West Coast New Area

Lights, Camera, Fashion!

By Xu Fan | (China Daily ) | 2017-12-15

Huang Xiaoming may have just launched a label with designer Zhang Shuai, yet the Chinese film star insists he won't be tapping into fans to push sales. Xu Fan reports.

Wearing a black T-shirt bearing a large "M" on the chest and a pair of matching pants, A-list actor Huang Xiaoming was looking sharp in the outfit he had a hand in designing.

Last week, the 40-year-old star and the emerging designer Zhang Shuai jointly launched their fashion label M-77, and held the brand's first fashion show for its fall/winter collection at the National Agriculture Exhibition Hall in downtown Beijing.

Despite nighttime temperatures falling to as low as-6 C, a number of celebrities, including actresses Fan Bingbing and Li Xiaolu, attended the red-carpet event wearing only dresses or light clothing, in an apparent sign of Huang's growing influence in showbiz circles.

Over the past 16 years, Huang has starred in 34 movies, appeared in 24 television dramas and picked up a few best actor awards for his work in domestic TV series.

His best-known works include the biographical drama Xuan Zang, a true story about the Tang Dynasty (618-907) Buddhist monk. The film represented China to contend for the Oscar's best foreign language film award in 2016. Huang also stars in Hong Kong director Peter Chan's 2013 award-winning feature American Dreams in China.

For most industry observers, Huang's handsome looks have helped pave the way for his huge popularity, which he is now using to realize his ambition of running a successful business.

Before establishing M-77, Huang had invested in dozens of different fields, including the internet business, catering services, medical treatments, several movie and television projects, and even in the environmental protection industry.

While top fashion bloggers are followed by no more than 2 million fans on Sina Weibo, Huang commands a following of 54 million people.

So, it was no surprise to hear one of the press pack surrounding the star asking whether Huang was planning to rely on his stardom to promote the brand.

"No, we will not be using our fans to boost sales," Huang replies simply.

This sentiment was echoed by Zhang, a former veteran makeup artist.

"Huang has been a star for nearly 20 years, and I have worked as a styling designer for nearly 20 years. We have seen many ups and downs. Consumers and the market are practical. People will only follow you if your products are of good quality," says Zhang.

Born in Qingdao in East China's Shandong province, Huang recalls his family was not able to afford good clothes when he was young.

"My mother had to tailor old clothes to make them look new and trendy. I was happy to wear them then," says Huang.

His adolescent struggle for affordable fashion has translated into a strong desire to make non-luxury, good-value clothing for those in a similar situation.

"In those years, youngsters were usually very excited to have new clothes, but they were usually difficult to satisfy," he explains.

This reminiscent mood was also apparent at the show, where models displayed M-77 outfits against a backdrop of nostalgic paraphernalia. An array of items symbolizing the childhood memories of Chinese people born in the 1970s, from glass balls to wooden toy guns, adorned the hall. Eight outfit ranging under five themes, including one designed with American clothing brand Discovery Expedition, made onto the catwalk.

Huang explains the concept behind M-77: While "M" stands for man, "77" refers to the 1970s.

He also promises the brand will focus on producing inexpensive yet good-value items to make them affordable for ordinary people, as well as adding some Chinese elements to make it more appealing than some other foreign rivals.

Huang also reveals that he will play an important role in designing the clothes, and bring his favorite elements to the brand, such as military uniforms.

It's hard to predict whether Huang will become China's answer to Victoria Beckham, the former popstar-turned-designer, but the Chinese actor has certainly made a splash.

His Dec 7 post on micro blog Sina Weibo announcing the founding of M-77 has so far obtained around 32,000 "likes" and nearly 6,000 comments, far more than his promotional posts for the upcoming film Forever Young, in which he co-stars with Zhang Ziyi and other top stars.

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