As consumers become more culturally diverse and gender-fluid fashion is slowly becoming mainstream, it is no longer possible for brands to cater to a specific skin tone or body type. While ‘inclusivity’ may be a buzzword in the West, it’s a fresh-off-the-boat term in China. In a society fixated on one look – the traditional standard of a fair complexion, inclusive beauty can be hard to come by.
But times are changing. Recently, Chinese pop singer Naomi Wang was chosen to represent Fenty Beauty’s makeup line Fenty Face. Having previously been shamed by Chinese netizens for her tanned skin, freckles, and athletic build, Wang seems the antithesis of the “standard” Chinese pop idol.
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Yet the announcement of her appointment was met with great praise and reflects that some Chinese consumers are embracing different appearances as compared to just a few years before. Or is the power of Fenty changing the beauty narrative in China?
Fenty Beauty, known for its multiple shades of foundation and catering to the often overlooked darker skin tones, succeeded in targeting a niche Western market within China – fans turned consumers who are familiar with brand founder Rihanna predisposed to ‘alternative’ beauty and looks. However, when approached differently to combine appealing to the masses and advocating diversity, this can backfire.
Case in point: Zara. The Spanish fast-fashion label featured Chinese model Li Jingwen sporting her natural freckles in a beauty campaign, which provoked a series of backlash from the masses under the hashtag #InsultToChina for having “uglified” Chinese beauty standards.
So what made Fenty fly and Zara sink? Knowing your audience. No matter where you are, one size doesn’t fit all. Brands need to know their tribe and focus their efforts for impact with the right audience. We are a diverse cohort. We don’t expect you to appeal to us all, and we value it when brands stay true to who they are.