The rise of 'fresh talent' in China's modeling industry

Updated 2017-06-10 11:52:38 China Daily

Having young models front luxury brand campaigns seems to have become the passe thing to do these days, with a growing number of older personalities, some of whom can even be considered geriatric, claiming the spotlight.

Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana has featured three Italian grandmothers in its recent advertisements. Over at Celine, 83-year-old writer Joan Didion became the face of the French luxury brand's new campaign. Givenchy has done likewise by picking 49-year-old Julia Roberts to promote its women's wear collection.

However, young celebrities, nicknamed xiaoxianrou in Chinese - it literally means "young fresh meat" - still generate the biggest hype.

A 2016 report by Chinese tech giant Tencent showed that six out of the 10 most popular celebrities online are males, with the oldest being Li Yifeng, who is turning 30 this year. The report also stated that more than 50 percent of the fans of male celebrities are women.

Yang Ling, an assistant professor from Xiamen University who has been studying the culture of fandom in China, attributed the xiaoxianrou phenomenon to the fact that girls in Chinese society today are afforded as much freedom and financial support as boys, and this in turn allows them to indulge in idolizing young male celebs.

In commercial terms, young actor Kris Wu Yifan has already overshadowed famous actress Fan Bingbing as the second-most valuable celebrity in China. The 27-year-old also became the first non-British brand ambassador in the history of Burberry, donning the brand's signature trench coat alongside the likes of Eddie Redmayne and Romeo Beckham last year. Within weeks of Wu's endorsement deal, the number of followers on the brand's Weibo account hit 1 million.

Earlier in January, 35-year-old actor Hu Ge, who is arguably the "oldest fresh meat" in the Chinese entertainment industry, was announced as Emporio Armani's brand ambassador for China and the Asia Pacific. Hu is one of the youngest faces for the Italian luxury house.

Tang Xiaotang, a fashion commentator and founder of Nofashion.cn, expressed his skepticism about the ability of young celebrities to generate revenue for fashion houses. He pointed out that luxury brands, unlike fast-moving consumer goods such as shampoos or potato chips, are consumed by only those at the top of the social pyramid and that such individuals are unlikely to choose a luxury brand simply because it is endorsed by young celebrities.

He also said that having a massive number of followers on social networks does not necessarily translate to positive growth.

"The core value of luxury brands is creating aspiring dreams for their customers to achieve. That is why individuals such as scientists, directors or legendary figures traditionally dominate luxury brand campaigns," said Tang.

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