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BACK GAME CHANGERS

What is the secret behind Asian creators’ colossal success?

Among the first-ever fashion and social media influencers, Asian creators were at the forefront of the blogging boom of the late 2000s. Creative people such as Bryan Grey Yambao (aka Bryan Boy), Susie Lau (better known as Susie Bubble) and Tommy Tom began to find themselves in the front row at major shows. Led by the Asian creative class, style bloggers were taking centre stage at fashion weeks, as the Financial Times announced in 2009.

But what now that the blogosphere has lost its relevance? Asia-based talents are still leading the way in new media, showing the big players how to establish a winning method by adapting their practice to evolving social networks. Fashion professionals may have started as super-bloggers and then taken on prominent roles in the industry. While blogging has fallen out of favour, many creators have made it big on other online platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. Leveraging their digital success into lasting relationships with luxury brands, they now succeed as both TikTok sensations and creative consultants.

While touring continents to attend fashion shop openings and catwalk shows, gatherings and parties, Declan Chan made a pit stop at Istituto Marangoni Milano.

Stylist, art director and creative consultant Declan Chan joined fashion commentator Hanan Besovic, founder of the Instagram account @ideservecouture, in a conversation with students at Istituto Marangoni Milano

Hong Kong-based stylist, art director and creative consultant Declan Chan joined fashion commentator Hanan Besovic, founder of the Instagram account @ideservecouture, in a conversation with students at Istituto Marangoni Milano

Stylist, art director and creative consultant Declan Chan is one of the creatives that Jing Daily highlighted as part of the Chinese community of individuals bridging the gap between global brands and the fashion industry. In his social profiles, he defines himself as a globetrotting pro-fashion-al based in Hong Kong, clearly revealing that his communication is based on sharp humour and a genuine desire to connect brands with their audience.

Declan Chan and Hanan Besovic at Istituto Marangoni Milano

Declan Chan and Hanan Besovic at Istituto Marangoni Milano

“I started my career as a fashion editor for retailer Lane Crawford” he stated as he joined fashion commentator-turned-Instagram-sensation Hanan Besovic, founder of the hilarious meme account @ideservecouture, in a conversation with IM students. His experience in a company that runs specialised department stores selling luxury goods in Hong Kong and mainland China enabled Chan to learn the skills he needed to create content. The same skills made him a global icon as a stylist and influencer, his curriculum dotted with high-sounding names such as Vogue Hong Kong, South China Morning Post, Men’s Uno Hong Kong and Mainland China. He has recently worked on campaigns for luxury fashion houses such as Cartier, Estee Lauder and Calvin Klein, targeting a local audience.

Students attending Istituto Marangoni's Front Row event with Declan Chan and Hanan Besovic

Students attending Istituto Marangoni's Front Row event with Declan Chan and Hanan Besovic

Declan Chan has the coveted position of witnessing the evolution of the Chinese fashion industry firsthand. His way of communicating fashion has made him a fascinating personality. On social media, his followers are mostly “ordinary” people who are passionate about fashion and travel, constantly checking his Instagram profile to stay up to date on the fashion world. His street-style outfits are featured in renowned magazines such as GQ and Vogue, but he said the secret to his success is always to be himself and keep his link with China alive.

 

Social networks have changed how traditional media communicate, but the scenario is unstable; it is constantly evolving. As TikTok beats Instagram, the way users consume news and content is shifting to new demands 

In a context like the current one, where people are constantly connected to social media, followers have changed their habits. Chan started on Weibo, where followers were only interested in seeing the OOTD or what he wore that day. With the arrival of Instagram and the introduction of stories, there was a push towards interaction with the audience.

Students attending Istituto Marangoni's Front Row event with Declan Chan and Hanan Besovic

Students attending Istituto Marangoni's Front Row event with Declan Chan and Hanan Besovic

The general interest went from wanting to see one thing to the all-around lifestyle. His followers are no longer satisfied with a picture; they want to see the backstage, whether it’s from a fashion show or the choice of a look, his travels, or his daily routine. One aspect that recently impressed him is the great interest aroused by the self-quarantine experience he shared on social media, allowing people to tell their perspectives.

 

Fashion in the metaverse, a new world running wild 

The new virtual phenomenon continues to capture attention. Six months ago, even Declan Chan collaborated on a project –FabriX– to support new designers in Hong Kong, involving some of his designer friends. Reflecting the growing importance of digital creation and the metaverse for fashion, Hong Kong fashion industry creative hub PMQ hosted an immersive physical installation where these designers generated content that was then shared across social media. It was an important project because although people are generally aware of this new sphere, there are still gaps in the knowledge of digital fashion both in the city of Hong Kong and in other fashion centres in Asia. The ultimate goal of FabriX is to open a new revenue stream for fashion companies by supporting them in the conception phase using digital creation tools and then selling them on platforms such as The Dematerialized. The 12 designers presented their first collection in the metaverse by sharing looks online and creating a community, breaking many taboos about the digital world.

Declan Chan with Istituto Marangoni students in Milan

Declan Chan with Istituto Marangoni students in Milan 

During the conversation, Chan also stressed how important it is to support young designers and how great it is to see major Italian brands such as Gucci and Prada do this. The fashion industry should welcome those who have something to add.

 

Asian creators keep the brands in constant dialogue with worldwide customers; that is why you will meet them again at the “big four” fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris

In addition to branded content and live streams, Chinese consumers are happy when they see a brand contributing positively to society, for example by being proactive with environmental issues, mindful of sustainability, or donating to help people in need. Looking to the future, Declan Chan thinks that the interaction between brands and consumers will continue to grow but will be increasingly linked to the development of digital platforms, trying to get to know them better and give life to successful work with fashion.

“How do you measure personal success as a designer and fashion influencer? Is it just based on authenticity?” Chan discusses the value of showing yourself openly with your social audience and the brands you work for. 

Declan Chan discussing his path and vision with Hanan Besovic at Istituto Marangoni Milano

Declan Chan discussing his path and vision with Hanan Besovic at Istituto Marangoni Milano

A stylist’s success is measured by making the client understand how to improve their image without distorting it but using the right tools. As an influencer, on the other hand, authenticity always pays off, as much as making one’s voice heard.

It’s not enough to wear a look and tag the brand to build a digital career. The key is knowing how to produce content your audience can get in touch with through interactive dialogue. Another aspect you shouldn’t neglect is taking care of your followers and nurturing your relationship with them, which can be done by answering their questions and posting quality content.

Before saying goodbye to Istituto Marangoni Milano students and Hanan Besovic, Declan Chan left us with some advice:

“If you dream of working in the fashion world, don’t limit yourself to the role of fashion design. The opportunities are many, just as there are numerous positions you can explore” – Declan Chan, Hong Kong-based stylist, art director and creative consultant

 

 

Agnese Pasquinelli
Fashion Business, Digital Communication & Media student, 2nd year, Milan  
Course
Programme
undergraduate-BA (Hons) Degrees · 3-Year courses