Fashion Westernization: What is Happening to Vogue China?

Photo: Yossi Michaeli

Photo: Yossi Michaeli

Globalization has affected our world in many aspects. Differences between countries regarding culture, traditions, food or even fashion have decreased, while they are becoming more and more similar every day due to the influence, mostly, of the USA standards. Other phenomenon connected to globalization which is also spreading rapidly is westernization, which consists basically in the promotion of the Western way of life and ideals in Eastern nations. Beauty standards haven’t been able to escape to this influence either. As a consequence, cover girls in fashion magazines look surprisingly similar in all over the world: Caucasian, usually size zero models.

As an example, I would like to comment the case of Vogue China. My boyfriend brought me the August 2014 issue from a trip he did in the summer, and I couldn’t help but amaze: Chinese girls hardly appeared in 1 out of 10 pictures or adverts, sometimes, luckily, in 2 out of 10. Caucasian or Western models, on the contrary, starred almost all campaigns, news and even reports. The result: if there were no Chinese characters, you wouldn’t say it was a magazine made for Chinese women. The repercussion this fact can have on Chinese population is comparable to the outcome size zero dictatorship has had in developed countries: the rejection of the own body, eating disorders, rise of plastic surgery interventions, and even self-harm.

Actually, these consequences haven’t taken long to show up. Asian girls want to look like the girls they see in the magazines, but, as this beauty ideal is far from being easily met, they end up spending great amounts of money (the ones who can afford it) in beauty products and procedures to be just like their favorite models, being the nose, the eyes and the skin tone — the three most operated traits in China. Even though, this influence, despite being huge nowadays, is not very recent. In fact, Western influence started hundred of years ago: in the 16th century, when Western traders visited China to get spices and opium. These traders were the ones who introduced images of what Western beauty looked like.

However, the influence these men could have in China was obviously smaller than the one westernization has today, as these traders only traveled to cities like Hong Kong, remaining the rest of the country “virgin”. Nowadays, Western beauty standards are everywhere, essentially spread by the media: press, television, advertising and magazines, which keep on focus on Hollywood stars and American and European Models. The hidden message: they are beautiful, so in order to be beautiful you will have to look like them. It is to be expected then that the reaction of Chinese women is to make their noses pointier, to get double eyelid surgery to make their eyes bigger and to lighten their skin. No wonder China is the third country in the world in plastic surgery interventions, after the USA and Brazil. In fact, over one million people went under the knife in 2013 in China.

Ironically, Asian models are beginning to be in fashion in the Western fashion industry, precisely because of their almond shaped eyes, their straight hair or even their skin, being some of these traits the most hated by them. Their exotic beauty attracts many fashion designers actually. Once again, the same old story: the grass is always greener on the other side of the wall. In other words, we fail to value ourselves as we always see the other’s traits as better than ours. And this happens not only in China, but also in every part of the world. In Spain, for instance, we see blonde haired and blue eyed people as more beautiful than brown haired and brown eyed people, mainly because of two reasons. The first one: because it is not what we usually see on the streets. The second one: because fashion magazines mostly feature Nordic blonde models, as a consequence of globalization as well.

It is crucial then to raise awareness and to speak out against globalization of beauty standards, as this phenomenon can easily lead to low self-esteem issues and to unnecessary plastic surgery interventions that could be prevented. Nevertheless, it is more important to learn to appreciate our own beauty and our own body as they are so that we can be provided with tools to fight the excessive media influence in the world.