While Lisa Xia came from a textile job to become part of China’s socialite, her daughter Natasha Lau is a renowned fashion KOL. Both popular on social media, these two different generations embody 40 years of Chinese history
While international influencers like Kylie Jenner rule on Instagram, a new form of influencer marketing that combines know-how, entertainment, and outstanding lifestyle is creating a brand-new social elite in the Middle Kingdom.
These are China’s most powerful Key Opinion Leaders, whose extraordinary lives attract millions of followers on Chinese social media such as Weibo or Xiaohongshu. They build social empires across Dragon’s digital scene thanks to close relationships with luxury brands, sometimes even running their own firm.
Natasha Lau is one of them, sharing her social success with her fashion-icon mom, Lisa Xia.
Historically, Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) were mostly mainstream celebrities, however, with the evolution of the social community, there is a new group of KOLs, whose popularity directly arises from their own profiles or blogs. Today, these online celebrities are trusted to be the most influential personalities when it comes to marketing and selling thanks to the constant sharing of their lives and thoughts with their followers.
Since she was just a child, Natasha Lau owned the fashion KOL gene right in her DNA. While most kids spent their childhood playing princess and queen with their friends, Natasha spent it sitting with her mom in the front row at major fashion shows all around the world.
© Xuehua. Natasha Lau, daughter of Shanghai socialite Lisa Xia, works as a model in China while attending fashion design in New York.
Her mother, Lisa Xia, is renowned for her high fashion sense. Dressed in haute couture, always flaunting the latest styles, Ms. Xia took her love for fashion from her father, who owned a clothing factory. Then, she worked in a textile mill in her youth before the country’s opening up 40 years ago.
Today, the woman is one of Shanghai’s premier socialites and avid couture collector who was named “The Most Fashionable Woman in Asia” by Tatler magazine in the early 2000s.
At the time Natasha was born, the daughter was already in the fashion industry. Born in Hong Kong, the 21-year-old girl now splits her time between Shanghai, where she works as a model and stylist, and New York, where she is studying fashion at Parsons School of Design.
In addition to her success in the fashion industry, Natasha’s Weibo profile gathers over 1.8 million followers and other 250,000 follow her on Instagram, especially after she was chosen as the only Asian face in Dolce & Gabbana’s #DGmillennial campaign in 2017.
Although she counts millions of fans and numerous brand collaborations, she is proud to attach her status as a KOL to her mother. “I think I can influence people from the young generation because of my mom, maybe I already have a base of followers because she is famous and because of my background,” Lau said.
Even if, like her mom, the girl was once voted “best-dressed woman” in Asia and even if they count almost the same number of followers on Weibo, the two ladies’ personal backstory could not be more different.
© Instagram. From the grandfather’s clothing factory to Shanghai’s fashion elite, mother and daughter represent the evolving China.
Lisa Xia comes from a time when the Dragon was still recovering from the Cultural Revolution. She still remembers when she had to work hard to buy something, when buying fancy clothes was a luxury, literally.
At that time, the People’s Republic was laying the foundation for the country it is now. Ms. Xia’s father belonged to the manufacturer class that made China the factory of the world, before Deng Xiaoping’s opening reforms turned the country into the second world’s largest economy.
Natasha Lau, instead, represents the emerging youth, children of a new Chinese middle-class built on hard work and rediscovery of wealth. As many other second-generation wealthy Chinese, the girl, as well, studies abroad responding to the generational pressure to make her own way in the world.
Mother and daughter are not only representatives of two generations but they also embody two completely different Chinas. And young Chinese from all walks of life seem to love the couple.
Their social profiles are crowded with pictures of them together with the most popular stylists such as Armani, Valentino, and D&G. On Weibo, both mother and daughter share their extraordinary lives ranging from fashion capitals’ runways to high-class galas. On Instagram, Natasha flaunts high-end outfits while showing a glimpse of her marvelous life. Their reality is anything but ordinary.
They are a window on the life the US film Crazy Rich Asians failed to portray. This emerging middle-class and its offspring is socially savvy and trendy, far away from the ancient Chinese stereotype. The lifestyle is influenced by Western culture but it still leaks Chinese characteristics. The two women’s hometown, Shanghai, is the most iconic example of this combination, where China comes to terms with international influence.
© 123rf. West Nanjing Road, Shanghai. Shanghai is one of Chinese cities that changed the most during the last decades. Like many other fashion capitals in the world, it now hosts a very popular fashion week every year.
Nevertheless, as a second-generation rich Chinese, Natasha Lau is different from wealthy kids as they were a few years ago, a change that occurred along with the change in luxury consumption.
Indeed, in the last decade, the Dragon’s fashion consumers’ behavior changed as the country’s economy has grown. With an extreme poverty reduction and an increasing purchasing power spreading across the country, brands started to address directly to the Asian consumers opening a proper dialogue with the market.
“Before, we Chinese used to buy in a more blind way: whatever was trendy, we’d buy it,” says Xia to South China Morning Post, “but now young people understand more what suits their own style.”
Older wealthy kids used to buy brands’ social status and used social networks to show off their wealth gaining the pejorative title fuerdai 富二代. Also thanks to Xi Jinping’s campaign to discourage wealth flaunting, today’s middle-class children prefer to show off their lifestyle rather than wealth.
In 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke out about the wealth flaunting issue, urging the fuerdai “think about the source of their wealth and how to behave after becoming affluent.”
Compared to the older “siblings”, new Chinese millennials like Natasha Lau feel the pressure to build their own future apart from the parents. This new youth dropped 富 – wealthy – from fuerdai and started to refer to themselves using a new term, chuangerdai 创二代, which means “second-generation entrepreneurs,” or just erdai 二代, “second generation.”
As well as her contemporaries, Lisa Xia’s daughter feels the need to use her mom’s popularity to provide followers with a positive model of KOL. However, as she also lives in New York, the girl feels her generation’s strongest urge, the one the movie Crazy Rich Asians failed to satisfy, that of providing a proper narration.
“I want to put my influence to have a positive effect on the young generation. China’s youth has changed a lot, we want to let foreigners feel that Chinese these days are very different, they are proud, open-minded, friendly, nice, you can look at the new generation and we are so positive,” said Natasha.
© Xuehua. The Peninsula, Beijing. During D&G fashion show, Natasha Lau and her mom were invited to sit in the front row next to the world-famous actress Zhang Ziyi.
Natasha Lau and Lisa Xia are two unique influencers in China and their charm attracts the world’s leading fashion firms. While most popular stylists compete to have them at their fashion shows, millions of people follow the mother and daughter’s unconventional lives.
The two women come from two very different generations but they both embody China’s single story. The story of a country that arose from ashes and that turned from the factory of the world into the second world’s largest economy, a story that merges with the narrative of its population and of its wealth evolution.
Both adult and young Chinese love Lisa Xia and Natasha Lau as they represent the symbol of a lifestyle that is now possible and close. While the mother gives voice to a sense of rebirth from humble origins, the D&G’s muse expresses the country’s youth openness and will to succeed with a steady look towards the future. And an Instagram picture of the two women together tells 40 years of China’s history.
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