August 21, 2015

Louis Vuitton brings together two rising stars in the world of fashion and modelling. Margaret Zhang does what she does best and goes behind the lens to shoot Fernanda, the girl with the pink hair, from Louis Vuitton’s recent Cruise 2016 show.

Story and photos by Margaret Zhang, courtesy Louis Vuitton.

For her petite frame, Fernanda Hin Lin Ly is hard to miss – a cotton candy crown bobbing towards me through the lush oasis that was The Parker, Palm Springs. Rounding the corner, there appeared the choker, crop top, miniskirt, high socks and flatforms that made her @warukatta alias 30.4K Instagram-famous.

Closing Louis Vuitton’s Cruise 2016 show will also do that for you.

While we put together her looks, Fernanda earnestly explained how a UTS architecture student found herself in Palm Springs, 24 hours out from walking her second runway exclusive for the fashion house.

She’d been on holiday with family in New York, coincidentally around the same time as when other models were descending on the city for Fashion Week. Her agency had her see casting director Ashley Brokaw, who became enamoured with her 5’7” of slight limbs and pink hair. Three weeks later in Paris, @warukatta set industry tongues wagging as she exclusively marched Vuitton’s Fall/Winter 2015 show.

She hadn’t been back home to Sydney since then – instead flying back and forth between New York and Paris, shooting covers and editorial stories with that upper echelon of photographers, stylists, and makeup artists that even established models could only dream of. She’d spent all of two weeks back in Paris fitting for the Cruise show before landing in Palm Springs. “I think I’ve tried on every outfit in the collection!”

And now, here we were, sweating it out in the desert darling of Old Hollywood and Coachella, chasing each other through a green maze. You can only have an hour to shoot, Louis Vuitton had said – she needs to go back into fittings.

Our shoot took something of an Alice in Wonderland turn. With every garden we stumbled upon came another Vuitton producer checking if Fernanda was “Alright, darling? Do you need anything?” accompanied by some other surreal show-related sight. In a clearing scattered with hammocks, a bronze goddess languidly absorbed the desert sun. “That’s Malaika,” Fernanda whispered, wide eyes wider. Indeed, Malaika Firth of regular runway fame no less. “Hey,” she waved as we scurried past. At one point, we inadvertently set up a shot on the front lawn of Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière, who emerged from his lodgings and Bonjour-ed our rose-haired heroine. “Looks good” – he gave Fernanda’s Pre-Fall dress a onceover, before continuing on his way.

Such is Fernanda Ly’s new world: courted by the industry elite as The Next Big Thing, perhaps with hopes of her following the lucrative career trajectories of other quirky-tressed fashion darlings — Soo Joo Park, Charlotte Free and Chloe Norgaard, for instance. But, unlike the aforementioned formidably cool, after-dark, rock-and-roll personas, @warrukata is more sweet and unassuming in her freckles, doe eyes, and penchant for choc-chip cookies. There are no airs and graces, no sour edge of newfound celebrity, as so often happens with the social media supermodels of today. Fernanda is intelligent, low maintenance, hardworking, unfiltered, and unapologetically Australian in her mannerisms.

From Louis Vuitton’s perspective, she’s a breath of fresh air from the industry’s cookie-cutter standards. From a photographer’s point of view, she’s a dream to shoot – easygoing, impossibly photogenic, and acutely aware of the styling and surroundings. For me, it’s all of the above more than Fernanda’s hair dye (Manic Panic Cotton Candy Pink, if you wanted to know) that will make her a fixture to the fashion radar, well beyond the mere foreseeable future.

Architecture will just have to wait.

Follow Fernanda online at
Follow Margarent Zhang online at