Gatsby’s Influence Reaches Chinese Fashion

Mainland Marketing Campaigns Follow U.S. Fashion Playbook

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Chinese models Du Juan and Sui He pose in a Great Gatsby-style shoot for Vogue China. (Vogue China)

U.S. blockbuster The Great Gatsby has inspired a plethora of marketing opportunities for luxury brands in the United States, including a full-scale New York costume exhibit from Prada, which designed part of the wardrobe for the film, and an ad campaign from Brooks Brothers that met with its fair share of ridicule for misuse of a famous quote from the book. However, it’s not just U.S. companies that see the film as a marketing opportunity–Gatsby-esque fashions have been cropping up in China as well.

Evan Osnos at the New Yorker managed to locate an online ad for a relatively inexpensive Chinese shirt company which takes a page from Brooks Brothers, asserting, “as soon as the protagonist, Gatsby, obtained fame and fortune, he went out and bought beautiful, brightly colored shirts that transformed his image in Daisy’s eyes. It’s true: put on a flower-print shirt, and it will show you the door to a whole new world!”

On the more luxe end of the spectrum, Vogue China is heavy on the Gatsby content, with a photo spread, movie-inspired jewelry slideshow, and “behind-the-scenes” footage. The magazine has put its own Chinese spin on a Great Gatsby-style photo shoot which takes after a similar version in Vogue‘s U.S. magazine. Featuring Prada and other brands that costumed the film, including Tiffany, the shoot dresses Chinese supermodels Du Juan and Sui He in Gatsby-inspired 1920s attire as they pose in decidedly modern locations of Beijing including Wangfujing’s high-end shopping area and the shiny Sanlitun complex. The magazine refers to the shoot as a “modern deduction of that resplendent, incomparable golden decade,” while also pointing out that the clothes are a modern take on classic styles. For marketing these looks in China, demonstrating the outfits as “modern” appears to be just as important as showing off their vintage appeal.

Modern Beijing locations such as Wangfujing and Sanlitun were featured as backgrounds on Vogue China's Great Gatsby shoot. (Vogue China)

Modern Beijing locations such as Wangfujing and Sanlitun were featured as backgrounds on Vogue China’s Great Gatsby shoot. (Vogue China)

Neiman Marcus also hopes to use the film to up its culture quotient with Chinese readers, using its Chinese-language blog to discuss the designers featured. The post also shows a spread from U.S. Vogue‘s Gatsby photo shoot, which features similar designers but is set against a much more historic-looking background. Meanwhile, editorial fashion site Rayli.com had a slideshow devoted to Gatsby-style 1920s items that aspiring flappers could go out and purchase. Chinese-language fashion site Bomoda also recently sent out advice on how to recreate looks from the movie.

Response on Chinese social media to the trend has been positive, yet limited. The U.S. Vogue Gatsby photo shoot from Neiman Marcus made its way to microblogging platform Weibo, where it received praise from a segment of Chinese fashionistas, who raved about the clothes with effusive praise. In some cases, they even said the outfits were so beautiful, they made them want to cry.

The film is only being shown in Hong Kong and not on the mainland, despite a sizable amount of attention being granted by Chinese fashion sites to appearances by Chinese actresses Zhang Ziyi and Fan Bingbing at its Cannes debut. However, it is not entirely uncommon for well-read Chinese consumers to know of the story. According to commentators, the story is not without cultural resonance in China despite being set in 1920s New York. Osnos states, “to Chinese readers, who have read Gatsby (in translation or in English) for decades, the story has acquired new layers of relevance in recent years.”

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It is unclear how much Gatsby-esque styles resonate in China. (Vogue China)

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