“I like making girls look nice and I think every girl deserves to have one really timeless design.”

Now on the other side of the camera, we chat with Corallin Cao about her modeling career, DJing and starting her own swimwear line.

Photography and interview by Lauren Engel

So you were born in Chengdu?
Ya Chengu, Sichuan, where the panda is from!

How were you like growing up?
Actually I was really shy and also a spoilt kid. A bit like a princess (laughs). I liked singing and dancing and watching movie. I went to acting school after highschool and after school I used to watch movies all the time. Sometimes I wouldn´t go to class and just stay in my room and watch movies all day and night.

So you have always been interested in arts, was that something you learned from your parents?
I think it was not related to my parents, even though my father really loved music. He is really talented. My mom works really hard as well and is a very independent woman, but I think art is just something I started liking by myself.

Growing up in Chengdu did you always feel like you wanted to see the world?
I like Chengdu especially the food but I don’t feel like I want to move back because I want to see the world. I love to travel, that’s why I came to Hong Kong in 2009. I started to travel a lot when I was 15 and now I’m off to Saigon, Vietnam around a year and a half. I never thought I would be living in Vietnam but it’s very interesting, so different.

Have you always been interested in acting?
Not really, it was something really random. I was not good at maths so I wanted to go to learn something about art. I’ve been learning singing since I was a kid and dancing so it was easy to get into art school. After that I just signed with a model agency and moved to Hong Kong.

Were your parents always supportive of you doing acting?
Ya always. They support me whatever I do.

That’s not common in China right?
I don’t think so. Especially my mom, she’s very open minded and I am very happy about it. I have a very close relationship with my parents especially with my mom.

How long was acting school?
Four years. After the third year I came to Hong Kong by myself and then I’ve been searching on the internet for a good agency and got signed with Calcarries at the beginning.

Did you always want to be a model?
Not really (laughs) actually I don’t like to make plans. When I was young my mom always took me to the photo studio. Every year on my birthday she would bring me there to take some photo just to keep some memories. The photographer always put a picture of me on the window (laughs).

When you first started modeling here did you do anything besides that?
I used to love to go out at that time because I love music. That time I was more into disco and deep house.

Was it difficult for you to initially start modeling here?
It was really difficult for me because I’m very short. I’m only 168cm. I never did any shows and I only do commercial and beauty, so I only work with my face.

Did you ever get any agency comment that you felt uncomfortable about?
Not really. I think I’ve been very lucky with my modeling career. Only the first year because I had no idea about it before moving to Hong Kong. I’m actually quite slow because people from Chengdu are very chilled. So I remember one time I was late for a casting and my agent got really angry. Since then I have always been on time. I think Hong Kong changed me a lot.

After you did your first years of modeling what happened?
I think I have learned so much since the first year. And I slowly started to shoot myself. I remember I just randomly found a camera from my father. It was a film camera and I started to take pictures of models from my agency.

You never had this desire before?
No (laughs)

You’re so talented!
(Laughs) After I started shooting more and more I started to make my website two years ago and to do some editorial for magazines, some lookbooks. But then I stopped.

Did you ever have a goal for photography or was it just for fun?
I don’t think so. I actually just tried it out and I worked few times with jobs for clients, where they would tell me afterwards that you have to use this light and so on. This is when I realized that I don’t enjoy it because I just like to shoot however I like.

How did you teach yourself? Even film and photoshop is quite difficult to pick up
I actually don’t use much photoshop. I like more the raw, natural look and I love black and white and I like the dust from the film camera. And I love to style people. Everything form the accessories, clothes, are from myself.

But you never thought of becoming a stylist?
No, I cannot do everything (laughs)

After few years of photography what were you into?
Then I moved to Vietnam like a year and a half ago and I started to DJ.

How did you teach yourself DJing?
In the beginning I was quite lazy and I would play just one track then the one after and never really mixed. After three months I started mixing but was not so good with it back then; now it’s getting better but I should practice more. I’m not playing vinyl, only CDs which is easier.

How did you get your first show?
Actually my friend has an underground club in Saigon where I am living right now. It’s called Observatory. That’s where I started.

You never thought to DJ in Hong Kong?
I did one time, but anyhow I would answer to that: Maybe later, I’m not good enough to do that yet.

How did you get into deep and techno music?
I think I was always more into deep and dark, not only music, also films. My clothes are always black, dark colour. I don’t know I think it’s just personal taste.

When you moved to Saigon, you were DJing and what else are you doing now?
I am also doing my own project, a swimwear line called Cora Swim.

How did you come up with the idea?
I’m a beach girl, I love to go to the beach and I love beautiful stuff. I like making girls look nice and I think every girl deserves to have one really timeless design. Very basic and simple. But with good quality fabric of course.

What were you inspired by?
About four months ago I went to Bali and checked out almost all the bikini stores just to get more ideas. Also from Instagram; there are a lot of Australian swimwear brands which are really cool.

But you never learned drawing or fashion design?
I think everything is possible in Vietnam, it´s just a magic place. So yes, I randomly drew something, found the fabric and went to a tailor and after a few days I got a sample, then started looking for factories. My first collection comes with four different styles and each style has five colours.

When’s your next collection?
End of January.

Is it difficult for you to get your name out there?
I think in the beginning it’s only friends who share it with their other friends mainly on social media.

Do you promote a lot on social media?
Actually I don´t, but I think I should do that more.

What are your next steps?
I think the next sixth months to one year I’ll stay in Vietnam and see how it goes.

What do you want to be remembered for?
(Laughs) Maybe for making girls look pretty.