Eileen Gu’s popularity in China makes her luxury fashion’s dream model

Composed by Oscar Holland, CNN

Contributors Teele Rebane, CNNLizzy Yee, CNN

A variation of this story appeared in CNN’s In the meantime in China newsletter, a a few-times-a-week update discovering what you need to have to know about the country’s increase and how it impacts the environment. Indicator up right here.
For followers of freestyle snowboarding and manner alike, the buzz encompassing Wintertime Olympian Eileen Gu at this year’s Games has occur as minor shock.
The 18-12 months-old’s gold medal performance in the significant air competitiveness thrust her into the world-wide spotlight Tuesday, sparking such a furor in China that social media system Weibo crashed under the body weight of curiosity. But Gu has spent several years establishing herself as equally a top rated athlete and a massively bankable model who appeals to brand names in the two Asia and the West.

In 2021, as she won gold medals at the snowboarding World Championships and Winter X Games, Gu was also forging beneficial partnerships with manner homes and luxury labels. Signing for IMG Models, the company representing Bella Hadid, Kate Moss and Hailey Bieber, she has penned offers with Louis Vuitton, Victoria’s Top secret and Tiffany & Co., as nicely as the luxurious Swiss watchmaker IWC and cosmetics brand name Estée Lauder, among some others.

In simple fact, the California-born athlete is between the most heavily sponsored athletes at these Olympics. She arrived in Beijing with a lot more than 20 business partnerships, ranging from Beats by Dre headphones to Cadillac.
A promotional image from Gu's recent campaign with Louis Vuitton.

A promotional impression from Gu’s current campaign with Louis Vuitton. Credit score: Louis Vuitton

But it is Gu’s mass attractiveness in China, wherever she is identified by her Chinese title Gu Ailing and has been nicknamed the “Snow Princess,” that helps make her primarily precious to brand names.

Acquiring switched her sporting allegiance to her mother’s residence nation in 2019, Gu’s fluency in Mandarin has aided safe her area on Chinese Tv adverts, billboards and even milk cartons (as the confront of Interior Mongolia-primarily based Mengniu Dairy). E-commerce huge JD.com, cafe chain Luckin Espresso and telecoms firm China Cellular are among the rising list of mainland makes that she’s modeled for in new months.
China is on keep track of to become the world’s greatest luxurious market by 2025, according to consulting business Bain. The Asian version of marketing and advertising field magazine Campaign estimated that new endorsements there could be earning the athlete all around 15 million yuan ($2.5 million) apiece — and that was ahead of her gold-medal good results.
Eileen Gu seen on a JD.com advertisement at a bus stop in Beijing, China.

Eileen Gu observed on a JD.com ad at a bus stop in Beijing, China. Credit history: Tingshu Wang/Reuters

In accordance to Bohan Qiu, whose Shanghai-primarily based innovative company Boh Undertaking will work with significant manner brands, Gu’s surging reputation in the state comes at a time when nationalist pride in China has noticed “the relevance of Western celebs” decrease.

“For this generation, a large amount of the stars right here are fairly domestic-oriented — so (Gu) currently being half-American fifty percent-Chinese, and talking both of those languages fluently, has a really world wide attractiveness,” he mentioned over the cellphone, including that the country’s Gen Z demographic contains “third tradition young children” who at the same time understand Chinese and Western contexts. “She is surely a as soon as-in-a-ten years form of talent.”

Gu has coupled big-cash offers with reliable journal capabilities and appearances at A-listing trend demonstrates. Noticed at functions like Paris Style 7 days as much back as 2019, she has since been seen on Louis Vuitton’s entrance row and the notoriously distinctive Met Gala, in which she arrived on the crimson carpet putting on a Carolina Herrera bubble costume.
“The style planet has aided stability my teaching,” she advised Vogue Hong Kong, showing on the include of the magazine’s July issue. “Just like skiing, modeling involves remarkable expression and persona. It necessitates creativeness, confidence, and the skill to learn and adapt… The changeover involving modeling and snowboarding grew to become a split and a observe for each individual other that served me inevitably sense a lot more determined in each individual place.”
Eileen Gu pictured with Stacy Martin (left) and Venus Williams (right) at the Louis Vuitton Womenswear Spring/Summer 2022 show at Paris Fashion Week last October.

Eileen Gu pictured with Stacy Martin (still left) and Venus Williams (correct) at the Louis Vuitton Womenswear Spring/Summer 2022 demonstrate at Paris Fashion 7 days past Oct. Credit rating: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Visuals

Gu has also appeared on the cover of Chinese editions of GQ and Elle. And as guest editor of Vogue China’s Gen-Z-targeted bimonthly issue, Vogue+, the athlete recently explored the complexities of her identity underneath the concept “code change.”

“I wished to discover and showcase the inherently malleable character of adolescent identities, Gu wrote on Instagram, “a high-quality I’ve observed myself tapping into time and time once more as I display various aspects of myself (athlete, model, student, Chinese, American, teen, writer, general public persona, etcetera) in diverse environments. All people code switches, and I think it truly is time we start off celebrating that multifaceted mother nature.”
The skiing star guest-edited an issue of Vogue China's Gen-Z-focused bimonthly issue, Vogue+.

The skiing star guest-edited an concern of Vogue China’s Gen-Z-targeted bimonthly concern, Vogue+.

A ‘safe bet’ for brand names

Gu’s social media is also littered with trend. Irrespective of whether posting to Instagram or creating to tens of millions of followers on Xiaohongshu and Weibo (the Chinese equal of Instagram and Twitter, respectively), her feeds flit concerning activity and fashion, with pictures from the slopes posted alongside modeling pictures and her most current vogue editorials.

Her unguarded strategy has served her connect with young lovers, in each China and the West, who want to see “higher than and further than the instruction, the sporting activities, the more official aspect of items,” stated Qiu. “A lot of Chinese celebs are substantially much more guarded by their agent or administration, or they have a really hard time sharing the more real sides of their life.”

Soon after last Friday’s opening ceremony, Gu posted a “lookbook” of outfits she had worn at the Games so far. Somewhere else, she has shared messages aid from supermodel Karlie Kloss and a viral online video of her unboxing gear from Chinese sportswear model Anta for an impromptu vogue show in the Olympic village.

“My god, that vest and down jacket give off supermodel vibes,” wrote one particular user beneath the latter video on the Chinese model of TikTok, Douyin. “The Frog Princess is so modern,” go through a comment on one more video clip, utilizing an additional Chinese nickname supplied to Gu on account of a inexperienced ski helmet she wore as a kid. “Cheering you on to be the best at the Winter Olympics.”

An advertising billboard shows Eileen Gu promoting the Chinese dairy company Mengniu Dairy.

An advertising and marketing billboard exhibits Eileen Gu promoting the Chinese dairy company Mengniu Dairy. Credit score: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Even in the warmth of opposition, Gu has used her public system to strengthen her manner credentials and endorse Chinese tradition. Talking to reporters soon after qualifying for the massive air final on Monday, she pulled up her race bib to show the cameras a black jacket embroidered with a golden dragon. “This is a piece of clothing I made, with Chinese aspects,” she said in Mandarin.

Gu’s ascent will come at a time when Western labels often find them selves subjected to customer boycotts for perceived missteps — almost everything from casting designs that you should not healthy Chinese splendor expectations to printing T-shirts listing Hong Kong and Macau as nations, fairly than towns. Her refusal to be drawn on political issues may possibly bolster her popularity as a minimal-danger ambassador.
The skier has remained limited-lipped on the many controversies bordering China at these Games, including Beijing’s alleged remedy of Xinjiang’s Uyghur population and problems around the properly-becoming of tennis star Peng Shuai.
“There is certainly no want to be divisive,” she a short while ago advised the New York Situations immediately after indicating she would “pass” on queries about China. “I assume almost everything I do, it really is all about inclusivity.”
Questioned about Peng at a press meeting this week, Gu merely welcomed her attendance and expressed gratitude that the tennis player was “happy and healthier and out below executing her detail again.” Gu has also dodged queries about no matter whether she was forced her to forfeit her US passport, as China does not formally realize twin citizenship.

Associated online video: Reporters press Eileen Gu in excess of her citizenship. See her response

Her diplomatic strategy echoes that of tennis star Emma Raducanu, who also received praise from state media and trended on Weibo after successful the US Open up previous yr. (She way too has a Chinese mom and has resolved supporters on social media in Mandarin). Raducanu has because signed with the likes of Dior, with talent manager Jonathan Shalit, telling CNN last year that he predicted her to make “perfectly above $100 million” in sponsorship specials in 2022.

But in contrast to the tennis star, who carries on to signify the United kingdom, Gu’s selection to ski for China can make her an even more bankable title, according to Qiu.

“Sporting activities heroes are surely the new idols here,” Qiu mentioned, including: “They are national heroes, which helps make them a very safe guess for manufacturers to do the job with.”

Leading impression: Eileen Gu in a campaign for Louis Vuitton.