Mad About the Boi

He shook up fash­ion blog­ging in Main­land China with his straight­for­ward writ­ing and funny, cut­ting comments about celebri­ties’ out­fits. Now Gogoboi is help­ing other so­cial me­dia per­son­al­i­ties make it big

Thailand Tatler - - CONTENTS - Words SHEN JIE, oliver giles Trans­la­tion JAKE NEWBY Pho­tog­ra­phy QIN SIBO Styling TERESA TSAI

China’s keen-eyed and sharp-wit­ted fash­ion blog­ging sen­sa­tion, Gogoboi, tells Shen Jie and Oliver Giles about his mis­sion to men­tor the next gen­er­a­tion of so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers

The term “wanghong,” which trans­lates as “in­ter­net fa­mous,” has be­come a com­mon phrase in Main­land China in re­cent years. Thanks to the rise of so­cial me­dia plat­forms, peo­ple around the coun­try have been able to carve out lu­cra­tive ca­reers based on noth­ing more than an en­gag­ing Weibo or WeChat ac­count, and the in­ter­net gold rush seems to be lim­it­less.

Among the most prom­i­nent of the dig­i­tal in­flu­encers are fash­ion blog­gers. But be­fore we were in­un­dated with KOLs (key opin­ion lead­ers, for the acro­nym-chal­lenged) post­ing self­ies of their out­fit of the day (or #ootd, in In­sta­gram par­lance), a pi­o­neer­ing so­cial me­dia per­son­al­ity changed fash­ion com­men­tary in China for­ever: Gogoboi.

The Shang­hai-based trail­blazer had a rather tra­di­tional start at a mag­a­zine, but his ca­reer blos­somed when Gogoboi, whose real name is Ye Si and who was born in 1983, stepped off that path to be­come a blog­ger, which gave him the free­dom to talk about fash­ion the way he wanted. “All day [at mag­a­zines] they’d be us­ing words like sexy, el­e­gant, lux­u­ri­ous—it was in­cred­i­bly bor­ing,” says Gogoboi, who was de­ter­mined to shake things up. At the tail end of 2010, he made his move, us­ing the hash­tag #whowear­what on Weibo to ac­com­pany straight­for­ward, witty as­sess­ments of celebri­ties’ fash­ion choices, and reg­u­larly post­ing im­ages of stars whose out­fits he’d de­scribe as “car crashes.”

His fresh, fun out­look on fash­ion quickly won Gogoboi mil­lions of fol­low­ers and be­gan mak­ing him se­ri­ous money. In an ef­fort to ap­peal to Chi­nese con­sumers, lead­ing lux­ury brands be­gan pay­ing Gogoboi to have their prod­ucts fea­tured on his Weibo and WeChat ac­counts. It is ru­moured that he now charges up to 180,000 yuan per spon­sored WeChat post.

That was just the be­gin­ning. In­spired by his own blog­ging suc­cess, Gogoboi set up an agency called Mis­sion­ary to rep­re­sent so­cial me­dia per­son­al­i­ties in China. Us­ing his own ex­pe­ri­ence, Gogoboi men­tors these in­flu­encers, guid­ing them on how best to de­velop their own blogs. Clev­erly, he’s care­ful not to work with Gogoboi clones, the key prin­ci­ple be­ing that the new re­cruits need to have their own per­son­al­i­ties. Gogoboi also hasn’t lim­ited Mis­sion­ary to fash­ion com­men­ta­tors—he now runs de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes for blog­gers fo­cused on travel and child­care.

As if he didn’t al­ready have enough on his plate, ear­lier this year Gogoboi opened an on­line bou­tique that’s con­nected to his WeChat ac­count. Called Bu Da Jing Xuan, the store stocks a range of lux­ury goods that Gogoboi sources through Western e-com­merce re­tail­ers such as Yoox, Net-a-Porter and Far­fetch, among oth­ers. If read­ers of Gogoboi’s WeChat blog take a fancy to, say, a hand­bag that he’s writ­ten about, they can now click through to his store and buy it in­stantly.

At the heart of all of these busi­nesses lies Gogoboi’s witty writ­ing, which im­me­di­ately dif­fer­en­ti­ated him from the hordes of fawn­ing fash­ion blog­gers when he launched his Weibo in 2010. “When it came to writ­ing ar­ti­cles, I never got why we had to write in such a stereo­typ­i­cal style, why we had to use cer­tain terms rather than us­ing words that peo­ple could re­ally un­der­stand,” he says. But it seems he has al­ways been some­thing of a rebel. Dur­ing his school years, he grew a Mo­hi­can and sported five pierc­ings. “I could never un­der­stand why we weren’t al­lowed to have the hair­styles we wanted,” he re­mem­bers.

Al­though Gogoboi sometimes crit­i­cises lux­ury brands on his blog, the la­bels quickly re­alised that his acer­bic com­men­tary could also work in their favour. The blog­ger’s un­flinch­ing hon­esty had earned the pub­lic’s re­spect, so one com­pli­ment from him soon counted for more than mul­ti­ple blog posts by bland or ob­se­quious fash­ion writ­ers. With that in mind, lux­ury brands in­vited Gogoboi into their in­ner cir­cle, fly­ing him to events around the world.

Al­though Gogoboi is now busy run­ning an on­line store and men­tor­ing other blog­gers through Mis­sion­ary, he’s still con­stantly gen­er­at­ing con­tent for his own so­cial me­dia ac­counts, so he reg­u­larly at­tends fash­ion weeks and brand events. At these par­ties, Gogoboi, who speaks Chi­nese, Ja­panese, Korean and English, of­ten in­ter­views Chi­nese and Western celebri­ties for his blog. And de­spite his enor­mous suc­cess, he ad­mits he still feels a lit­tle

“I don’t have as many fresh new ideas as to­day’s young peo­ple. So the peo­ple I re­cruit have to be crazy”

ner­vous sometimes. “I re­mem­ber once, I was at the Os­cars for a cos­met­ics brand and got to in­ter­view Cate Blanchett, who I’m a huge fan of. I thought I was used to do­ing that kind of in­ter­view, but when you’re around her you feel you’re just like a lit­tle dog creep­ing about at her feet,” he laughs. “You know, Cate is a massive star, but she’s ac­tu­ally very sweet. Maybe it’s be­cause she could see I was a bit un­com­fort­able, but she was very good at break­ing the ice.”

He might oc­ca­sion­ally feel ner­vous, but Gogoboi never shows it. The blog­ger is an im­pres­sive jour­nal­ist and al­ways seems to han­dle in­ter­views with ease. He even learned Korean just so he could in­ter­view Korean celebri­ties. “I re­mem­ber that af­ter I’d only been study­ing Korean for about one month, I went to in­ter­view Im Yoon-ah,” he re­calls of his meet­ing with the award-win­ning ac­tress and singer. “I must have had the gods on my side that day; sud­denly I could un­der­stand every­thing that was be­ing said and the in­ter­view went smoothly.”

As he has grown from a com­men­ta­tor into a celebrity in his own right, brands are now be­gin­ning to col­lab­o­rate with Gogoboi in other ways. This Jan­uary, Dolce & Gab­bana en­listed Gogoboi to walk in its fall/win­ter run­way show in Mi­lan. Also on the run­way were fel­low Chi­nese celebri­ties Peter Sheng and Cheney Chen, as well as other so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers from around the world. There was bound to be some horse­play when all these stars got to­gether, but Gogoboi re­veals that the back­stage an­tics were even more rau­cous than the press had imag­ined. “You know, Cheney Chen is very clever. He wore Dolce & Gab­bana un­der­wear. Any­one who wasn’t wear­ing it had to strip in front of ev­ery­one else [the other so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers back­stage] and change into Dolce & Gab­bana un­der­wear. And ev­ery­one is usu­ally se­cretly padding them­selves out!”

This open­ness is what sets Gogoboi apart, and it’s an at­ti­tude he tries to foster among the blog­gers he men­tors through Mis­sion­ary. Blog­gers will only gain re­spect if they’re open with their fol­low­ers and write hon­estly in their own voice, he be­lieves. But there’s one other thing all of Mis­sion­ary’s blog­gers have in com­mon. “I don’t have as many fresh new ideas as to­day’s young peo­ple,” Gogoboi says, self-dep­re­cat­ingly. “So the peo­ple I re­cruit have to be crazy.”

The in­flu­encers signed to Mis­sion­ary re­ceive per­sonal guid­ance and sup­port from Gogoboi. Us­ing his own in­sight and ex­pe­ri­ence, he’s been able to nur­ture wannabe blog­gers and as­sess the best path for­ward for them. Some can be over­con­fi­dent and think they’re al­ready the best in the world; some may not be the strong­est writ­ers but have other char­ac­ter­is­tics that make them unique. What­ever their strengths and weak­nesses, Gogoboi helps them all grow.

De­spite the suc­cess of Mis­sion­ary, Gogoboi doesn’t see him­self as a busi­ness­man. He lacks the right kind of mind, he says, and has never par­tic­i­pated in a busi­ness in­cu­ba­tor pro­gramme nor con­sid­ered things such angel in­vestors. But he seems to have caught the en­tre­pre­neur­ial bug and teases that he’s on the verge of launch­ing some­thing big, be­yond man­ag­ing Mis­sion­ary and gen­er­at­ing his own WeChat, Weibo and video con­tent. “I’m just think­ing about my team, try­ing to en­sure they don’t be­come un­em­ployed,” he says. “I thought about re­tir­ing af­ter I’d made a bit of money. I even set my­self a re­tire­ment age. I could buy an is­land, write a book … But now I’m think­ing maybe I should fo­cus on the work first—what would hap­pen to the other peo­ple on the team if I just went off and re­tired?”

Al­though Gogoboi loves jug­gling his dif­fer­ent roles, at times it seems like he misses the old days. He now em­ploys 20 staff in his Shang­hai of­fice, but he re­mem­bers work­ing from home with af­fec­tion— in part be­cause he claims that while his job may be to “fly around the world in pur­suit of fash­ion news,” he’s ac­tu­ally a bit of a home­body. The de­mands of his work mean he has to at­tend a plethora of so­cial events, but he ad­mits to suf­fer­ing from anti-so­cial sen­ti­ments from time to time just like any­one else. When he’s not work­ing, he re­veals, “I rarely talk to peo­ple I don’t know.”

Still, Gogoboi is clearly settling into the role of en­tre­pre­neur. And if one day he does re­tire, he’s hold­ing onto that dream of hav­ing his own is­land and writ­ing a book. Given his trail­blaz­ing ca­reer as an in­ter­net celebrity, only a fool would bet against him achiev­ing his dream.

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