miu through him. Their designs never seem to go out of style. I can still wear clothes from a decade ago—so they stand the test of time. My favorite collections are Prada spring/summer 2010 and Miu Miu spring/summer 2013.

Are there any other brands you love?

I’ve been really into Saint Laurent recently. It’s so modern and cool, but I know I can’t wear it. My waistline won’t allow me.

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