China’s Next Plus-Size Challenge : A New Model. Fan Yiying Reports For The Sixth Tone

Big­ger plus bolder equals bet­ter ? Plus-size mod­el­ing is a rel­at­ively new busi­ness in China, sur­fa­cing around 2010. From the trend­ing A4 waist to a size 5XL, Fan Yiy­ing of The Sixth Tone looks on the plus side of mod­el­ing in China.

While many countries have beauty standards that favor the slim, the pressure to be thin is particularly intense in China. Fat-shaming runs rife.

Tem­per Magazine’s Trend­ing seg­ment casts a net upon all that is throw­ing tan­trums with­in the world of China Fash­ion across a vari­ety of glob­al sources. This very neces­sary seg­ment makes for a col­lec­tion of largely non-Tem­per Magazine-ori­gin­al con­tent dip­ping its toe into the deep indigo-dyed pool that is the ocean of Middle King­dom fash­ion­able aston­ish­ment.

With the aver­age pop­u­la­tion glob­ally (and will­ingly) opt­ing to expand its girth, the rush for plus-size fash­ion is breath­tak­ing — and yes, I pur­posely opt to use this word in com­bin­a­tion with  “obesity”. With this matur­ing mar­ket, comes the demand for big­ger mod­els. As far as the China diar­ies go, Guang­zhou City has become the center of the plus-size mod­el­ing industry due to this south­ern coastal region’s flour­ish­ing gar­ment export sec­tor and its status as a hub for online women’s fash­ion retail­ers.

And so we hereby acquaint ourselves with the trend­ing tri­als and tribu­la­tions of China’s plus size mod­el. Cour­tesy of Fan Yiy­ing for The Sixth Tone.


The Chinese nation is gaining weight as nutrition and living standards improve and lifestyles change. More than 30 percent of the adult population is now overweight.

As soon as the skies clear one rainy sum­mer day in Guang­zhou, plus-size mod­el­ing hope­ful Wang Jial­in hur­ries out for a test pho­to shoot. Pass­ers­by stare as she poses on the busy street.

“I’m used to it,” the 20-year-old mumbles. At 165 cen­ti­meters tall and weigh­ing in at 94 kilo­grams, she stands out in Chinese crowds. The long black flor­al dress she wears is size 5XL, while most stores only carry small, medi­um and large.

Wang had nev­er con­sidered becom­ing a mod­el until her mother, who works in the cloth­ing export industry, came across a plus-size mod­el­ing agent and sug­ges­ted that her daugh­ter give it a try.

“Chinese people think of beau­ty as slen­der­ness,” Wang tells Sixth Tone. At school, she was bul­lied for her size. She doesn’t remem­ber any­one ever telling her she was pretty until she met mod­el­ing agent Huang Fei.

Fat-sham­ing is rife in China, wheth­er in every­day inter­ac­tions or pop­ular media. While many coun­tries have beau­ty stand­ards that favor the slim, the pres­sure to be thin is par­tic­u­larly intense in China, where it is com­mon for fam­ily mem­bers, acquaint­ances, and even strangers to com­ment on one’s weight.


China’s Next Plus-Size Challenge: A New  Model. Fan Yiying Reports For The Sixth Tone
China’s Next Plus-Size Chal­lenge : A New Mod­el. Fan Yiy­ing Reports For The Sixth Tone
Plus-size mod­el­ing agent Huang Fei (right) meas­ures mod­el He Jiahui dur­ing a live stream for a Taobao store in Guang­zhou, Guang­dong province, June 20, 2017. Copyright@Fan Yiy­ing for Sixth Tone


Last year, the vir­al “A4 waist” chal­lenge saw swarms of Chinese girls post pho­tos on microb­log plat­form Weibo to prove that their waist­lines were nar­row­er than a ver­tic­al sheet of A4 paper. Shortly after, another Weibo beau­ty chal­lenge launched in which female users pos­ted pho­tos show­ing off legs skinny enough to be covered by their smart­phones.
Yet the nation is gain­ing weight as nutri­tion and liv­ing stand­ards improve and life­styles change. In a 2015 report, China’s Nation­al Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion stated that more than 30 per­cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion is over­weight — defined as hav­ing a body mass index of 24 to 27.9 — up from 22.8 per­cent in 2002.
Cloth­ing sizes in China are not stand­ard­ized across the fash­ion industry, but “plus size” typ­ic­ally begins at the equi­val­ent of a U.S. size 10 or U.K. size 14.
“It used to be that the middle-aged were the main cus­tom­ers for plus-size clothes, but now they have been replaced by young women who can afford trendy cloth­ing and love dress­ing up,” Huang tells Sixth Tone.

Strict beauty standards apply. Huang looks for girls who are at least 1.65 meters tall, under 25 years of age and have a relatively slender waist, long neck, and — most importantly — a petite-ish, photogenic face.

In China, plus-size mod­el­ing is a rel­at­ively new busi­ness that only sur­faced around 2010. Now, the city of Guang­zhou has become the center of the plus-size mod­el­ing industry due to the south­ern coastal region’s flour­ish­ing gar­ment export sec­tor and its status as a hub for online women’s fash­ion retail­ers. Plus-size mod­els can make over 10,000 yuan (US$1,470) per month, twice the aver­age monthly salary in the city, accord­ing to state news agency Xin­hua.
Huang is one of the plus-size mod­el­ing industry’s pion­eer­ing agents. She sees plus-size mod­el­ing not only as a busi­ness oppor­tun­ity with real growth poten­tial, but also as a way to change pop­ular per­cep­tions around fat­ness, beau­ty, and health. Since she star­ted her agency in 2012, she has signed more than 20 female Chinese plus-size mod­els, all weigh­ing between 70 and 100 kilo­grams, but she says she sees demand for much more. Her cli­ents are primar­ily retail­ers on Taobao, China’s biggest e-com­mer­ce web­site, who want to show­case their fash­ion on a range of body types.

And  so it seems Huang has struck oil drilling into this new mod­el-ambi­tious mar­ket. Read more of Fan’s full — and fab­ulous — report right here, on The Sixth Tone!











This trending topic was originally written by Fan Yiying for The Sixth Tone 2017 All rights reserved
Additional editing by Elsbeth van Paridon.
About The Sixth Tone: There are five tones in Mandarin Chinese. When it comes to coverage of China, Sixth Tone believes there is room for other voices that go beyond buzzwords and headlines to tell the uncommon stories of common people. Through fresh takes on trending topics, in-depth features, and illuminating contributions, Sixth Tone covers issues from the perspectives of those most intimately involved to highlight the nuances and complexities of today’s China.
Featured Image : Plus-size modeling agent Huang Fei (left) takes sample photos of model hopeful Wang Jialin in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, June 20, 2017. Courtesy of Fan Yiying for The Sixth Tone.
Images : Courtesy of The Sixth Tone.
Temper Magazine does not own any of the above English content. All featured English content belongs to Fan Yiying for The Sixth Tone 2017. All rights reserved.


Syn­dic­ated from Tem­per Magazine

More from Temper Magazine

A Close-Up Of The Plastics : China’s Emerging Influencers

China's bold an beautiful kiddos who dream of livestreaming fame nowadays get...
Read More
" />