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Silvie Koang INTRODUCING... CHINA'S NEW FIRST LADY PENG LIYUAN Monday, March 25, 2013 Posted by Bethan Holt, Junior Fashion Editor at Large There are times when it is difficult to justify covering a "good" fashion st... 5

INTRODUCING... CHINA'S NEW FIRST LADY PENG LIYUAN

Posted by Bethan Holt, Junior Fashion Editor at Large

There are times when it is difficult to justify covering a "good" fashion story when that story has lots of stories around it which mean that you might not really want to bring too much attention to the fashion element. A good example of this was US Vogue's feature about Asma al-Assad- the good fashion story was that she was a stylish, beautiful woman married to the President of Syria, which is all well and good if they had really been the do-gooding, progressives the feature had made them out to be. But then when the President is actually a violent, murderous war criminal, the fashion story becomes very bad taste.

It does feel important, however, to talk for a blog post about Peng Liyuan, the new first lady of China. After all, she is following in the footsteps of the likes of  Michelle Obama, the Duchess of Cambridge, Carla Bruni and Samantha Cameron. Famous wives are big news, and therefore big money for brands- especially when they are beautiful, well-dressed and so the mere act of them wearing an item generates lots of extra sales and sets trends. The glamorous, former popstar wife of the President of China is bound to feature in the global fashion conversation for some time to come, especially when we consider the increasing power of the Chinese fashion industry- Vogue and Elle's Chinese editions attract so much advertising that they often have to split into two issues per month.

Peng Liyuan arrives in Tanzania (image via telegraoh.co.uk)
Liyuan is the major topic of water cooler conversation (or the equivalent?) and blogger hype in China right now, after she accompanied her husband, Xi Jinping, on his first international tour as Chinese president. The deputy editor of a Hong Kong newspaper wrote on Weibo "Now is the end of our quest for a graceful first lady", a message which clearly indicates the transformative effect which Peng Liyuan might have. Apparently the chic black trenchcoat she wore in Moscow has been copied already, which isn't exactly difficult. Thus far, her look is nowhere near as interesting as MO's- there's no signature buffed body part, high/low combinations or print/ pattern mix. Instead, she looks like the kind of lady who shops at Dior and Bottega Veneta, which she probably does, as well as having more traditional silk outftits made for her. Her knotted neckscarf, however, could be a styling detail stolen from a Celine lookbook and the bouffed chignon could become a thing but is also quietly faithful to the classic way Chinese women arrange their hair.

Peng Liyuan in Moscow wearing the black coat which Chinese women are now
 clamouring to own (image via wantchinatimes.com) 
Given that Chinese leaders have traditionally hidden their wives away, perhaps Jinping's PR advisors reckon that it is time for the People's Republic to produce their own variation on appealingly glamourous, front-page worthy first lady? Obviously it helps that Peng Liyuan was much more famous than her husband until not so long ago as a much adored singer who would perform for troops. She also holds the equivalent of Major General status in China's People's Liberation Army. All in all a good Chinese girl. There are major blots on China's rep including human rights abuses, the rich/poor divide, persecution of the regime's critics, zero free speech, underrepresentation of women in politics... the list goes on.  But like it or not, this won't be the last we see of Peng Liyuan.

Peng Liyuan in her former life as a much loved Chinese singer....

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