Eight years ago Vogue China burst onto the scene, providing elegant style guidance and a chic point of view to one of the world’s largest luxury markets. With the launch of its 100th issue Vogue China cements itself as one of the most significant fashion magazines in existence via an event issue filled with incredible imagery by Mario Testino. To celebrate their milestone, the magazine enlisted one of photography’s legends to interpret the ethos of Chinese style. Testino provides over a hundred pages of exclusively shot editorial featuring China’s premiere models and tastemakers captured in his high gloss style. From the first image of Shu Qi, the exquisite star of Chinese cinema on the front-page the magazine sets the stage for an epic anniversary.
Models.com is celebrating the launch of Vogue China’s 100th issue with 3 exclusive teaser videos by Mario Testino over the next 3 days, with the first one out now: Teaser #1 / Savage Grace.
The driving force behind all this killer content is Vogue China’s editor-in-chief, Angelica Cheung, a fashion leader who is shaping not just the way Chinese consumers dress, but the development of the Chinese fashion industry as a whole. With her journalistic background and impeccable eye, Cheung has raised the bar – find out what went into this landmark issue of Vogue China in this exclusive interview.
Intro text by Janelle Okwodu
Angelica Cheung portrait by Frederic Aranda, courtesy of Vogue China
The fashion landscape here has matured with an astonishing speed. Back in 2005, it was still all about logos and big brands, we struggled to find Chinese design talent to promote and the only Chinese model with international potential was Du Juan. Now, the top tier of consumers are getting so sophisticated. They travel, they go to the shows, they buy couture, they are very directly exposed to high fashion. Buyers boutiques, vintage stores were unknown in China when we started, and now they are part of the retail landscape. Chinese designers like Masha Ma and Uma Wang are not only on the radar internationally but show on schedule at Paris and Milan fashion week respectively. And of course, a whole generation of Chinese supermodels, like Liu Wen, Sun Fei Fei, He Sui, Xiao Wen Ju, Shu Pei Qin have come to dominate the runways. All this within 8 years!
And you undoubtedly have been instrumental in the emergence of this new generation of Chinese supermodels. Starting with the launch issue featuring Du Juan and Gemma Ward, models have regularly appeared on Vogue China covers alongside actors and celebrities. Which models do your readers connect to the most?
With the rise of the Chinese supermodels, I think readers really like to see them do so well. They want to see a standard of beauty that relates to them and their culture. Then they love the beautiful girls like Constance Jablonski or Arizona Muse, and those with personality like Karlie Kloss or Hanne Gaby Odiele.
The 100th issue includes 150 pages of photos shot by Mario Testino. Could you tell us how this collaboration came to be and what it was like working with Mario on the issue?
Every time I met Mario over the past few years we would discuss collaborating on something and with the 100th issue coming up we thought it was now or never, we couldn’t ask for a more perfect timing. I love to work with Mario, his ideas really are never-ending. He loves to be exposed to new things, and that curiosity is really reflected in the work he produced. We arranged for him to shoot some contemporary masters of Chinese opera which is a culture onto itself that many Chinese people dont even understand. But Mario really got it, even across the language barrier. Even the opera singers, some of whom have been performing for over forty years, were surprised. He knew instinctively what type of character each person was portraying and captured it perfectly, all with the speed of lightning!
What advice would you give to a Chinese model looking to break on the international scene?
I think its important for them to focus on the bigger picture and the long run. Models get discovered so young, often they’ve never even travelled beyond the country and suddenly they are exposed to this jetset lifestyle and all these luxury brands. It can go to their head. Yes, that is part of the industry, but another part of success is to form a good professional network which means being on time, treating people with respect and being grateful for opportunities presented to you, regardless of whether it brings immediate rewards. You want people to be happy to work with you again.
Who are your favorite new models?
Amongst the new girls here, I think Tian Yi is great Mario shot her for this issue and they look amazing. I also really like Chiharu Okunugi, I think she has a really calm, sedate beauty.
You have been a big supporter of bringing fashion to China and promoting Chinese designers, which designers should we be on the look-out for from China?
We are so proud of how far the Chinese designers have come over the past few years. Especially people like Huishan Zhang who we have been supporting since the beginning, he now does a presentation at London Fashion Week, just won the Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize and had his new collection picked up by Barneys. I think he’ll go really far.
Fashion has crossed over into popular culture in the West, with TV shows and films, the blogger phenomenon and the media frenzy around fashion week. What is contemporary fashion like in China?
I think it’s very similar for China too. Shows like Gossip Girl were immensely popular here and the fashion in the show was widely imitated. The internet is really a powerful tool here, most people get their information online, so street style blogs and bloggers get a lot of exposure. As an illustration, a recent series of films Tiny Times, about a group of young people and their cosmopolitan life, whilst being heavily criticized for promoting materialistic values, has been immensely successful with the younger generation.
How are Chinese American designers like Jason Wu, Alexander Wang, Vera Wang, Anna Sui or Phillip Lim viewed in China? Are you seeing their success inspiring a new generation of young creators from mainland China?
Their success has been really inspiring to lots of young designers here, but I think at the end of the day, they are recognized as operating within a fashion system that is quite different to what exists in China.
Vogue China is one of the biggest of the Vogue titles, in terms of readership, editorial and ad pages. How important to you is the magazine’s visibility outside of China?
China is such a hot topic right now and there is so much interest in us internationally. For us, it is important that the high quality of original content we are producing is recognized. China is going global, and we plan to follow suit!
Vogue China works with some of the most famous photographers in the world, but also many new rising stars. How do you select the ones you want to work with?
The Chinese aesthetic is very specific. Sometimes what looks good to western people may not look good to our audience, this is especially true when talking of Asian beauty. So for us, it is very important that we work with people who understand this. We want the magazine to be modern and international, but appealing to the fundamental aesthetics of the Chinese at the same time. To think your aesthetic is superior to what the Chinese appreciate is to me a little bit patronizing. This is especially important to the photographers who want to tap into the Chinese commercial market, which is expanding at a rapid pace.
What do you see as your biggest achievement at Vogue China so far?
I think we have really raised the bar for fashion publications in China. It used to be all this syndicated content, but since our launch, we’ve proven that we can work at a top creative level internationally, using the best photographers, stylists and models to create truly original content dedicated to our market.
You started your career in journalism, how has it influenced your take on fashion?
Newspaper journalism, where I started my career, really grounds your priorities. What’s important, what’s most relevant.. you go for the jugular and learn how to send a strong message. I think that training has been invaluable in determining the direction of Vogue China. Fashion is fun and glamorous, but at the same time, beyond all that we want to reach out to the positive, independent, modern woman.
Any hint at what’s in store for the future of Vogue China?
Mario’s China issue is really a jumping off point, there are already so many ideas floating around for special collaborations in the future. Chinese people live at a very fast pace, we want new and exciting all the time so we are constantly innovating!
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