Asian stars power the front row

PHOTO: DEE HSU/WEIBO

NEW YORK • Sandwiched as it was between the Brit Awards in London and the Oscars in Los Angeles, little wonder that Hollywood actresses and pop starlets were thin on the ground during Milan Fashion Week.

Relentless camera flashes, craned necks and clouds of paparazzi were as present as ever, however.

The reason? The meteoric rise of a powerful new front row, many of the stars from Asia, all with pop culture power and small armies of social media followers in key luxury markets around the globe. Dee Hsu The Taiwanese television host, singer and actress was spotted at Gucci.

Mr Con & Ms Csi, with Hsu and Kevin Tsai, has been the most popular talk show in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for the past 12 years, until the announcement in January that it was ending its run.

Hsu, 37, has 864,000 Instagram followers, more than 1.6 million Facebook followers as well as an astonishing 37.7 million followers on Weibo.

Liu Wen The 28-year-old, who was at the Fendi show, was once named by The New York Times as "China's first bona fide supermodel". She was the first Asian-born model to walk in a Victoria's Secret show.

She has 1.6 million followers on Instagram. Forbes estimated that she earned US$4.5 million (S$6.2 million) last year, making her the world's 12th highest-paid model.

Kitty Zhang At Max Mara, the first show of the week, the Chinese actress wore a Gucci raincoat printed with the brand's signature G logo.

The 29-year-old is the star of The Mermaid, which is China's biggest grossing film this year. She was also in the front row at Etro. Kim Hyo Jin The South Korean actress, dressed head to toe in Tod's spring 2016 collection, was seated in a prime position for the brand's show.

Kim, 32, is known for taking on adventurous roles and being featured in fashion shoots for the country's editions of glossy magazines like Marie Claire.

She and her husband, actor Yoo Ji Tae, are regular celebrity gossip fodder in South Korea. Fendirumi In the Fendi front row last week were two fluffy, 1.8m-high cartoon- like monsters called Bug-Kun (blue body, yellow crest and a double F logo on his chest) and Piro-Chan (pink body and yellow eyes).

They are the Fendirumi - life-size versions of the brand's smash hit US$1,500 Bag Bugs - inspired by Japanese kigurumi or costumed characters. Now signed on as official Fendi mascots for two years, the duo were charged with Snapchatting the show for Asian audiences. Megbaby The Japanese model with 756,000 Instagram followers is a Moschino devotee, as evidenced by her one-shouldered Caution gown from the construction-themed spring collection by Jeremy Scott that she wore to his most recent show.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2016, with the headline 'Asian stars power the front row'. Print Edition | Subscribe