Chinese reality show 'Road to The Runway' draws attention to China's up-and-coming models and Victoria's Secret's first show in China
Fancy outfits and endless tit-for-tats between attractive female models - these are just part of the popular Chinese mainland show Road to the Runway that promises the winner a chance to take to the runway at the upcoming Shanghai Victoria's Secret (VS) Fashion Show on November 29.
Debuting in late August, the show is set to come to an end next week. During its run it garnered more than 100 million views in its first week and over 1 billion views and posts so far on Sina Weibo, bringing the Shanghai show and a number of new faces in China's rising model industry to the public eye.
Though VS is not listed in the show's credits, Road to the Runway is definitely closely cooperating with the brand.
The show's host is Chinese supermodel and 2013 VS Angel Xi Mengyao, while judges on the show include a veteran VS stylist, photographer and casting director as well as some of the world's top supermodels and the brand's best-known Angels like Alessandra Ambrosio and Adriana Limabig as guest judges.
This is clearly part of a strategy meant to build hype for the brand's Shanghai show, which will be the first time that a VS fashion show has ever been held in China.
Being a VS model is the dream for many supermodels, as entering its annual show list is passport to high fashion circles. However, in recent years the VS fashion shows have been criticized for a decline in quality and loss of influence.
Despite this, VS shows are still a chance of a lifetime or "a bling-bling dream" for the contestants on Road to the Runway - and many models elsewhere as well - who get to wear pink silk robes just like VS models often wear when getting ready for the annual display.
Since the debut of Liu Wen - the VS first Chinese Angel - at the 2009 VS fashion show, the past decade has witnessed a growing number of Chinese supermodels including He Sui and Ju Xiaowen walk down the runway at the brand's annual extravaganza, one of the world's most eye-catching commercial and fashion events.
This year, VS is definitely upping the stake for its first China show by bringing their Angels to Shanghai to promote the event and interact with Chinese fans who can't help but screaming out loud their love for these Angels - as shown in a promotional video clip released by the brand in October. Currently, six, or seven if you count the Road to the Runway champion, Chinese Angels will take part in the Shanghai show - the highest number of Chinese Angels at a single show in VS history.
Commercial involvement and big-name stars aside, the list of contestants on Road to the Runway is another shining spot in the show. Many of the participants are rising stars in domestic modeling circles, including a number of top winners of national or international modeling competitions.
Some are veterans in the industry with experience walking the runway for top fashion brands such as Dior and Marc Jacobs and posing for high-fashion magazines such as Italia Vogue.
However, unlike those who have their names on the VS Fashion Show list like Liu and He, many of these contestants remain largely unknown to people not directly involved in the fashion industry.
"To be honest, I had heard literally none of the contestants' names before watching this show," a Beijing-based fashion lover surnamed Chen told the Global Times.
"But when I looked them up on the Internet, it surprised me that some of them have made quite a career in the industry, such as Yuan Bochao and Wu Yue."
"However cliché and poorly-made Road to the Runway may look, I think it is doing a very good thing by allowing China's newest models gain recognition among the general audience," Chen noted.
Amazing the audience in its first episode with a fancy lingerie show set on the Great Wall - a key protected site rarely open for entertainment events - the show has featured photo shoot challenges set in cities across China, including one that required models to pose while wearing Peking Opera costumes.
"The show demonstrates Chinese elements and I like this part of it… but the presentation reminds me of America's Next Top Model [a popular US reality show hosted by ex-supermodel Tyra Banks]," Wu Xin (pseudonym), a veteran fan of fashion shows told the Global Times.
"While some of the participants are already in the industry, as an audience member I think they still need to work more on their runway walks and personalities so as to parallel the world's best supermodels," Wu explained.