Bigger plus bolder equals better? Plus-size modeling is a relatively new business in China, surfacing around 2010. From the trending A4 waist to a size 5XL, Fan Yiying of The Sixth Tone looks on the plus side of modeling in China.
While many countries have beauty standards that favor the slim, the pressure to be thin is particularly intense in China. Fat-shaming runs rife.
Temper Magazine’s Trending segment casts a net upon all that is throwing tantrums within the world of China Fashion across a variety of global sources. This very necessary segment makes for a collection of largely non-Temper Magazine-original content dipping its toe into the deep indigo-dyed pool that is the ocean of Middle Kingdom fashionable astonishment.
With the average population globally (and willingly) opting to expand its girth, the rush for plus-size fashion is breathtaking — and yes, I purposely opt to use this word in combination with “obesity”. With this maturing market, comes the demand for bigger models. As far as the China diaries go, Guangzhou City has become the center of the plus-size modeling industry due to this southern coastal region’s flourishing garment export sector and its status as a hub for online women’s fashion retailers.
And so we hereby acquaint ourselves with the trending trials and tribulations of China’s plus size model. Courtesy of Fan Yiying for The Sixth Tone.
The Chinese nation is gaining weight as nutrition and living standards improve and lifestyles change. More than 30 percent of the adult population is now overweight.
As soon as the skies clear one rainy summer day in Guangzhou, plus-size modeling hopeful Wang Jialin hurries out for a test photo shoot. Passersby stare as she poses on the busy street.
“I’m used to it,” the 20-year-old mumbles. At 165 centimeters tall and weighing in at 94 kilograms, she stands out in Chinese crowds. The long black floral dress she wears is size 5XL, while most stores only carry small, medium and large.
Wang had never considered becoming a model until her mother, who works in the clothing export industry, came across a plus-size modeling agent and suggested that her daughter give it a try.
“Chinese people think of beauty as slenderness,” Wang tells Sixth Tone. At school, she was bullied for her size. She doesn’t remember anyone ever telling her she was pretty until she met modeling agent Huang Fei.
Fat-shaming is rife in China, whether in everyday interactions or popular media. While many countries have beauty standards that favor the slim, the pressure to be thin is particularly intense in China, where it is common for family members, acquaintances, and even strangers to comment on one’s weight.
Last year, the viral “A4 waist” challenge saw swarms of Chinese girls post photos on microblog platform Weibo to prove that their waistlines were narrower than a vertical sheet of A4 paper. Shortly after, another Weibo beauty challenge launched in which female users posted photos showing off legs skinny enough to be covered by their smartphones.
Yet the nation is gaining weight as nutrition and living standards improve and lifestyles change. In a 2015 report, China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission stated that more than 30 percent of the adult population is overweight — defined as having a body mass index of 24 to 27.9 — up from 22.8 percent in 2002.
Clothing sizes in China are not standardized across the fashion industry, but “plus size” typically begins at the equivalent of a U.S. size 10 or U.K. size 14.
“It used to be that the middle-aged were the main customers for plus-size clothes, but now they have been replaced by young women who can afford trendy clothing and love dressing up,” Huang tells Sixth Tone.
Strict beauty standards apply. Huang looks for girls who are at least 1.65 meters tall, under 25 years of age and have a relatively slender waist, long neck, and — most importantly — a petite-ish, photogenic face.
In China, plus-size modeling is a relatively new business that only surfaced around 2010. Now, the city of Guangzhou has become the center of the plus-size modeling industry due to the southern coastal region’s flourishing garment export sector and its status as a hub for online women’s fashion retailers. Plus-size models can make over 10,000 yuan (US$1,470) per month, twice the average monthly salary in the city, according to state news agency Xinhua.
Huang is one of the plus-size modeling industry’s pioneering agents. She sees plus-size modeling not only as a business opportunity with real growth potential, but also as a way to change popular perceptions around fatness, beauty, and health. Since she started her agency in 2012, she has signed more than 20 female Chinese plus-size models, all weighing between 70 and 100 kilograms, but she says she sees demand for much more. Her clients are primarily retailers on Taobao, China’s biggest e-commerce website, who want to showcase their fashion on a range of body types.
And so it seems Huang has struck oil drilling into this new model-ambitious market. Read more of Fan’s full — and fabulous — report right here, on The Sixth Tone!
This trending topic was originally written by Fan Yiying for The Sixth Tone 2017 All rights reserved
Additional editing by Elsbeth van Paridon.
About The Sixth Tone: There are five tones in Mandarin Chinese. When it comes to coverage of China, Sixth Tone believes there is room for other voices that go beyond buzzwords and headlines to tell the uncommon stories of common people. Through fresh takes on trending topics, in-depth features, and illuminating contributions, Sixth Tone covers issues from the perspectives of those most intimately involved to highlight the nuances and complexities of today’s China.
Featured Image: Plus-size modeling agent Huang Fei (left) takes sample photos of model hopeful Wang Jialin in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, June 20, 2017. Courtesy of Fan Yiying for The Sixth Tone.
Images: Courtesy of The Sixth Tone.
Temper Magazine does not own any of the above English content. All featured English content belongs to Fan Yiying for The Sixth Tone 2017. All rights reserved.
After tackling Beijing for some six years where she worked for China International Publishing Group, she spent a moment in time moseying down steep alleyways and writing about their fashionable and underground features in Hong Kong.
Van Paridon most recently managed to claw her way through a Europe-based academic endeavor called "Journalism". 'Tis in such fashion that she has now turned her lust for China Fashion/ Lifestyle and Underground into a full time occupation.
Van Paridon hunts down the latest in Chinese menswear, women’s clothing, designer newbies, established names, changes in the nation’s street scenery, close-ups of particular trends presently at play or of historical socio-cultural value in Chinaplus a selection of budding photographers.
Paired with a deep devotion to China’s urban underground scene, van Paridon holds a particular interest in the topics of androgyny, the exploration of individuality and the power that is the Key Opinion Leader (the local term for “influencers”) in contemporary China.
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