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Interview: Angelica Cheung, Editor of Vogue China

09-22 16:43 Caijing
The editor of Vogue China on Chinese designers

With Vogue China’s eighth anniversary and the Shanghai instalment of Fashion's Night Out this month, Time Out speaks to the magazine's editor-in-chief Angelica Cheung about democratic shopping, why being a Chinese designer is no longer a USP, and that haircut

This will be Shanghai’s third Vogue Fashion's Night Out (FNO) and China’s fifth. With cities like New York dropping out, was there a question mark over this year's event?

Actually, the first year [in Beijing, 2009] wasn’t easy - China was booming, and at the beginning people didn’t understand why Vogue as a magazine wanted to help retail, so it took a lot of effort to explain that. When other countries stopped the project, we were wondering whether to continue or not, but stores were approaching us, wanting to participate, so that pretty much answered the question.  We just thought, well, we just have to keep doing it because everyone else wants us to!  That’s what I’m most happy about, that in China [FNO] has become a brand in its own right because people want it, rather than simply because it was a global effort.

So what's been the secret to its success?

It’s not like our usual Vogue events, which are really glamorous, high end, exclusive kind of projects, like our 120-year anniversary event last year – [FNO] is really about the people, everybody participating, celebrating fashion, celebrating this way of life, and the industry as a whole. This is really more democratic, whether you have money or not, whether you want to buy or not, it doesn’t matter.

We just want people to come and enjoy fashion and understand a bit more about it. Last year, we did a lot digitally, so people outside the participating cities could still get involved – we had lucky draws, discussion boards, all sorts of things, so they felt as if they had a part in it.

Anything special we should be looking out for this year?

Something I’m very excited about is our exhibition of Chinese designers’ pieces that we photographed for the September issue to celebrate our eighth anniversary. The designers were playing on lots of concepts when they created these pieces: the number eight, China, Vogue. Now people have a chance to see them, which is great. Chinese creativity is something very close to our hearts.

This year’s FNO coincides with Vogue China’s eight year anniversary. How much has China’s fashion scene changed since you first set up the magazine?

Just the number of designers we have today. When Vogue launched eight years ago, we were struggling to find four Chinese designers whose work was good enough to go into the magazine next to Dior and Chanel… We put so much effort into finding those people, developing designs with them in the past. Our issue now is how to leave people out, because there are so many designers and you really have to be more selective. It’s a problem, but it’s a good problem, because the standard has become higher.

So has the ‘Made in China’ tag finally lost its negative associations?

We actually used to have a column called ‘Made In China’, that was aimed at changing the perception of that [tag] from something cheap and nasty to something creative, that you would be proud of. Today, we’ve pretty much realized that dream, so we’ve dropped the column, even though we’ve increased our content on Chinese designers.

They’ve gradually become part of the fashion scene, and to have things made in China or not made in China, designed here or designed somewhere else, fabrics made here or sourced from Italy or whatever, it’s nothing special, it’s no big deal. My view is, if they’re good they go in, if they’re not good they don’t. Whether they’re Chinese or not is still an element, but it’s not such a big deal as before.

Which designers have come through particularly strongly recently?

Obviously the designers we featured in the September issue are the designers we feel are the strongest, like Uma Wang and Masha Ma. We’ve invested a lot of resources in them learning, training, experiencing; they’ve been on our exchange programs to America and spent quality time with all the top designers, brands, and commercial retail outfits. Riko [Manchit Au] is coming up very strongly and focused this year. And Huishan Zhang has gone from a very new name two or three years ago to someone who’s now very active. I really feel that they’re all doing very well, but they’re under a lot of pressure with everyone’s goodwill.

How would you describe your own style? Being the editor must put a lot of pressure on you when choosing your outfits in the morning…

My style is a reflection of my lifestyle. Yes, in the industry you talk about fashion, but as a consumer you dress for yourself and your lifestyle. I’m a working mother who has to take her daughter to school at 8am every day, and because of that I wear a lot of one pieces, that’s the simplest thing, sometimes with a jacket or a cardigan, and different pieces of jewellery. I have a simple style and I stick to it. I used to wear a lot of black and white, but recently I’ve been wearing a lot more colour - I think it’s one of those things you get more comfortable with as you get older.

I wear a lot of international brands – Prada, Chanel, Dries Van Noten, Celine, Stella McCartney – but Chinese designers too. I like Huishan Zhang’s lace cocktail dresses, which are traditional but quite modern at the same time, and Uma Wang’s knits are good in winter. In my line of business you do have to experiment and understand fashion, but at the same time, the clothes have to be functional.

And then there’s your signature hairstyle…

Yes, that asymmetric cut is something that’s really part of me. It’s evolved and changed slightly over time, but I’ve always kept it.

How do you feel about being labeled ‘the most influential woman in fashion’; ‘the high priestess of fashion’ etc?

That’s other people saying it, not me! It would be too embarrassing to say that about yourself. When people say it, I’m pleased, because it really reflects what we’ve done at Vogue – I honestly want readers to become like that; I want my daughter to become like that. What we preach in the magazine, well, that’s what I want people to become. Chinese consumers have become more sophisticated, more quickly than people ever thought they would, and I’m proud of that.     

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