2011 Trend Watch: Fashion Celebs Personally Making the Scene in Beijing and Shanghai?

    As Belgian-American fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg plans her strategy to expand in China, a slew of high-profile designers may follow suit if her fusion of fashion, art, and celebrity succeeds.
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Fashion

    Diane von Furstenberg: “I’d Like To Sell Every Chinese A T-Shirt”#

    In the midst of a recent trip to Beijing, Belgian-American fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, spoke to the New York Times about her plans for and interest in China. It is no surprise that her DVF brand is looking to expand past the two stores already open in Shanghai and Beijing, as China remains the fastest growing luxury consumer market, with its citizens spending over 6.5 billion US Dollars on luxury goods in 2010. But how an individual designer with a namesake label approaches the Chinese market may be different from a larger brand name’s approach--particularly if the designer in question is a celebrity in her own right.

    The New York Times article on von Furstenberg is laden with high-profile names: media tycoons

    Wendi and Rupert Murdoch#

    and her own husband

    Barry Diller#

    , American artist

    Chuck Close#

    , Chinese media tycoon

    Hong Huang#

    , and Chinese artists

    Hai Bo#


    Zhang Huan#

    are all mentioned. Often described as a globe-trotting trendsetter, von Furstenberg has expertly grabbed her share of the media spotlight since the heyday of Studio 54. So it seems natural for her to dive headfirst into the elite China scene, as the Times article reveals. Her strategy goes beyond extending the DVF retail footprint. Instead, she is carefully crafting a personal image that draws creative verve from the art, fashion, and celebrity scenes in China and internationally. The idea, of course, is that in the minds of Chinese consumers, this personal elan will extend to the DVF label and products.

    The New York Times sets von Furstenberg prominently in a 798 district art gallery, posing her under an impressive new work by Zhang Huan. She and her staff discuss “Journey of a Dress,” a traveling retrospective that gives von Furstenberg and her career museum-level treatment, combining sketches, patterns, and other items from her personal archives with original portraits by the likes of Andy Warhol and Helmut Newton. The show will travel to Beijing in April, opening in a space created by the Pace Gallery in the 798 art district. Her week-long sojourn in Beijing, as covered by the New York Times, included visits to artist studios, many of whom the Pace Gallery commissioned to create their own portraits of von Furstenberg for inclusion in the show. The article caught her as she and her staff debated throwing a “Red Ball” evening gala--possibly at Zhang Huan’s French restaurant in Shanghai--intended to dazzle not only in itself but in the international celebrity star-power it could draw.

    If, as the Times observes, her “New Year’s resolution was to get known in China,” von Furstenberg is pulling the right strings to connect her with the elite in China, constructing a scene of media titans and artists, both Chinese and American, around her. Hong Huang, a close friend and a popular media figure, publisher, and blogger, is translating von Furstenberg’s autobiography, “Diane: A Signature Life.” The translation of her life story, as well as the gallery exhibition, will set up the pedigree for her fashion line, based on her own celebrity and that of her friends.

    Though she’s among the most high-profile individuals to set her sights on China in 2011, von Furstenberg is not the only one. According to WWD, French-born designer Catherine Malandrino--who got her Stateside start years ago designing for DVF--was also smitten by the possibilities on a recent trip to Beijing. “You can’t really imagine what is going on there, especially coming from America, where women are very price conscious, focused on sales and finding off-price merchandise,” she was quoted as saying. “There, the customer is totally into luxury and designers. They understand the brands, style and fashion.”

    2011 Trend Watch#

    : With von Furstenberg planning a major celebrity splash with her April exhibition opening and book publication, and with Malandrino eyeing the market, 2011 could see more individual designers converted into China enthusiasts. If it succeeds in winning over Chinese consumers, Von Furstenberg’s fusion of fashion, art, and celebrity could become the preferred approach for stylish, high-profile designers looking to make a personal mark on the Beijing and Shanghai scenes.

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