When businesses are seeking counsel on fashion, business and lifestyle in China, they often turn to Queennie Yang as an expert voice. Now, based in London and regularly back to China, Queennie is Editorial Director at the Business of Fashion China. Previously, she was the Editor (Asia) of Vogue International, and prior to that she was the Managing Editor and founding member of BoF China.
The Luxury Conversation (and our parent company, Reuter Group) is fortunate enough to count Queennie as a close friend – we spoke with Queennie last year and were keen to have an update on the China market as we swing into a new decade. We sat down with Queennie during her recent visit to Shanghai for a tea and a chat.
First of all, you’re back to BoF this year. In the China edition, what is it that you try to tell your readers? How different is it to the English-language ‘original’ version?
I had a really fruitful and grateful tenure at Vogue International where I learned extensive knowledge about strategy, audience growth and management while I also helped to build their Asia digital editorial strategy.
The reason for my returning to BoF is that I have a strong sense of purpose for doing more to help to bridge the gap between East and West, to tell exciting stories, and learn more at a fast-growing company.
In this July, when I was back, we also recruited Christina Yao, our brilliant managing editor based in Shanghai, and other new team members. With this joint force of existing members, we worked together to start a revamp for BoF China, by creating more locally relevant content and increasing the engagement with our audience.
We are now taking an approach I called “glocal” which means we will increase our local original Chinese content while working closely with our global team. Now our “glocal” rate is 70%-80% which means we do not just syndicate stories from our global site but create content that our local audience really appreciates.
There is always a panel discussion, forum or fireside chat on the China business calendar. But which have you seen this year have an impact and educate the audience?
Keeping a close relationship and engaging with our community is always important for us. But different formats have different missions, and we take different approaches too. For example, I attended the National Textile Belt & Road Conference to give a keynote speech on the state of fashion in today’s world. This was a very rare opportunity for those government officers, textile manufacturers from China and other countries to learn the frontier insights from the fashion industry and consumer side.
The other example is that I co-hosted or attended several events during Shanghai Fashion Week to discuss and promote local talents and sustainability with our long-term community members and partners. I believe those are part of BoF China’s duty as well.
I believe different audiences have various purposes when they attend this kind of forum, so the important thing is to know what they need to know, what they should know, and customise your content. Talking trends is not a problem, but you need to really have some hard evidence or concrete findings to back your talk up. I found the most boring talks are those only about promoting themselves.
In terms of brands, who have you seen that’s really impressed you campaign-wise this year?
Today WeChat is just the default if you are doing digital marketing in China. China’s digital world provides tons of new opportunities and methods to do something creative. Generally speaking, cosmetic brands are more aggressive and bold by using live-streaming, social commerce and any new tech coming into the market. But in China, the luxury brands are not bad either. There are some pioneers like Dior and Burberry, willing to be some of the first to try new platforms like advertising on Douyin, live streaming with Huawei, such as Burberry just created a game to engage with its customers.
Also, blogger Gogoboi took over Louis Vuitton’s WeChat account to do launch gamification and cartoon-inspired communcations, which were genius cases.
Are there any open goals, low-hanging fruit, or similar metaphors that international brands aren’t taking?
I would say the open goal is really about to think what does “diversity and inclusion” mean for Chinese and Asian people. Previously the term was from a western point of view, while Asian people and culture may have their own definition. We’ve written several stories around those well-known controversies that happened this year.
This is a systematic and structured problem that requires the headquarters and global organisation to address with sincerity and with their own regionally-based people, not just from a central HQ. They need to have a really diverse and knowledgable decision-making board and also learn to trust their local team. This is not just about avoiding backlash but also a long term strategy for furthering secure business growth.
This year the buzz has been around brands needing to experiment with Douyin and RED, for example. What do you see as the big trends on the way for 2020?
I see three main sectors for further growth in 2020. One is lower-tier cities in China, which we’ve been talking about penetrating consumption for a long time. In 2020, we will see more moves from luxury brands and retailers expanding their retail network in lower tiers cities such as Xi’an and Kunming.
Also, for those brands already winning in China, consider more about South-East Asia. I think now it’s time to look at the wider Asian region which has a large amount of population and potential. They are not only fast-fashion manufacturers’ basecamp anymore but also upcoming consumer markets. With the RCEP officially forming next year, we will see more opportunities in this area.
Lastly, it is time for socially-conscious brands to come to the fore, as well as the fashion recycling business. Put simply, customers will want more responsible products from responsible companies. There’s no escaping it. Either sustainable products or innovative business models are the ones that will be well-positioned to take advantage of this sweeping new preference which is more than a trend as it’s only set to grow.