Influencers around the globe are disrupting the fashion business and transforming fashion week rules like never before. Powered by millions of followers, these roving entrepreneurs can serve as alternative marketing channels for brands by helping them increase awareness, move product, and stay relevant in a lightning-fast, social media-powered news cycle.
This past New York Fashion Week, Jing Daily accepted an invitation to shadow one of these influencers—the Shanghai-based fashion stylist known as Leaf Greener—for one day, getting an insider’s view of the hectic schedule of one of these unique players during one of the world’s biggest fashion weeks.
A renowned fashion influencer and stylist from China, Leaf Greener was listed by The Business of Fashion as one of the people shaping the fashion industry back in 2013 and has accumulated over 300k loyal followers on Instagram. She served as the Senior Fashion Editor for Elle China between 2008 and 2014 and has collaborated with a number of the industry’s leading figures like Karl Lagerfeld, David Burton, and Tommy Ton.
Unlike most local-born Chinese influencers, Leaf Greener has a wealth of international experience that’s helped her better understand Western brands thirsting for knowledge about the China luxury market and the country’s consumers. So it’s not surprising that her fashion guidance is so often sought out by esteemed brands like Christian Dior, Prada, and Louis Vuitton.
Scroll down for a behind-the-scenes peek at a day in the life of this Chinese fashion influencer during New York Fashion Week:
On a rain-soaked New York Fashion Week Sunday, I met Leaf where she was staying—the Gramercy Park Hotel—at 10:30 am sharp so we could kick off a tightly packed day on time.
Leaf showed up in a Rosetta Getty jacket delivered to her by the brand the day before. She told the driver to head to our first stop, which, not coincidentally, was Rosetta Getty’s Spring 2019 Ready-to-Wear downtown presentation. She carried two bags with her, one monogrammed logo canvas shopping bag by Christian Dior and one bright yellow leather circle crossbody bag from Mansur Gavriel, both of which were gifts that each had the name “Leaf” engraved on them.
“Rosetta Getty and I have known each other for over three years, but we finally met each other last year when we were both on vacation on a small Mexican island,” Leaf said casually. “We recognized each other and had a fun time.”
One of the biggest challenges for influencers during NYFW is how to get into each show on time, as they’re scattered throughout the city inside ever-changing venues. By the time when we arrived at Getty’s studio, there was already a big crowd gathering. Everyone was mingling and talking while several models showcased the new season’s products. A guide recognized Leaf, greeted us, and introduced her to the latest collection. Later on, Rosetta Getty showed up and the two friends caught up. Their conversation started with the season’s designs and ended with Leaf’s views on China’s luxury and fashion market—the multi-billion-dollar market that brands are eager to break into.
Our stay at the presentation lasted, in total, only about 20 minutes. “I have to make time for Rosetta’s presentation today, and now is probably the best time for me to come, as the rest of my day is packed with shows and events,” confessed Leaf.
After leaving the studio, we headed straight to our next destination: The Park Avenue Armory on the Upper East Side, where the German luxury brand Escada was debuting a new collection being billed as a “rebirth” for the brand. En route to the venue, Leaf decided to stop by the hotel to change her look. She came back wearing head-to-toe Escada.
“Attending New York Fashion Week this year was a last-minute decision,” she said. “I came only because Escada invited me to their first show here.”
Escada recently hired a new creative director, Niall Sloan, with the goal of revamping the label. As a part of its efforts to break from the brand’s past and exude a fresh image, Escada threw a star-studded runway show for its first New York Fashion Week by paying a coterie of celebrities and influencers—fashion fans like Kate Bosworth, Amber Valletta, Nikki Reed, and Olivia Palermo—to attend and support the show.
As a member of that select group, Leaf’s trip was fully covered by the brand. In exchange, she had to wear complete Escada outfits at the show and post photos and videos on the social media platforms Instagram, Weibo, and WeChat.
After the Escada show, we ran to three consecutive runway shows—Mansur Gavriel, Tibi, and Sies Marjan—that were staged in different neighborhoods around the city. That meant Leaf needed to give up her lunch window just when jet lag was hitting her hardest.
“Well, fashion weeks are always like this,” sighed Leaf. “You don’t want to upset brands who invite you, otherwise, who is going to work with you next time? And this wasn’t the worst. I used to go to all the big four fashion weeks [New York, London, Milan, and Paris] and there was just no time for sleeping.”
Being a fashion influencer today is still a highly coveted job for many, but the level of competition for this specialized career intensifies as more and more budding influencers invade the scene. Meanwhile, brands have less budget for paying attendees than ever before, and with a new wave of Chinese fashion influencers attempting to climb up on the international stage, Leaf clearly feels the urge to stay one step ahead.
“[At Elle China], you are kind of being protected by these big names,” said Leaf, “but when you’re working on your own, it requires you to work extra hard to make yourself worthwhile for brands.”
One part that perhaps makes Leaf stand out amongst the crowd is her frequent support to Chinese fashion designers. She said in recent seasons she has prioritized to wear designs by Chinese designers when attending fashion events abroad so as to help “Designed by China” become more visible to an international audience.