Additional reporting by Yiling Pan
Back in 2011, Kate Middleton married British royal Prince William in an iconic dress by British designer Sarah Burton. Burton is the creative director for luxury fashion house Alexander McQueen. Just a few hours after the wedding, hundreds of replicas of Middleton's gown were available on Chinese e-commerce site Taobao. This weekend, it was Prince Harry's turn to wed, but his Bride's dress caused hardly a ripple of praise among China's online fashionistas.
Meghan Markle wore a classic tailored Givenchy gown for her walk down the aisle, created by British designer Clare Waight Kelle. Following the Saturday morning ceremony, the topic of the royal wedding was trending on Chinese social media, with over 100 million viewers and 48,000 discussions on Weibo at the time of publishing.
However, the majority of Chinese discussion centered on users' disapproval of Markle's choice of dress. Many compared Markle's Givenchy gown to the gown wore by Kate Middleton, and determined that Middleton's was far more elegant and sophisticated. One Weibo user commented, "It is Givenchy Haute couture! How come it looks so tacky on her?" with another stating, "Compared to Kate Middleton's, her gown doesn't look special or spectacular at all."
Prince Harry, 33, is a former Army officer and Markle, 36, is best known for her role in the US TV legal drama Suits. Markle's popularity in China has been muted compared to that of her now brother-in-law's wife Kate, who has been praised in the East for her Asian-inspired fashion choices, and "stunning' red dresses worn to banquets in China.
Gossip on Chinese social media prior to the wedding focused on Markle's turbulent relationship with her father, with Chinese users deeming Markle unfit to represent the royal family. Kate Middleton, on the other hand, has long been praised by Chinese citizens, for representing the "true, elegant spirit of the British Royal family." After this weekend's wedding, one Chinese netizen commented, "Markle is pretty, but not pretty enough to marry a Prince."
Some Chinese online users did defend Markle and her choice of Givenchy gown, with one saying, "Markle is beautiful in her own way. She is real and kind. There is no need to compare her to Middleton."
As of yet, no replica designs of Markle's dress have found their way on to China's e-commerce sites. In contrast, at the time of William and Kate's wedding, Chinese fans were excited to watch the day unfold. In 2011, one Taobao seller, Chen Sumiao, told China Daily, “We have been closely following the wedding dress Kate would wear ever since she and Prince William announced their engagement. The minute the design became known, we discussed with our designers about its feasibility and came up with a plan overnight," said Chen.
So, it appears Chinese netizens are just not impressed by the latest royal wedding gown. This may be, in part, due to an evolved sense of luxury, and intelligent consumers who are no longer swept away by British heritage alone. Retailers can no longer rely on respect for Western brands - on the contrary - many young Chinese shoppers are choosing to purchase closer to home, as more local talent evolves.