Since its inception in 2013, The BoF 500 has been regarded as the definitive index of the people shaping the world’s $2.4 trillion fashion industry. This year saw six Chinese individuals added to the list, in a radical reimagining of its format.
In the creation of The BoF 500, the most influential designers, models, and media professionals are hand-selected by the editors of The Business of Fashion, based on hundreds of nominations received from previous BoF 500 members, extensive data analysis, and research. However this year, The BoF is transforming its yearly top 500 list. Instead of cycling out names from the previous year in order to make room for new faces, going forward The BoF will add roughly 100 names a year. These names will earn a permanent place in The BoF community of the most significant people in the fashion industry, beginning with the 1,000-person strong group of past BoF 500 members from 2013 to today.
The focus will not be who is taken on or off the list, but on the newest members and the community of fashion change-makers that they are joining. According to The BoF, “This new direction aligns with The BoF’ score values and the company’s desire to change the fashion industry from an exclusive club to an inclusive community.”
Last year saw 33 Chinese figures take their place on the 2018 BoF Top 500 — the highest number since the list began in 2013. From Alibaba founder Jack Ma and actress and singer Yang Mi, to Tasha Liu, founder of Shanghai Fashion Week’s showcasing platform Labelhood. The number of Chinese nationals earning a spot on the list suggested a shift towards greater recognition of China on the world fashion stage.
However, following the new structure, only six Chinese members were added to the community this year. It remains to be seen as to whether the new format will truly create a more inclusive and diverse group, or if it will, in fact, become even harder to earn a coveted spot in the community. For 2019, here we present the Chinese trendsetters helping to shape the future of fashion.
- Yeli Gu – Founder of Ontimeshow
Chinese fashion tradeshow Ontimeshow has been present at Shanghai Fashion Week since 2014, where it began as 48 brands showing for just 335 visitors. Yeli Gu, the brains behind the operation, noticed at the time that although SHFW had runway shows, there were no tradeshows to support them. Fast-forward ten seasons and this year saw Ontimeshow welcome almost 16,000 visitors to its 25,000-square-meter space at Shanghai’s West Bund Art district. For its 10th season, Ontimeshow opened six venues, and of the 337 brands hosted, 245 were Asian brands, accounting for 72 percent of the total. This season was also marked by Ontimeshow’s first international partnerships with TRANOÏ (France’s largest fashion trade show) and London’s British Fashion Council.
- Leslie Zhang – Photographer
Artist Leslie Zhang earns a spot in The BoF community at the age of just 26-years-old, having photographed for Harper’s Bazaar China and Grazia China. In April 2018, Zhang photographed the cover for the Chinese issue of Nylon. Based in Shanghai, Zhang first gained experience in painting which then led to fashion photography and is inspired by his childhood growing up in the Chinese cities of both Yangzhou and Nanjing. “In a way it’s so simple… I just shoot things that I find beautiful,” Zhang told i-Din August. “These could be recreations of my childhood memories growing up in China. Or just a really beautiful face.”
- Miranda Qu –Founder of Xiaohongshu
Miranda Qu is the co-founder of Xiaohongshu or Little Red Book. The luxury retail lifestyle platform was founded in 2013, and this year became the number one cross-border e-commerce app in China, with over 80 million users spending a total of over 100 million yuan per month on the app. The platform’s peer-to-peer approach has captured the hearts of China’s young consumers, offering everyday users much more power to influence purchasing decisions. It’s no surprise then that major luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior — and even celebrity mogul Kim Kardashian — have been persuaded to launch official accounts.
- Li Rixue – Founder of Secoo
Hot on the designer heels of China’s e-commerce giants Tmall and JD.com is platform Secoo, founded by Li Rixue in 2008. Offering authentic luxury goods, the retailer boasts 27 million members and over 3,000 brands. Although small in scale compared to its big-name competitors, Secoo has found success by focusing all of its efforts on achieving a premium lifestyle multi-category platform. This year saw brands Prada and Miu Miu join the platform, and the company announce a revenue increase to $448.1 million (RMB 3,080 billion) in Q4 2018, an increase of 58.5 percent from Q4 2017.
- Zhang Yiming – Founder of Bytedance, TikTok, Douyin & Toutiao
Where media content heavyweights are concerned, look no further than Zhang Yiming, the founder of platforms Bytedance, TikTok, Douyin & Toutiao. Yiming founded ByteDance in 2012 and developed the news aggregator Toutiao and the video-sharing platform TikTok across the following half a decade. As of 2019, with more than 1 billion monthly users, ByteDance is valued at US$75 billion, making it the most valuable start-up ever. Yiming was also featured on Time’s List of the 100 Most Influential People 2019, where he was crowned the top entrepreneur in the world.
- Jinqing Cai – President of Kering Greater China
Appointed as President of Kering Greater China last September, the company claimed that Jinqing Cai’s is set to reinforce the visibility of Kering in Greater China and to strengthen relationships with the Group’s Chinese partners. The Kering Group boasts a host of luxury brands including Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Gucci and Saint Laurent. Prior to Kering in 2012, Cai joined leading auction house Christie’s as the first Managing Director of Christie’s China. Cai was later appointed President of Christie’s China in 2014 and then Chairman in 2016. The impressive businesswoman also has a heart for philanthropy and serves as a board member of Teach for China, a non-profit organization focusing on education inequality in China.