fashion shows and modelling


fashion shows and modelling
The rise of runway fashion modelling as a specialized profession in the West in the 1960s bypassed China. The emergence and development of the profession in the reform era was heralded as one of the signs of China’s participation in cosmopolitan world culture.
The first post-Mao fashion show was held in Beijing in 1979 by Pierre Cardin. Fashion shows remained sporadic for the next fifteen years, with the largest ones organized by foreign designers, and only a handful of models nationwide were able to make a full-time profession out of it. Hindering the development of the profession was the dearth of famous Chinese brand-names and designers to hire them to showcase domestic products. Careers tended to last only a few years as the standards changed rapidly, particularly the height standard. Beijing’s most influential agency, New Silk Road Models, was founded and held the first Chinese Supermodel Contest in 1991. While 1.70m was considered the minimum height requirement in the early 1980s, by 1995 the Chinese Supermodel Contest had a minimum of 1.75m, and the average height of the participants was 1.785m. As the selection event for the prestigious Elite Model Look world competition, these biennial contests became a strategy in China’s push to produce a ‘super-model’ of international reputation who would symbolize that ‘Oriental beauty’ had achieved global recognition.
However, this goal remained elusive because of the limited opportunities for models to develop domestically, their tendency to be less educated and with poorer English than their Western rivals, and the general bias in international modelling towards European physiques and features. All of these aspects underwent gradual transformation so that by the turn of the new millennium Chinese models were getting more international exposure, but a Chinese ‘supermodel’ of global stature had yet to emerge.
Brownell, Susan (1998). The Body and the Beautiful in Chinese Nationalism: Sportswomen and Fashion Models in the Reform Era’. China Information 13.2/3 (Autumn/Winter): 36–58.
——(2001). ‘Making Dream Bodies in Beijing: Athletes, Fashion Models, and Urban Mystique in China’. In Nancy Chen, Constance Clark, Suzanne Gottschang and Lyn Jeffery (eds), China Urban: Ethnographies of Contemporary Culture. Durham: Duke University Press.
Lan, C. (2000). Zhongguo mote qishilu [The Story of Chinese Models]. Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe.
SUSAN BROWNELL

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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