Margaret Zhang, the Australian-born Chinese fashion multi-hyphenate, is the new editor-in-chief of Vogue China. At 27, she’s the youngest EIC at Vogue.
Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief and global editorial director, Vogue, and global chief content officer, Condé Nast, says: “I am so delighted that Margaret is our new editor-in-chief of Vogue China. Her international experience, exceptional multi-platform digital expertise and wide-ranging interests are the perfect combination to lead Vogue China into the future.”
Li Li, managing director of Condé Nast China, adds: “Margaret understands the emerging trends of a new generation of Chinese and possesses the business acumen needed to leverage our data and insights across new digital platforms. We welcome her creativity and innovation in defining new media approaches and look forward to her bringing global fashion to China while taking Chinese culture to the rest of the world.”
Zhang is an unmistakable presence on the front row of fashion shows and a favourite of street-style photographers, with brightly dyed hair (it’s currently a vivid shade of blue), a minimal yet eclectic sense of style, and a massive 1.1 million audience on Instagram. Her bio lists her as a film director—she’s written a screenplay titled Number 65 about Chinese mother/daughter dynamics that she’s working on making—but she’s also logged time as a creative director, photographer, stylist, writer and sometime model.
In 2016, she produced two digital covers for the launch issue of Vogue ME China, appearing on both of them. Additionally, Zhang is the co-founder of Background, a global consultancy company that has worked with companies from Airbnb to YouTube and fashion labels Moncler and Mulberry, where she specialises in bridging western and Chinese cultures.
She replaces Angelica Cheung, the founding editor-in-chief of Vogue China, whose 16-year tenure at the magazine coincided with the rise of luxury fashion in the country. Zhang’s appointment marks a generational change and a strategic one. Having launched her blog at 16 in 2009, she’s a digital native, not unlike the young people she’ll be charged with turning into Vogue followers.
“Vogue has such a legacy, with over 125 years—in the States, at least—of significant cultural gravity,” says Zhang. “This new role is an incredible opportunity to combine my background, my skills and my interests.”
The new editor-in-chief currently resides in Sydney, where she grew up, but spent the past half-decade based in New York, travelling to China every six weeks or so. She plans to relocate to Beijing, as soon as the pandemic allows. Zhang sees her new responsibilities as both outward- and inward-facing, and she believes her international experience positions her well to achieve them. “There’s a lot of context about China that is lost; often it’s looked at as this one monolithic entity, as opposed to a country of individuals and innovations,” she says. “I think Vogue China has an immense platform to communicate about those individuals not only to the world but to its own citizens. There’s a huge opportunity to champion local talent—in film, music, and the fine arts, in addition to fashion—and bring it to a global stage because it’s such a recognisable brand and so trusted.”
Zhang’s parents relocated to Australia from Huangyan, a town in China’s Zhejiang province. Her father was a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Sydney. She came to fashion through her passion for ballet. (She’s also a classically trained pianist.) “I was very fortunate that my brother and I had quite a holistic upbringing and my parents were super supportive. We both grew up studying dance and that’s where the fashion interest comes from.”
Using the gift cards she received with her seventh-grade academic achievement awards, Zhang went to her local Borders bookstore and stocked up on international Vogues. The December 2005 issue with Nicole Kidman on the cover was her first encounter with Vogue China. Though her hair colour has changed often, Zhang’s fashion sensibility is quite constant. At the shows, she’s usually in tailoring; despite her street-style icon status, she’s more likely to wear a T-shirt and trousers than a head-to-toe look.
She launched her blog Shine by Three at 16 in 2009 as a repository for personal musings and what Zhang lovingly calls “an image dump of visual stimuli.” Today, her eponymous website mixes her professional and personal pursuits. In the early days of COVID-19 last year, Zhang live-streamed a video in which she made the family’s dumpling recipe; it benefited charity. “I’m kind of slowly working my way through my mother’s entire repertoire of traditional Chinese food,” she says. “She is just the most extraordinary cook. I have much to learn.” Zhang has been playing tennis twice a week since her return to Sydney last year. She has a female Kung Fu sifu in New York and a Muay Thai trainer in Shanghai.
Looking back at the early days of her blog, she says, “I was in the right place at the right time,” acknowledging that it was equally the fact of her youth and her status as a person of colour that caught people’s attention in Australia. She began working almost right away, not waiting to finish her studies. At the University of Sydney where she received her bachelor of commerce and bachelor of laws, she had very few mentors that looked like her or shared a similar background. In turn, she says, “I’ve always wanted to supply mentorship to other people where I can and not to say that I have all the answers. I think it’s really important to have people tell it to you like it is, and for them to feel enabled in their personal goals but also to feel comfortable with challenging me and kind of tugging at the edge of my worldview.”
Who will star on Zhang’s first cover and what should we expect across Vogue China’s multiple platforms? “Gone are the days, in many ways, that you could just have, you know, a nameless, voiceless face in a fashion editorial,” she says. “People want to understand, OK, what value are they adding? What opinions do they hold? And how can I really relate to that?” She says two main areas of concern for her are sustainability, and diversity and inclusion. “But,” she cautions, “it’s not about having a green issue here or a sustainability conversation there. It’s about how you practise those principles, and it’s the same thing with diversity.” She continues: “I think everyone who appears in Vogue China should be someone people can look up to in a really substantive way and who are driving innovation, regardless of what industry they’re in.”