ELLE magazine heading for China's fashion-hungry


NEW YORK -- ELLE magazine, which carries the latest word in high fashion,reported Tuesday it will be published in China where women are breaking out of years of lock-step conformity.

A Chinese official called it 'punishment for the policies of the cultural revolution.'


The magazine's owner, Paris-based Hachette Publications Inc., said it had entered into a joint venture with the government-run Shanghai Translation Publishing House to publish ELLE-World Fashion.

The first 100,000 copies are scheduled to hit Chinese newstands in July and will sell for 5 yuan, or about $1.50 an issue.

Robert Gutwillig, international publisher of Hachette, said the magazine is targeting urban, educated career women who have had some exposure to Western ideas, if only through television.

'We are entering the People's Republic of China at their invitation,' he said.

Gutwillig said he initially was surprised that Chinese officials even took a second look at the proposal. When he returned from a trip to China last May, he wrote an internal report saying Hachette 'could forget about China at least until the next century.'

Three months later, he was contacted by a Chinese government official who told Gutwillig he had seen ELLE in Hong Kong and 'why not launch one on the mainland?'

'It's hard to describe the rate of change' occurring in China, Gutwillig said.

Chaotien Lo, a Shanghai publishing house official, described China's enthusiasm for Western fashion as an ironic 'punishment for the policies of the Cultural Revolution.'

'Now the young people of China want only Western styles,' he said.

From about 1966 to 1976, Chinese women, oppressed by the harsh policies of the Cultural Revolution, were forbidden to wear colorful clothing or makeup.

Westerners' image of the Chinese as 'blue ants' was not far from the truth, Lo said.

'Because of the years of isolation, Chinese didn't know about fashion,' he said.

But the nation's recent capitalist-style economic reforms are 'allowing people to make money.'

'With surplus money in their hands... naturally they go for clothing to make themselves more beautiful or more handsome.'

Patricia Wang, editor of ELLE-World Fashion, said Chinese women in particular are hungry for knowledge about how to dress and apply makeup like women in the West.

When Wang made her first trip to the West in 1983 to attend a conference in Europe, she thought she was well-dressed in her tight green silk pants.

But after she arrived at the conference, 'I felt very embarrassed,' she said.

She brought European and U.S. fashion magazines back home with her and vowed never again to be caught out of style.

Chinese believe ELLE reflects 'a sophisticated view of the Western world's trends in fashion, personalities and products,' said Daniel Filipacchi, vice chairman of Hachette.

'This world-oriented viewpoint will allow Chinese businesses to compete in an international market.'

ELLE executives would not disclose its investment in the new publication, one of more than 5,000 joint ventures China has approved in the past year or so. But it hopes to capture the attention of advertisers for major apparel and cosmetic makers in the industrialized world.

To begin with, ELLE-World Fashion will be filled mostly with Western advertisements because 'we won't sell at a discount within the P.R.C.,' Gutwillig said.

By 1990, ELLE would like to be a '50-50 Chinese-Western' publication in content and advertising, he said.

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