MADE IN CHINA
Angelica Cheung, founding editor of Vogue China
“I am going to redefine the concept of Made in China, so one day they’re going to say- it’s good”
Fancy delving into the freshest crop of movers and shakers? Well, BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz is here sorting the chaff from the wheat. The current Radio 4 series Zeigesters follows the man himself as he presents a cultural exposé of the most influential figures in the art world today. The label “Zeigesters” will attempt to categorize the few outstanding visionaries. Those who are constantly encapsulating the spirit of our age, and shaping the modern world.
Despite such talents their names are shamefully under acknowledged, so the program signals a call for widespread recognition. Opening the program Gompertz laments the “cultural impresarios standing quietly in the wings… the Andy Warhols, Coco Chanels and Steve Jobs of today. The people we should know all about.”
First up was the turn of Angelica Cheung, style-maker and business impresario, one who till now has been firmly off radar. It was in 2005 she claims “fate just picked me” for the daunting role of creating a Chinese edition of Vogue. Although a complete contrast to the law profession she was intent on returning to, it was offer she couldn’t refuse. Everyone knew it was a risky start up, but with instant sell-out success the lady is consistently proving “style has substance”.
With an unlimited luxury market at her well-manicured fingertips, her voice as editor-in-chief Vogue China is becoming of increasing interest to the western world. “For western fashion houses- it’s a gateway to China’s booming domestic market”. Cheung has been instrumental to the success of our luxury brands in China. However, as we follow her doing the rounds at Paris Fashion Week, something she calls “community service”, there is a noticeable air of futility even frustration, which perhaps hints there is a little more in it for them than Vogue China.
It is evident that her primary ambition at Vogue is far from the aggrandizement of big established fashion labels, but to nurture surrounding creativity. For China’s emerging designers Vogue could offer a global promotional platform, and she immediately saw the importance of launching a column to showcase fresh Chinese design talent. Entitled, somewhat ironically, MADE IN CHINA. The innovation and modernity gracing these pages is the very antithesis of the plastic, mass-manufactured gaudiness this term has come to represent.
Cheung believes Vogue is a valuable instrument to make women think, dream and aspire. She fondly pictures her readers as those “who want it all” and sincerely believes they can have it all. As she willingly accepts that “fashion is political”, we must see that in China this takes on an even greater significance. With all areas of publishing being subject to strict censorship, each page must be severely scrutinised before the paper can even contemplate hitting the printers. However, she seems very positive and accepting of this, viewing it as a necessity of the job. When pushed she can only cite one previous dispute with the authorities, and she humourously describes feuding with the Chinese government over the query “indecent” exposure of Ms Moss’s nips.
Is Angelica Cheung really the most powerful woman in fashion? Quite possibly, however one thing is certain her power is not just a reflection of the vast consumer market but a testament to her creative and pioneering mind.