Chinese celebrities such as Yao Chen, Zhang Zilin, and Li Chen are no strangers to the front rows of New York Fashion Week (NYFW), but the strong presence of Chinese celebrities, models, and design during this recent season showcased just how quickly Chinese fashion figures are rising on the international scene.
According to Chinese media, a record number of Chinese celebrities sat in the front row of shows this season, which gave the American brands they viewed a chance to gain free publicity in Chinese media. According to fashion site Yoka, a total of 15 Chinese stars were present at shows by designers such as Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Tadashi Shoji, Tory Burch, Vera Wang, Kate Spade, Diane Von Furstenburg, DKNY, and Helmut Lang. Actress and singer Bai Bing (白冰) was seen at Vivienne Tam, Diane von Furstenberg, Helmut Lang, and Kate Spade, while Tadashi Shoji invited four Chinese celebrities, including Jike Juanyi (吉克隽逸), Zeng Li (曾黎), Liu Meiren (刘美人), and Wei Chen (魏晨). Many of these appearances were facilitated by celebrity marketing companies such as China-based MGI Entertainment and Huayi Brothers, which both sent celebrities on behalf of fashion brands.
The publicity gained from the presence of a Chinese celebrity at a show is not only likely to be extremely profitable in the China market for designers now, but will be even more lucrative down the road considering the fact that China’s apparel market is predicted to reach RMB1.1 trillion by 2016.
For wealthy Chinese non-celebrities who wanted to experience the New York glamour up-close, a whirlwind RMB250,000 (about US$40,000) tour scheduled by Chinese luxury travel firm Highlife Asia gave them the once-in-a-season opportunity. “Wealthy Chinese fashionistas want to emulate celebrities like Yao Chen by attending New York Fashion Week,” said Highlife Asia CEO Mark Byrne of the trip, which offered a seven-night stay at the Peninsula, dining experiences at restaurants such as Jean-Georges, and attendance to five runway shows including Tadashi Shoji and Brandon Sun. The high-fashion exposure also inspired high spending, according to the Wall Street Journal, which quoted one tour leader as stating that “ a few have over-shopped and need more luggage.”
On the runways, the growing international presence of Chinese models was also apparent. Just prior to NYFW, Forbes revealed that supermodel Liu Wen had become the first Chinese model to make the world’s highest-paid list, and she subsequently walked in a bevy of shows including Oscar de la Renta, Proenza Schouler, Anna Sui, Derek Lam, DKNY, Rag & Bone, Michael Kors, Diane von Furstenberg, and Carolina Hererra. For just a small sample of the many designers featuring multiple Chinese models in their shows, Fei Fei Sun and Xiao Wen Ju also walked Anna Sui’s runway, Oscar de la Renta also featured Tian Yi, Marc by Marc Jacobs also featured Tian Yi and Fei Fei Sun, and Diane von Furstenberg included Ming Xi, Fei Fei Sun, and He Sui.
For Chinese elements in the clothes themselves, New York-based Chinese designer Vivienne Tam utilized the idea of the “deconstructed qipao” as her inspiration for her S/S 2014 collection. In addition, multi-brand Chinese show Fashion Shenzhen was also a part of NYFW for the first time ever after previously taking part at London Fashion Week for the last five years. Also celebrating the rise of Chinese fashion design was charity gala Chinese Fashion Night, which honored Vivienne Tam and featured a presentation by couture designer Guo Pei. Hosted by Yue Sai-Kan, the event charged $30,000 a table with proceeds going to an fund to support emerging Chinese designers, meaning that in the future, we might be seeing the world’s fashionistas just as eager about attending China Fashion Week as they are about New York and London.
Look below for more photos of Chinese models on the NYFW runways:
Angela Hou and Oujia Wang contributed to this report.