Your insider’s guide to Hong Kong

Taking Fashion Forward

Vogue China Editor-in-Chief Angelica Cheung says it’s the magazine’s job to cultivate a well-rounded and respected role model for a new generation

Words: Daniel Kong

Angelica Cheung

Angelica Cheung sees herself as something of an outsider. Trained as a lawyer before she worked at Marie Claire Hong Kong and then Elle China, the editor-in-chief of Vogue China has been at the helm of the prestigious fashion magazine for the past 12 years.

“I come from a background that is different from other people in my field. I never thought I would be in fashion for this long and I never thought I would be in this role. All along, I was a little reluctant to cooperate and tried to leave in some way. That made me different from everybody else in our business,” she explains.

It is this outsider’s perspective that has given Cheung an edge. She possesses the ability to see the inner workings of an outwardly glamorous industry, giving her the insight to lead the company into fresh and precarious waters.

“I’m most proud of the fact that we set a new bar for fashion media publishing in China,” she says. “We’ve maintained a high level of influence and creativity but also grew the business very steadily and healthily, even as we are entering the new digital age.”

Zhang Ziyi & Tom Ford
Actress Zhang Ziyi and designer-director Tom Ford on the inaugural cover of Vogue Film China

Unlike many of its peers, Vogue China is prepped and primed for the digital era. Cheung and her team have built a huge online presence, with 12 million followers on Sina Weibo and 1.5 million users on the app, Vogue Mini. The publication also has 1.5 million followers on WeChat, which makes it the best performer among fashion apps.

“I do not think digital is a monster and I never thought that way. I took it positively, because the digital world gave me more tools to pass on the Vogue influence to more people. In fact, I actually found it very liberating. My only influence before was through the print magazine, but now we can influence through more platforms.”

Cheung asserts that for young and creative talents, social platforms make it easy for people to discover new ideas. They are now empowered with the ability to instantly put their work online for everybody to see. That said, it also creates pressure for them.

“For many of these younger talents, they can’t just know about design anymore – it’s not enough. They have to know how to promote themselves. They need to know how to run a business, from supply to manufacturing, from sales to marketing. This creative boom means that we are featuring many of these talents in our magazine.”

Cheung believes her company has always been an educator and the magazine’s content is increasingly sophisticated to reflect her audience’s shifting interests. “This is why a lot of media companies are not doing well. When facing the challenges of the digital world, they forget who they are. They are busy chasing the latest trends and innovative tools, and they forget why.”

Angelica Cheung
Vogue China Editor-in-Chief Angelica Cheung at the magazine’s star-studded 11th anniversary party

Though Cheung says Vogue plays a key role in the lives of many women, she adds there are limits to its influence. For example, she admits that fashion and luxury are polluting industries, but contends that a cross section of society needs to come together to solve this problem.

“How do you sustain growth, satisfy consumer demand and preserve our natural environment? If you did a poll, everyone would want the environment to be better. But on the other hand, if they need to drive a car, they would still drive a car. Is stopping consumption the best way? I have more questions than answers on this issue.”

Cheung’s hope is that Vogue China can cultivate a readership that not only thinks about appearances, but a wider variety of issues, such as sustainability. In this way the magazine can help create a well-rounded and respected woman – much like herself.

“At Vogue China, I always address the woman before the clothes. These two sides must go together. I tell our readers that it is possible to have a glamorous outside but also a real life because, again, I’m going back to the fact that I was never a fashionista to begin with.

“Together with my husband and daughter, we live a healthy family life. To preach these values in the magazine, I have to show that it is doable. So I don’t travel to attend parties and only go out once a week (for work). We grow the business and do our job. But we also make sure that we live a happy, healthy life. I’m very grateful to be able to live in this way.”

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