“Can you believe she looks that good?” whispered an assistant. “She just got off the plane this morning.”

When you’re the world’s most recognized Chinese supermodel, you probably get used to the Shanghai-New York commute. But the surprising thing was that when Liu Wen arrived looking impossibly fresh at Zac Posen’s midtown studio straight from the airport, she admitted that it was exuberance—as opposed to a sheet mask, or a facial spritz on the plane—that had her so ready-to-go. “When you love what you do and you’re excited about where you’re going and who you’re seeing, that keeps you energized,” she said. “But, I mean, makeup does help a lot. It takes teamwork.”

Wen was, after all, quite excited for the evening’s plans: attending the 71st Tony Awards as Posen’s date. She’s been invited to the affair several times, but has always been unavailable for one reason or another. “I love musicals,” she said. “I love them because I’m a horrible singer. Very, very bad. But when you see a musical, and you hear that talent and passion, the energy is so special. You almost want to join in. In China, the theater is different; more like traditional Chinese opera. So when I came to New York the first show I saw was Hair, and I was hooked. Newsies, The Lion King, Matilda, I love it all.”

So when Posen asked to accompany him to theater’s biggest night, she leapt at the opportunity, and flew in from Shanghai for the occasion. “It’s so special to be going with Zac tonight,” she said, “I wore a Zac dress to the Met Gala four years ago, and that is still one of my favorite red carpet moments. The big, green one. Today, my Chinese fans and friends still talk about that dress. And when I did the fitting earlier today, it was the same tailor and she said, ‘Do you remember me?’ and I said, ‘Of course yes!’”

Posen whirled in through the door while Wen sat perched in the makeup chair. Within seconds he had tossed off his sunglasses, retrieved a velvet bowtie from his office, and quipped about how it might not be the best sartorial choice for a muggy June night. “But it just goes with the dress so well,” he said with a smile, holding the bowtie up to the gown he has selected for Wen to wear. “Yeah, it does, don’t you see?”

It’s a giant confection of a dress, made from fine mesh with “the most exquisite lacework,” according to the designer.

Getting ready with model Liu Wen and designer Zac Posen before the 71st Annual Tony Awards in New York City.

Photo by Alex Hodor-Lee for W Magazine.

Taking a seat, he rattled off jokes while Wen finished hair and makeup. “You know, Liu, you don’t have to wear a heel,” he said, a nod to their height disparity. “Just wear a flat. Or do what Glenn Close does, and wear a sneaker. Nobody’s going to see it under the skirt anyways!”

As the two catch up, their conversation eventually makes its way back to the theater, and how excited they are for the night’s festivities. “I was so impressed with Dear Evan Hansen,” said Posen. “It was contemporary, simply staged, and hard subject matter—things I think are challenging to do good musical theater with. But it was incredible. Present Laughter was another good one. And everyone needs to see Sunset Boulevard.”

The facility with which Posen speaks about theater comes from literally a lifetime of catching Broadway shows, about fourteen years of attending the Tony Awards, and even a stint or two at theater camp as a child. “I’ve been going to Broadway my entire life,” he continued. “It’s one of the great things that make New York incredible. And in my whole time going to the theater I have never seen such energy the way Broadway has on the streets right now. I mean, every night, the streets are buzzing with excitement around performers and productions and it’s exciting.”

Getting ready with model Liu Wen and designer Zac Posen before the 71st Annual Tony Awards in New York City.

Photo by Alex Hodor-Lee for W Magazine.

The car arrives downstairs, and in the blink of an eye, Wen has pulled the massive gown over her head. “I feel like a princess,” she said, looking at herself in the mirror. “You see, Zac is the perfect date for the Tony’s because his dresses are drama. Wearing a Zac dress is a form of theater. Plus wherever you go with him, you never get bored.”

The duo’s chemistry is also undeniable—all giggles, smiles, and twirls. They glide down to the elevator arm-in-arm, pull Wen’s massive dress into it, then head downstairs to the street.

“Look at her, she’s a star,” said Posen, hopping into the car and heading off into the very glamorous night.

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