Chinese A-listers love attending international fashion shows. But China Fashion Week? You can hardly find any sitting in the front rows.
The phenomenon began in 2009 when Chinese actress Gong Li was invited to the Louis Vuitton show during Parks Fashion Week. She sat in the front row, dazzled with charisma and enjoyed the collection, just like any other stars that frequent these events.
Zhang Ziyi followed Gong's footsteps and became the first Asian spokesperson for Armani. Last year, Fan Bingbing, known for her exquisite sense of style, attended the Elie Saab show wearing a shiny jacket as a head accessory. Her presence was hard to miss, even outshining that of Jennifer Lopez.
For the Chinese audience, the most eye-catching part about the just-completed Paris Fashion Week were the silent beauty "battles" among Chinese actresses. They were nowhere to be seen during China Fashion Week, which concludes on April 1.
The biggest star attending CFW this year is probably Shawn Yue, an actor based in Hong Kong, who presented creations by Mark Fairwhale. Ren Quan showed up during the press release for Cabbeen. Chen Lina and Wang Yansu were also spotted during the Forever Color show, but their names were far less colorful than the collection itself.
Some argue that A-listers did attend CFW during its early stsages, including Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi. However, they didn't come to enjoy the show; they were "invited" by the design labels. Put more simply, they had to be paid a certain amount.
"Each brand has a budget dedicated to paying celebrities to attend fashion shows in China," said a staff member of a brand who wished to remain anonymous.
"An actor may charge as much as 200,000 to 300,000 RMB (roughly $31,728 to $47,592)."
Of course, the price tag varies depending on the type of work they are signed to do, such as attending interview sessions or wearing designated designer clothes.
"Chinese A-listers attend international fashion weeks to raise their fame abroad and attend China Fashion Week to earn endorsement fees. For lesser-known celebrities, they use this opportunity to increase media exposure", said Hao Yanming, who has worked in the fashion industry for more than a decade.
By the same coin, editors of Chinese fashion magazines also don't frequent CFW. Zhang Yu, editor of Vogue and Su Mang, editor of Harper's BAZAAR can hardly be spotted during Chinese shows. In contrast, Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue US, almost never misses any shows by American designers.
Gao Chenxuan, a journalist at P1.cn, has just returned from fashion weeks in Paris and New York. When asked why he doesn't attend CFW more often, he said the collections "weren't attractive enough".
For editors like Gao, who surrounds himself with luxury brands like Christian Dior, Lanvin and DVF, local brands such as Edenbo, Sept Wolves and Aimer obviously do not stand a chance.
"The Chinese fashion industry is still too young. Things are not systematized yet and the influence is naturally not as strong as that abroad", Hao said.
But things are getting better. According to Yang Jian, Secretary-General of China Designers Association, when CFW began in 1997, the only people attending the show were dealers and buyers.
"Now, fashion critics, fashion editors and even fashion lovers are there."