Given the recent stream of sanctions across China’s Weibo and WeChat social media platforms, we find ourselves in a perpetual KOL state of mind. Temper gives you Daisy Dai. And some seriously scrumptious influencer attitude.
“I strive to be a trailblazer within the new media landscape, conveying to audiences significant information and inspiration from both the Eastern and Western fashion industries.” Daisy Dai
A fast ‘n fash history 101 courtesy of Temper Magazine. The “KOL” acronym stands for “Key Opinion Leader”. The term originated on China’s major microblogging tool that is Sina Weibo and in its most basic understanding refers to those one-million-hits boasting bloggers (the “hóngréndàhào” or “plus-sized rising stars”) who freely, and often controversially so, speak their minds and express their opinions on China’s political, ethical and social ongoings. Their ponderings and findings are more often than not deemed non-CCP-appropriate, leading their explosive blogging domination to have the ear (well, “eye” is more like it) of a plus-sized readership. From political fads to luxury fashions, the past five years have witnessed an across-the-board development of China’s KOL, which obviously did not sneak past the eyes and ears of fashion’s marketing mavens.
The use of KOLs to promote any given product, within the range of their designated field or niche, to Chinese audiences via the abovementioned Weibo or Tencent’s social media (and then some) app WeChat soon featured as a core strategy on the social media agenda of businesses and brands around the globe. Fashion’s luxury brands in particular jumped at the chance to familiarize themselves with China’s millennials and regain some of the losses they had suffered in Europe from 2007 onwards due to an increasingly fickle customer-base groaning under a glob of financial trials and tribulations. They saw in China’s influencers a way out. The platform on which a KOL establishes him- or herself — it’s a unisex gig, after all — too has evolved and nowadays comes at the fancy of the individual: From company to lifestyle website to online media, the world of Weibo and WeChat is your oyster. And when all was moving in refreshingly fine and dandy manner, in swirled The Twist…
Chinese regulators on June 23 shut down web-casting services including live-streaming, on three popular platforms in China — Sina Weibo, news portal iFeng, and video-streaming site AcFun — for violating government standards by broadcasting negative commentary on political and social news. The ban, which was posted on the website of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), has caused Weibo’s shares to drop and potentially shrouds the future of other major live-streaming and short video services in uncertainty. Influencers and brands alike went Mad Max. Except for this Positive Patty…
Ever the curious Georgette — we’re namedropping away today — Temper Magazine tracked down (ok, “stalked”) fashion entrepreneur Daisy Dai for an up close and personal sesh about 2017 KOL life. And then some.
Crossing Borders And Jumping Walls
The legacy of the KOL: Always walk five steps ahead of your followers, know what others want to know before they know it and jump the hurdle that is The Great Firewall. Never one to think of herself as an trending key opinion leader, Dai uses to the max the plethora of dais (oh yes!) our modern online world has to offer. Active in the realms of social media both at home (China) and abroad (where every region features its own cultural specifics), Dai maintains a strong visual photographic ethic and style on her Instagram. A young entrepreneur with the multiple identities of author, bilingual blogger, stylist, anchor and actress, she consequently jumps the Wall by bringing China-blocked content (i.e. Instagram, Google, Twitter, Facebook) onto Weibo and WeChat, where she adds a teaspoon of spicy comments to help her viewers understand more about fashion circles, trends and brands. Dai can add “glocalizer” to that list, if you ask me.
“Only one decade ago, it was still a rare opportunity for Chinese fashion backers to catch the world’s four major Fashion Weeks — New York, Milan, London and Paris. Many European fashionistas would kill for the opportunity to take in all that catwalk fun, so you can only imagine the sense of excitement attending the show would install upon Asian and Chinese visitors.” Dai tells us. With the brisk evolution of China’s technology over the past six years, and the subsequent access to (albeit somewhat censored) worldwide data 24/7, the checkerboard that is fashion also became part of the Chinese online questionnaire.
“A small number of Chinese people had the resources and opportunities to start interpreting ‘fashion’ from their own viewpoint and showcasing it to their Chinese Weibo and WeChat audiences. These people have all become an essential part China’s clothing industry, from Taobao ‘shopkeeper’ to fashion magazine photographer or both. They inform their readers about fashion mainly through their own experiences. I personally see myself as a young entrepreneur who strives to contribute the significant information and inspiration from both the Eastern and Western fashion industries. Through all things new media!” Dai explains.
More Than A Woman. More Than A KOL.
And so we start swaying along to some self-hummed BeeGees tunes… The rare Asian bilingual blogger bird who works across Chinese, Hongkongese, European and U.S. territories, Dai makes sure to engage with her followers not only online, but also on television as a style anchor. Any good KOL possesses their own particular brand of value and strength. Their popularity within the fashion industry (ahem, follower numbers), their resources, public relations skills, photography technology and industry experience make up for a large part of the potential influential success. Nevertheless, put aside all these factors and take a Dai word for it:
- “The enthusiasm for fashion. We can take the time and make the effort to pursue to that ultimate length the process of branding. You have to help the brand plan the project, from one simple photo opp to a grandiose catwalk event;
- Excellence must be pursued [and wooed, thank you Vince Lombardi]. Fashion is an industry of aesthetics, one that is always criticized;
- Think more along the “what can I do for my clients” lines [hello there, JFK] rather than the “what do I want to do” ones;
- China’s bloggers! Do your KOL best to make the following careful considerations: Take plenty of photos and don’t always cover yourself head-to-toe in brands or branded gifts. Mix it up so you can establish and truly become your own authority within fashion’s innermost circles. Have your own say!”
The area within which Dai moves, is one particularly special and non boarded-up broad. Present across all media outlets in China, living in both Europe and Hong Kong, she is free to switch between English, Mandarin and Cantonese; a powerful tool to have in your box. Her bilingual blog has become somewhat of a “foreign brand” cozily settled within the Chinese market. Always insistent on the bilingual aspect, Dai’s sightings and writings offer Chinese followers an international perspective, a Birdseye view of the (fashion) world. And from the other side of the looking glass, it helps the world understand the tastes and styles found in the kingdom of China Fashion.
Last but not least, Dai’s non Crazy Carrie but very Clever Cleo tip to survive China’s earlier-mentioned most recent stream of sanctions. “I think the recent upheaval is mostly about protectionism; it’s all about protecting that very powerful and much money-making China social media market. I myself simply opted to install another streaming app already present on the Weibo and WeChat platforms, respectively! And in doing so, the livestreaming sanctions haven’t affected me in a negative way,” the fabulous one concludes on an upbeat note.
Dai’s undertakings cross borders in all manner of ways, presenting different identities not bound and gagged by censored cloth, but seamlessly finding a way to color and style away outside the box. Just the way Temper likes ’em — and most certainly key in opinionated leadership. Know what I mean, Francine?
Coming to global audience soon: www.iconDAISY.com !
Written by Elsbeth van Paridon for Temper Magazine 2017 All rights reserved
Featured Image: Daisy Dai for ID. Courtesy of Daisy Dai
Images: Courtesy of Daisy Dai
Chinese translation by Xiao Ming
Copyright@Temper Magazine 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.