Nana: Fashion has infinite possibilities, and new power is born from it. As a carrier of culture and times, fashion encompasses everything. From trendy to traditional culture, from celebrities, idols to everyone’s daily life, and from West to East, it is our discourse, our power, our time. Through Asian Voice, we hope to spread the local Asian fashion culture to the world by moving cross languages and borders.
In this issue of ASIAN VOICE, we are pleased to feature Jing Zhang, the editor-in-chief of Jing Daily. Founded in 2009, Jing Daily is the leading source for daily updates and insights on luxury consumer culture in the Chinese market. With rich editing experience from renowned publications such as West East and South China Morning Post, Jing Zhang embarked on a 16-year journey that led to her appointment as the editor-in-chief of Jing Daily in August 2022, adding diverse content to the media with modules like Jing Meta, which offers insights into the Metaverse and Web3, as well as exploration of the beauty industry in the future.
Speaking of the Chinese market, Jing Zhang shared many unique perspectives with us. China is a country with an independent social media and online space, and a vast consumer market that attracts worldwide attention. Any changes and developments here are incredibly rapid and interesting. With more and more people paying attention to the Chinese market, Jing Zhang believes that misunderstandings about it are also deepening. Every brand and individual needs a professional and authoritative organization to gain insight and understanding of the Chinese market. With her diverse background living in Hong Kong and the UK and fluency in both Chinese and English, Jing Zhang has a profound understanding of both China and the West. Under her guidance, Jing Daily will continue to serve as a bridge between the East and the West, consistently providing high-quality content related to the Chinese market.
As a seasoned fashion editor, Jing Zhang also shared her advice in the ChatGPT era: Developing your own unique voice. Perhaps influenced by her educational background in psychology and anthropology, Jing Zhang believes that editors with experience in various fields can provide a unique and diverse perspective. In the age of mass media, where everyone can easily consume and express vast amounts of information, it is essential to find your uniqueness and your one-of-a-kind voice.
Nana: You have over sixteen years of professional experience as an editor, journalist, consultant across sectors in luxury, fashion, culture, etc.,What made you decide to join JING DAILY and cover the luxury market in China?
Jing Zhang: A friend who worked in the fashion and luxury retail industry mentioned an intriguing opportunity to me. And I feel it’s interesting because it’s really tackling the business of fashion and luxury and retail. There are still many misconceptions and cultural differences between the West and Asia, which makes the work we do even more important.
We cover a broad range of topics, from analyzing business strategies to delving into specific campaigns and brands. Additionally, we strive to act as a bridge between the Chinese market and the West by providing insights and trends that may not be readily understood. By contextualizing these insights, we hope to serve as a translator between the two markets.
Nana: What is the background of your former career?
Jing Zhang: My educational background is in psychology and anthropology, which are not directly related to fashion or journalism. However, I have always enjoyed writing and had the opportunity to start writing for a magazine called West East while still in university. This magazine focused on fashion and the arts, and I was offered a job there soon after completing my master’s degree. Although fashion and the arts were not my intended career path, I found it fascinating to explore how fashion can express individuality and identity. My work at West East led me to become the editor of the magazine and later the fashion editor at South China Morning Post, a newspaper in Hong Kong. Looking back, my foray into fashion was rather accidental, but it opened up many opportunities for me in the industry.
Nana: How do you balance the interests of your Chinese and international readerships, and what strategies do you use to ensure that your content is relevant and engaging to both groups?
Jing Zhang: Our publication caters to readers interested in China, with sections covering global collaborations and web 3.0 luxury. While the majority of our readers are English speakers, we also cater to those who can read Chinese or French. We offer an international perspective on the Chinese market that is valuable to readers who prefer not to read in English.
For these audiences, we have a WeChat channel, a popular social media platform widely used in China. In addition to translating some of our articles, we have a dedicated China-based team that creates content specifically for Chinese readers. Although the demographic and reading preferences of this audience differ from our English-speaking readers, we aim to provide shared and unique content across all of our channels. Different audiences require different strategies.
Nana: How do you work with luxury brands and designers to ensure that your content accurately reflects their brand values and messaging, while still maintaining editorial independence and authenticity?
Jing Zhang: I believe that media’s foremost responsibility is to reflect independence and authenticity. While we strive for impartiality, we acknowledge that we have our own perspective. Our approach to covering brands is critical, and if necessary, we are not hesitant to call out any wrongdoings. When it comes to commercial content, such as advertorials, we clearly label them as such.
As a news outlet, we prioritize covering business news, and we do not shy away from reporting on scandals or negative earnings. Our impartiality and consistency as a trustworthy source are crucial, given our readership’s high level of education and expertise in the fashion, luxury, and beauty industries.
We cater to both B2B and B2C readers and cannot pretend that everything in the industry is positive. Our role is not to advertise for brands unless we are explicitly engaged in a partnership or an advertorial. When reporting on news, we remain neutral and objective.
Nana: There must be many brands seeking an opportunitie to work with Jing Daily.
Jing Zhang: We have straightforward advertisers, but we also provide reports. We have this segment that’s relatively new called Jing Intelligence, which is more a deep dive intel where we work with brands to give them specific intelligence about specific consumer trends and use our internal resources to help them with that.
Some brands just want to do an advertorial to write about the show in China. Some brands want a deeper relationship with us as usually done through Jing Intelligence, which is similar as a consultancy.
There’s so much that people want to know because China is very difficult to understand unless you are living there. Different internet system almost as different apps, different shopping platform, all different.
So getting the right partner there is the most important thing.
Nana: How do you stay up to date with the latest trends and developments in this space?
Jing Zhang: The interesting thing about Chinese luxury market is that it is relatively new, having emerged only 20-30 years ago. Despite its youth, this market has evolved rapidly, reflecting the speed of development in China as a whole. With China’s vast population, a minor shift in consumer behavior can significantly impact the fortunes of a business. As a reporter, this creates an exciting ecosystem for me to stay up to date on the latest trends and developments, which is my job.
To ensure that we are delivering accurate and relevant news, we have a dedicated team on the ground in China, providing us with daily updates and research on our topics. We recognize that many big Western media outlets may not provide a comprehensive perspective, particularly from a foreign angle. Therefore, we strive to offer a genuine dual West-East perspective through Jing Daily.
Nana: What do you think is the most significant difference between Western and Eastern perspectives?
Jing Zhang: Cultural differences can make it challenging to understand a foreign culture when you are in the center of your own. Due to the dissimilarities in their home culture, American and English-language media may have a distinct perspective. Similarly, Chinese media reporting on the West may also encounter the same obstacle.
When journalists from different cultures work for media outlets from other countries, it adds an interesting dynamic and improved. But still, the perspective of the entire platform may still be influenced by cultural differences.
Nana: What are some of the most exciting trends and developments you’re currently seeing in the Chinese luxury market that you’d like to share with our readers?
Jing Zhang: The rise of the middle class. A study we recently reported on predicts that by 2030, 40% of China’s population will be in the middle class. This shift is likely to have implications for luxury brands, as well as for the ultra-rich who are repeat customers of high-end brands like Chanel. Private salons are becoming more popular as a way for customers to enjoy a more exclusive and private shopping experience.
Chinese and Asian people, in general, have appreciation of service and Asian services, such as in hotels, are famous around the world. With the luxury consumer in China getting more confident, they will have more demands and preferences in terms of getting high-quality service. That’s going to be an interesting change. I also think that as the market matures, people’s approach will change.
Many years ago, the Chinese approach to fashion luxury was just about logos. We see that changing already, with brands like Louis Vuitton and Celine doing very well. There’s definitely a movement, and it happens quicker in China than anywhere else. The motivations behind buying luxury goods are also changing. It’s becoming more about lifestyle and not just the clothes I wear.
Nana: Starting this year, Jing Daily’s began to cover brand new content such as wellness, beauty, B2C, and digital fashion, and established a new module, Jing Meta, to focus on the latest developments in the Web3 space in real time. Do you have any thoughts on the future of China and Asia around the metaverse and retail?
Jing Zhang: We focus on Web3 globally as well as in China, but because China has a very distinct and separate internet system from the West, it’s almost like two different kinds of interactions. However, Chinese consumers are also very digitally savvy, so they all have digital wallets already with WeChat and Alipay. Cryptocurrencies are banned in China for trading, so it’s different. But I think in China, because everyone has to show their wallets, the government kind of controls this kind of thing a lot more. There are already many big companies doing metaverse and Web3 activation, such as Alibaba, JD, and ByteDance in some way. And because the government has also mandated and encouraged investment in this space from an industrial perspective, the development is really from the structure of the company up. It’s not just starting from decentralized finance and maybe fun things like NFTs and all this stuff crypto trading, like in the West.
From China, it’s really coming from a ground-up route angle, so it’s industrial web three as well as more fun digital collectibles and retail. Chinese and Asian consumers, in general, are more tech-savvy. Our lives are more integrated with tech, Japan and Korea for example, where the tech adoption was super early. China is there now, andn the adoption will be quicker in China than it will probably be in the West. It’s because we accept technology being part of our lives from quite early on. It’s part of our everyday lives from when we were quite young generations as well.
Nana: NFT, especially in the fashion industry, considers that China mainland is a huge market rather than Japan.
Jing Zhang: NFTs cannot be resold in China, unlike in the West and Japan, where you can sell them for a higher price. However, the market for NFTs is huge because people collect them like Pokemon cards, for the culture, fans, and fun, rather than just for profit. The affinity for cartoons and anime IPs is strong not only in Asia but also in the West. In Asia, there is a big interest in this kind of stuff, particularly in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and mainland China. It’s an interesting trend where adults enjoy things that are typically for children. It could be a sense of nostalgia, playfulness, or a desire to remain youthful.
Nana: What advice would you give to aspiring fashion journalists about how they can differentiate themselves in this competitive space?
Jing Zhang: Now it’s getting harder and harder to be honest with ChatGPT. It’s about having your own voice but also being a good writer. For me, it was never about writing only about fashion. I can write about art and architecture; I have interviewed a lot of famous architects. It’s about building a broader skill of being able to write about the creative world. Your interest might be in fashion, art, or theater. But I would say that the art of writing beautifully cannot be replaced on ChatGPT. It’s essential for developing your own unique voice. But also being able to be impartial and write like a newspaper makes you adaptable to see two sides of things and have a complex viewpoint, rather than just something simple.
Nana: Nowadays, everyone has a voice on social media. While fashion journalists have access to a plethora of sources of inspiration, they are also expected to demonstrate a higher level of creativity.
Jing Zhang: It’s interesting that as fashion journalists, we often attend press trips and presentations, but what sets us apart is our unique points of view. Everyone in the media sees the same designers and events, so it’s important to find something that distinguishes ourselves from others. For me, having a background in psychology and anthropology has helped me to understand the cultural context of fashion and how mixed cultures shape it. Additionally, psychology has helped me to understand the human mind and apply it to my writing. While it’s important to have knowledge about fashion design, production, and photography, these days, many people learn about fashion through social media and influencers, which can result in a lack of organic discovery. I believe that a more organic approach to discovering fashion is what makes a journalist or fashion critic stand out.
Nowadays, accessing information is simple; just go on social media or Google. So, as an individual, what unique perspective or access do you have that sets you apart from others who are looking at the same things on the screen?
Nana: What are some your future plans for JING DAILY?
Jing Zhang: I believe there are more diverse ways to delve deeper into the China market. Although the borders have opened, cross-cultural understanding between China and the West has worsened due to covert geopolitics and travel restrictions over the past two years so we have a greater responsibility to inform and educate our readers than ever before. Our future goal is to increase our visibility and make more consumer-facing content.
While our content has already broadened this year, we aim to grow in a smart and sustainable way. Rather than solely focusing on expanding readership, we prioritize publishing high-quality reviews and reports. Our intention is to not just increase in size, but also to strengthen and deepen our organization, providing exceptional content to our audience.
Also, there will be the launch of our new website with a fresh design. We aim to explore topics in various ways, leveraging our extensive data and internal expertise to produce insightful stories on a global scale. What’s more, we have been monitoring China’s booming beauty market for some time and are excited to offer our insights and analysis to our readers through a new beauty newsletter.
It’s essential for developing your own unique voice.