With her digital magazine « LEAF », which she publishes on the leading Chinese platform WeChat, Greener has become — in just a few years — one of China’s most influential fashion personalities. Courted by leading western luxury houses, she has made a business out of educating her compatriots on the art of fashion while she continues to fight for more creative freedom in her home country, which is still plagued by repression.
At first blush it would be easy to write off Leaf Greener as just one more « influencer » that looks great in photos snapped on the concrete catwalk outside fashion shows. Her eye catching outfits, bright smile and bubbly personality definitely draw you in. But scratch the surface and there is much more to Greener then meets the eye.
For six years she was the senior fashion editor of Elle China. Her writing and styling for the magazine, which became one of the top fashion magazines in the country during her tenure, helped educate and mold her nation’s understanding of the global fashion industry.
Then in 2015, looking for more creative freedom, she went out on her own and launched a digital magazine called “LEAF” on WeChat, China’s leading mobile application. Via this online platform she has focused on writing more in depth and original articles for her fashion savvy readership. She has also collaborated with brands like Chanel, Loewe and Chloé on fashion shoots and features in the magazine to help not just build brand awareness but also understanding of the core values of each house.
Over lunch Greener opened up about the roadblocks Western brands face when trying to court the Chinese market, why true creativity is impossible in China and why Chinese consumers are moving away from logocentric shopping.
Her magazine « LEAF » is released exclusived on WeChat, China’s leading mobile application.
Antidote : Why did you decide to launch a magazine that exists solely on WeChat?
Leaf Greener : Well I still love being an editor. But I wanted to do something that represented my own vision and point of view. I also felt that in the digital world there is so much bullshit and that no one who is really respected and doing great original content, especially in the Chinese market, for the digital platform. In China people often just copy press releases or translate pieces from other English blogs or websites. You know, nobody knows this is happening on the outside. Basically in China we are living in our own little world. People don’t have access to rich content. First because the government basically blocks everything, and second, the language is very different and complex. On my site I try and go beyond mass market and go really deep into subjects for people who are educated luxury consumers.
What do you think fashion brands are doing wrong in the Chinese market?
Western brands are still really continuing to impose their culture and values on China. They don’t do research or study our culture like they should. There are so many designers who say they come to China often, but what they do is stay 24 hours in a luxury hotel and do interviews with magazines and then they say that they have ‘visited China’ and then create a collection inspired by China but its often just lots of stereotypes. These are not designs that are going to interest the Chinese.
« In China people often just copy press releases or translate pieces from other English blogs or websites. You know, nobody knows this is happening on the outside. »
Any brand that is getting it right in China?
Hermes. They really have taken the time to look at the Chinese culture and history. All Asian countries are not the same you know. There are very different cultures and traditions. Brand and designers really have to put in the time to understand us.
Is that what you think your role is now, to help Western luxury brands better understand what the Chinese consumer is all about?
Yes! I try to be the bridge. There is a lot of fear about China and a lot of prejudice too. So I try my best and do my part to improve the understanding about who we are and what we want and need.
Her Instagram @Leaf_Greener boasts more than 100k followers.
Is it true that the wealthy Chinese consumer is starting to move away from buying brands simply because of their logos. That their tastes are becoming more sophisticated and they are starting to embrace more cutting edge brands?
There will always be those consumers that buy a brand for its logo. But the politics in China is really changing. You cannot show off in China like before because if you do then the government will come knocking, asking about where you got the money for those things. Also the younger generation of shoppers are much more interested in hunting out cool designers. It is not so much about the brand they are buying but more about how the label connects with their lifestyle. And Chinese designers are now starting to get a lot of support from the media, from the industry and from consumers. You know the Chinese are very patriotic so that is why there is this ground swell of support for local talents.
Where do you go from here? What is your next move?
I want to create a print version of my WeChat magazine. I really think that print still has value. Just like before with movies and the arrival of television, there is still room for both. You just use them in different ways to get your message across to your reader. But print in the future really has to be very niche and deep. This is how it will compete with the digital world. But it is hard to be creative or visionary in China. To be truly creative you have to have freedom. If you don’t have freedom how can you be creative? That’s why we are always copying things (laughing).
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