It was less a case of east meets west than a meeting of minds when Nadja Swarovski linked up with Angelica Cheung, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue China to discuss the changing face of China.
NADJA SWAROVSKI: My first time in Beijing was twenty years ago when people were still wearing gray Mao suits. The transformation has been incredible. How do you feel about this change, having been born and raised here and now playing such an important role in the way people dress?
ANGELICA CHEUNG: I had hardly heard of Vogue twenty years ago. Even a decade ago, if someone had said that people would be wearing Balmain, I would have said ‘Oh, come on! This is China!’ We all underestimated how quickly things would change.
NS: What contributed to that evolution?
AC: You guys, and companies like yours, really. The country’s changing socially, politically, and culturally, but Chinese women are very smart. They understand change—they get it really quickly, plus we’re traveling more and seeing other lifestyles.
NS: What role did Vogue China play?
AC: I feel we have a duty to educate, to put things in context. For example, if you refer to ‘Sixties fashion’, many Chinese readers don’t have a clue. For China, the Sixties was the Cultural Revolution, so we need to paint a picture of international culture and art. When I launched Vogue China, the first year was just fashion, fashion, fashion. But I soon realized the reader has a soul, too, so we started to view her more holistically. Every issue, we have a piece about positive thinking – we might focus on work or motherhood or charity, or talk about how you need to be more tolerant and loving to people around you. When I think of our typical reader, I picture a woman who possesses those qualities, but also knows how to dress well.
NS: Do you think the general opinion in China is that people have more individual freedom now?
AC: I think it’s becoming more liberal. The Chinese are traveling and outsiders are coming in, so, as a society, we are more relaxed than we used to be.
Interview by Alex Rayner. Photography by James Merrell