What Happened: After months of anticipation, the reboot of The Little Mermaid starring Halle Bailey as the titular mermaid has finally arrived in theaters. The latest live-action adaptation of a beloved Disney animated film offers a potent escapist fantasy just in time for summer. And not just on screen, but in our wardrobes.
Leading up to the release of the film, “mermaidcore” has emerged as a catchy trend, with shopping roundups, resort season runways and social media posts clamoring for scalloped hems, ruffled dresses and aquatic-inspired accessories. But not everyone is falling for the movie’s siren song.
The Jing Take: The mermaid figure offers up an attractive canvas to fashion brands. In February this year, Diesel crafted a custom, logo-covered mermaid tail for Bailey’s cover of The Face.
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Emerging designers have also taken inspiration from life under the sea, like Vietnam’s Fancì, whose ethereal, ruffled dresses are already beloved by the likes of Dua Lipa and Doja Cat. There’s also Turkey’s Siedrés, whose fanciful pieces conjure up a ’70s Mediterranean escape, not to mention Albanian designer Valdrin Sahiti, who created a metallic blue gown for Bailey’s Los Angeles premiere of The Little Mermaid.
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But despite The Little Mermaid’s place in the classic Disney canon, the new iteration hasn’t connected with all global viewers. The live-action version had a disappointing return its first weekend in China, taking in just $2.5 million.
The casting of Black actress and singer Halle Bailey in the iconic Ariel role has been a polarizing choice for some viewers. The movie has been applauded for offering representation to young Black girls who rarely see themselves on screen, and Bailey has earned praise for her performance in the CGI-heavy movie.
But in China, critics see the actress as a concession to political correctness rather than an authentic representation of the character. While China’s top movie rating website Douban awarded the 1989 animated feature a score of 8.4 out of 10 based on 96,000 reviews, the live-action adaptation received a rating of only 5.3.
Subsequently, mermaidcore has remained mostly a Western phenomenon. While the term is popular across TikTok and Instagram, mermaidcore lacks traction on Chinese social channels (though it’d be hard not to see hints of mermaidcore in Chinese actress Fan Bingbing’s pearl-encrusted scalloped blue gown at this year’s Cannes Film Festival).
But even in the US, where The Little Mermaid opened at number one at the box office, mermaidcore’s days may be numbered. The fashion trend is just one of many spurred by Hollywood hits, like the “quiet luxury” look boosted by the recently concluded TV show Succession or the “Barbiecore” aesthetic that took off last summer in response to Greta Gerwig’s highly-anticipated Barbie movie.
Once the buzz around the film dies down, audiences will be searching for the next “core” to make a splash on their feeds.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.