Growing up near Nanjing, Peter Xu was on the path to a successful career as an English teacher, when the social media revolution unexpectedly transformed his life. From fashion-conscious tech-geek and charismatic teacher, to Shanghai-based fashion-blogging superstar (on Weibo, he has more followers than Vogue China), Xu’s rise to the dazzling firmament of fashion’s glitterati has been spectacular. Now, inseparable from his signature shades, he’s making a name across the world’s style capitals, working with the likes of Dior, Louis Vuitton, Italy’s LUISAVIAROMA, L'Officiel Paris and Vogue Latin America. His energy and creative talents know no boundaries. Always the experimenter and innovator, he’s also a respected photographer, and has produced original “music parties”, which he describes as “music for social networking”. Intrigued? Read on to find out more about this human lightning bolt.
I didn’t start out on a mission to acquire millions of followers, but I’ve always had an urge to influence people.
Eminem, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park were the singers I grew up listening to. I practiced Eminem's songs—with lots of explicit content—hundreds of times and performed them at school. I don't know where my guts came from, but rapping definitely helped my language skills!
I didn't shift from teaching to fashion intentionally. The growth of Chinese Twitter (Weibo) has really extended my influence. As a teacher, I had a huge fan base because I taught big classes of 50-500 and they liked my personality. Many of my students followed me on Weibo. Because of that, I was approached by lifestyle and streetstyle brands like Vans, Coca-Cola and Reebok to work with them on social content.
I didn’t start out on a mission to acquire millions of followers, but I’ve always had an urge to influence people. I met a Buddhist leader on Weibo who motivated me to make my voice heard. Before social media, I also tried TV entertainment shows—many of my followers come from those.
I'm positively driven—it's all about doing well in business and at the same time keeping up with hobbies. But, I do feel the complexity and pressure of the fashion industry. There are too many seasons and collections: Spring/Summer, Pre-fall, Fall/Winter, menswear, womenswear, ready-to-wear, couture, resort, etc. I spend more time traveling to fashion capitals around the world than I spend in my hometown.
My photography career was kick-started at the Paris couture shows. Fashion houses are super-tight with tickets; some brands wouldn’t give my photographer one, so I ended up blogging the shows using my iPhone. But that meant my fans couldn’t fully appreciate the beauty of the designs, so I started using a professional camera. My talent developed over time, from blogging so many shows and seeing so many runway photos. When clients said that my pictures were as good, if not better, than the official shots, I knew that I should keep working on my skills.
For the Tech Dreamers shoot I fused the historical with the futuristic. Florence isn't just about the depth of history, culture, arts and architecture; it's about the mix of old and new. For example, LUISAVIAROMA and Swarovski’s ‘Crystal Couture’ exhibition is held in a century-old park with ultra-modern digital installations. As a huge fan of the art of couture, this exhibition went beyond my expectations. My favorite piece? The Casadei shoes—the length of the heel is such a bold statement.
I was born a dreamer, and I’ve realized many of the things that I’ve dreamt. I still remember an 'Unleash Your Potential' training course that I took at L'Oréal as a management trainee. I learnt that if you plot three goals over ten years, and then keep envisioning them, they are more likely to become reality. It really worked for me. Fashion is all about creating dreams and fantasies.
This season we used drones to shoot Pitti Uomo and Florence. I’ve been an IT geek since day one, and many things I do depend on technology. My next big ambition is to produce an app like ‘Vogue Runway’ in China.
Spring/Summer’s biggest trends will be bomber jackets, along with shiny elements and Asian/Oriental influences.