Going Rouge: Independent Magazine Rouge Fashion Book Takes On The Chinese Media Market

Chinese publication Rouge Fashion Book is bringing the art of fashion out of the digital abyss and back to the printed page, in spite of the decline of print media.

An image from Rouge Fashion Book. Image credit:SouthChinaMorningPost.com   

Rouge Fashion Book: arty, edgy and exactly what the expanding Chinese niche market is craving. The magazine is reviving the true spirit of fashion from the dredges of click-bait posts, celeb culture and sponsored ads. Stepping outside the mainstream, 22-year-old Editor Lily Chou was inspired by international publications such as Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book.

“For us, we are looking for people who are photographers, are artists, someone who really wants to get involved and wants much more. For a lot of ordinary people, fashion is a fantasy, it’s about luxury, but they don’t take it as art. I want people who take it seriously to pay attention to us.” – Lily Chou

Rouge Fashion Book editor Lily Chou (second from left) pictured at the launch of the publication’s second issue during Shanghai Fashion Week. Image Credit:SouthChinaMorningPost.com

China’s media environment is tightly controlled by censorship, making it a tough landscape for independent media to thrive. Chou has boldly opted to work around the system by publishing two versions of each edition; one with a Chinese international standard book number (ISBN), that conforms to local laws, and another with an American ISBN, which is sold abroad and to the small number of Chinese retailers with a license to distribute foreign media.

In terms of creative freedom, the print magazine benefits over Chinese online publications by not being subject to the digital surveillance that automatically flags up any content deemed sensitive.

“If you want to know what is the newest lipstick shade of the season, you can see that from Gogoboi’s post, or from some random blogger, you don’t have to buy Vogue to get that. I mean, Vogue exists for a reason, they invite readers to enter into this world, to understand what is fashion, what is print.”

A page from Rouge Fashion Book. Independent Chinese designers like Han Wen (pictured here) merge with big international names within the publication. Image credit: SouthChinaMorningPost.com

Of her total number of social media followers, who read content via platforms Weibo and WeChat, Chou estimates that 20% can afford the 200 yuan (US$31) magazine. In much the same way Vogue maintains a loyal readership, Chou hopes her fans will be driven by their love of fashion to the Rouge publication.

Time will tell if luxe glossies like Vogue and Rouge will still hold their niche of the market in a few years time, with the trend towards paperless bigger than ever.

Do you think there’s still a market for print media?