How Chinese Celebrities Make It To The Top Fashion Magazine Covers

Nowadays, fashion magazines are no longer an exclusive playground for supermodels. Celebrities with good fashion sense and resources are able to make it to the top fashion magazine covers. How do they do it? And why does that matter?

Nowadays, with the decline of traditional paper media, buying fashion magazines has become a rare practice. The buyers are generally fashion fans who still have feelings for paper magazines and practitioners who have business needs with the fashion industry. And there is another group of celebrities’ fans who keep breaking sales records within seconds to support magazines with their idols on the covers.

A cover is a crucial factor that makes a magazine stand out and attract the attention of readers in the first place. ​​Making an appearance on the cover of a top magazine is a glorious thing, an expression of fashion and business, an affirmation of value to supermodels or celebrities.


Top Fashion Magazines in China

Each fashion magazine is a precious resource that delivers information to different target audiences with different preferences. However, Chinese fashion magazines have been classified into different rankings by the popular notion. 

TierWomen MagazinesMen Magazines


1st tier
VOGUE
ELLE
Harper’s BAZAAR
Cosmopolitan
Marie Claire

GQ
Esquire

(Approx.) 1st tier
L’OFFICIEL
Madame FIGARO
BAZAAR MEN
L’OFFICIEL HOMMES
ELLE MEN



2nd tier
Trends Health
COSMO Bride
BAZAAR Jewelry
SELF
Marie Claire Beauty
Grazia
So Figaro

Men’s Uno
Men’s Health
Leon
FHM Collection

In the Top 5 Women Fashion Magazines (五大女刊), VOGUE covers are the toughest for celebrities to get in. The magazine is considered the bible of fashion whose covers are often occupied by high-profile supermodels. ELLE and Harper’s BAZAAR are close in terms of status ranking. 

Top 5 Women Fashion Magazines in China

Besides the 1st, approx. 1st, and 2nd tier magazines, there are other popular magazines that haven’t been classified yet. Numéro and T rarely have celebrities on their covers, while VOGUE Me, a special issue of VOGUE, is a popular place for liuliangs as it is a lower-standard VOGUE targeting young readers. 

Approx. 1st tier and 2nd tier Women Fashion Magazines

Top Men Fashion Magazines are relatively fewer. Among them, GQ and Esquire are the top competitors whose content is relatively extensive and comprehensive. L’OFFICIEL HOMMES focuses on fashion and runway. BAZAAR MEN has more commercial elements while ELLE Men is more entertainment-oriented.

Top 2 Men Fashion Magazines in China

Esquire is published by Trends Media Group – the largest group in China in the field of high-end fashion media. Other magazines published by Trendsgroup include Cosmopolitan, Harper’s BAZAAR, BAZAAR MEN, BAZAAR Jewelry, National Geographic, FHM, etc.

Other rankings

  • Covers > Inner pages

It’s common for celebrities to be featured on magazines’ inner pages, but appearances on magazine covers are much more appreciated. 

  • Main issues > Special issues > Supplements > Bonus books 

Special issue refers to a special supplement that is sold separately in addition to the main issue and has an independent barcode.

Supplement (sometimes called Bonus books depending on different magazines) refers to a publication that is presented as a gift alongside the main issue. A magazine supplement does not have an independent bar code and is not sold independently. 

  • Anniversary month of the magazine > September >= October > March > January > December > The rest
September issues of Top 5 Women Fashion Magazines in China
September issues of Top 5 Women Fashion Magazines in China

The characters on the anniversary month’s covers are always the most special ones who have a long attachment to the magazine. January is the beginning of the year where fashion trends for the whole year are acknowledged while December is the closing of the year. March is the Spring – Summer fashion season where fashion energy is dynamic. 

10th Anniversary Issue of Vogue China
The special cover for the 10th Anniversary Issue of Vogue China

September and October are named “Golden September and Silver October” (金九银十) because not only they fall to the Fall – Winter fashion season, but also those are the time periods with the largest magazine advertising volume. The September issue will have more pages, more quality, and more advertisements. There has always been a saying in the fashion magazine industry that the cover of the September issue will directly determine magazine sales and advertising revenue.

ilver October Issues of Top Women Fashion Magazines in China
Silver October Issues of Top Women Fashion Magazines in China

Why celebrities want to be on top fashion magazine covers

Fashion resources alongside other resources such as film, music, endorsement deals, etc. can enhance celebrities’ personal brands and commercial values. The appearance on magazine covers is an important metric to assess a celebrity’s media scores and fashion resources

Fashion magazine covers show the hidden power of celebrities and the recognition they receive from the fashion industry’s professionals. Moreover, fashion magazines also bring commercial potential, media awareness, chances to join fashion weeks, outfits sponsored by major brands, and chances to get in touch with influential characters in the fashion world.

Wu Yifan – the first male artist to be on the cover of Chinese VOGU

How to be on fashion magazine covers

Fashion magazines’ revenues are not solely based on publication sales, but also from another important source: advertising contracts with fashion brands. Major fashion brands (da lanxue and da hongxue brands) usually sign annual contracts with the top fashion magazines to promote their new collections on the covers of the most popular magazines. Brand sponsoring is the most common way that a celebrity can be on a top fashion magazine cover. For instance, in order to promote its new dresses, Chanel nominated Brand Ambassador Zhou Xun to be the model for a cover of ELLE. She wore the Chanel dresses on the cover and inner pages as a part of the job. 

Zhou Xun featured on ELLE Cover – Anniversary Issue

However, getting to top fashion magazine covers is highly competitive. Even the hottest liuliangs can’t have all the top covers under their belts that easily. Fandom, traffic, music sales, TV ratings, or box office sales do contribute to but don’t exactly decide whether a celebrity can be on a top cover, though they can still take covers from lower-tier, commerce-oriented magazines. The brand’s requirements, celebrity’s aura and fashion sense, recognition from the magazine’s editors, and relationships with influential fashion characters are the main factors for the opportunities to make it to the top fashion magazine covers.


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