Asian models all the rage in luxury world

China's Liu Wen may not yet have the sizzling star power of Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, but she is leading a bevy of Asian beauties down the world's top catwalks - and onto global billboards.

The scramble by Western brands to feature Asian faces in ad campaigns and eye-catching runway shows from New York to Paris - where fashion week began on Tuesday - parallels Asia's rising clout in the world of luxury goods.

Experts say while foreign labels are hoping to connect with new customers across the region - especially in China - by offering them models with a more familiar look, the Asian craze also reflects the globalisation of the sector.

"Savvier companies are using Asian models to penetrate the China market and try to create an emotional bond with consumers, and to give an aspiration that Chinese can look up to," Shaun Rein, the Shanghai-based managing director of China Market Research Group, told AFP.

The 23-year-old Liu last year became the first Asian face of beauty brand Estee Lauder, and her runway calendar has been booked solid since her debut in 2008.

In late 2010, she strutted her stuff for US lingerie giant Victoria's Secret for the second year running - the only Chinese woman to have done so.

Her compatriot Shu Pei, 21, is one of the faces of Maybelline cosmetics - a role also filled by Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" fame - and also stars in print ads for the Gap brand.

And teenager Danica Magpantay of the Philippines was in January selected as Supermodel of the World by the prestigious Ford modelling agency - and promptly marched straight onto the catwalks in New York last month.

But Asian women are not the only ones making waves in the fashion world.

In January, Taiwanese-Canadian actor Godfrey Gao was named the first Asian face of Louis Vuitton, striking a pose in the French house's ads with a sleek checkered messenger bag - the new staple of the upwardly mobile Chinese man.

"When you look at some of these brands like Louis Vuitton, they are generating a significant portion of their global revenue in China, so it makes sense to have Asian models," Rein says.

China is the world's fastest-growing market for luxury goods and is forecast to be the world's top buyer of such products as cosmetics, handbags, watches, shoes and clothes by 2015, according to consultancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Industry heavyweights such as Chanel, Vuitton and Versace are well-established in China, but others like Chloe - a French label with a reputation for ultra-feminine casual chic - are looking to make a mark.

Chloe chief executive Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye, who was in Shanghai last week for a special runway show celebrating the label's fifth anniversary in China, said brands would use Asian models, but only when it suits their image.

"Chloe is a brand of the world and the world is now fully mixed - races and cultures. It's only natural that Asian models are becoming more and more important," De La Bourdonnaye said during a group interview.

"We've had some Asian models. We will continue to have Asian models. But the majority of our models are Caucasian," he said.

"Whether they are Asian or not is not the number one criteria. It's more personality and the type."

Frederic Godart, a France-based professor at international business school INSEAD whose research focuses on fashion, says while the luxury industry is "seeing a Chinese moment", labels still need to appeal to customers worldwide.

"The use of Asian models by Western brands is a way to look more global," Godart told AFP. "Everyone in the fashion and luxury industries wants to look global and trendy by using models from elsewhere."

Liu - who is wrapping up the month-long autumn/winter 2011 ready-to-wear catwalk marathon in Paris after stops in New York, London and Milan - knows that Asian models still have a long way to go before they become mainstream.

"The challenge for me, and for Asian models in general, has been convincing editors, stylists and photographers that we can have mass appeal," she told US Vogue for a December spread on Asia's rising stars.

But for Rein, the increasing use of Asian models is a no-brainer.

"You want to keep your global brand heritage, but you need to make sure that your products and ads fit the wants of the Chinese consumer. If you don't, you're going to lose out," he said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

    £25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

    £25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

    £25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas