updated 16 May 2012, 20:08
user id password
Tue, Apr 03, 2012
China Daily/Asia News Network
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
A-list boredom with China's fashion shows
by Gan Tian

A-list celebrities are coming out in force at fashion shows. Too bad none of them are showing up to catch a glimpse of the Chinese runway.

It started in 2009, when internationally acclaimed actress Gong Li attended a Louis Vuitton show during Paris Fashion Week.

That same year, compatriot Zhang Ziyi, star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, sat in the audience for Milan Fashion Week and was later chosen as the first Asian to endorse Emporio Armani.

Last year, actress Fan Bingbing was fetching at Elie Saab's show at Paris Fashion Week, wearing a shiny camisole around her head.

Last month, five up and coming Chinese stars raised a few eyebrows in their evening gowns during Paris Fashion Week, sitting side by side for the Christian Dior show.

As Chinese A-list celebrities show a growing interest in overseas runways, they appear to be less passionate about domestic fashion shows, as evidenced by the recent China Fashion Week, the nation's pinnacle fashion event, in Beijing.

The biggest star who showed up at China Fashion Week was Shawn Yue, a Hong Kong-based actor who appeared in the front row for local menswear Mark Fairwhale.

Mainland actor Ren Quan and singer/actress Ai Dai were other lesser known stars seated beside the runway for Guangzhou-based Cabbeen.

"A-list celebrities go abroad to attend international fashion shows for attracting attention from the world's fashion industry, but they come to China Fashion Weeks only when a fashion company has an advertising campaigns with them. That is to say, they are here to earn a certain mount," said Ao Yanming, who has been organizing fashion shows for local companies for the past decade.

Take TV star Jia Nailiang as an example.

He was invited to the Red Dragonfly show because, according to an anonymous source, the label paid handsomely for his presence.

Interestingly, his girlfriend Li Xiaolu, a well-known TV actress, did not turn up for China Fashion Week although she had attended Paris Fashion Week, a trip she paid on her own.

According to the source, each brand has a budget dedicated to paying celebrities to attend fashion shows in China.

An actor may charge as much as 200,000 to 300,000 yuan (S$39,800 to S$59,700) depending on the type of work they are signed to do.

"China's fashion industry is too young to attract important figures and celebrities to come to China Fashion Week," Ao said.

But it's not just celebrities who are a bit ho-hum toward China's fashion shows. Editors of China's fashion publications have also shown mild interest in local fashion shows.

When approached by China Daily, Gao Chenxuan, a 25-year-old fashion editor for style website who had just returned to Beijing after a trip to Paris and New York, was straightforward in his reason why he didn't frequent China Fashion Week.

"There is nothing (that) attracts me," said Gao, rolling his eyes.

So who is showing up for China Fashion Week year in and year out?

Li Jing, who was in charge of arranging the guest seats for Guangzhou-based Cabbeen this year, said front row seats mostly went to important clients, agents and dealers who flew to Beijing from second- and third-tier cities.

Unlike foreign fashion labels that operate their stores directly, most of the Chinese fashion labels have dealers nationwide who pay for a label's clothing.

Thus, China's fashion shows are akin to a bash for VIP members.

"This is a special business model in China's fashion labels. In this way, the shows are not that 'attractive', but they can generate profits in a more convenient way," said Yang Jian, secretary-general of China Fashion Week Committee, who added that some dealers do place orders immediately after a show.

The front seats are also reserved for managers from major shopping malls.

On Li Jing's list, representatives from shopping malls such as Zhongyou, Grand Pacific and APM are invited by labels who are eager to build a solid relationship.

Internet retailers are also becoming part of the VIP crowd as the wave of e-commerce sweeps across China.

"E-commerce is the new focus for fashion labels," said Li, who added that Cabbeen has invited representatives from and, China's top online shopping websites.

readers' comments

Copyright © 2012 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.