An Inside Look At China’s Influencer Economy With Fashion KOL Fil Xiaobai


Fashion influencer and stylist Fil Xiaobai is next to join the Jing Daily community of people shaping China’s booming luxury industry. These profiles highlight industry leaders who contribute to the national and global fashion communities, from creatives and influencers to executives and entrepreneurs.

“There are many fashion KOLs, but none of them are Fil.” This self-description may come across as haughty by anyone else. But for Fil Xiaobai, a Chinese millennial influencer with decades of experience, it’s a vote of confidence.

Fil Xiaobai has over 7 million followers across major social media platforms. Photo: Weibo

In 2011, Fil was fair a student majoring in English translation at Chengdu Foreign Language School. She could not have imagined that her love of fashion and entering a Hainan TV’s street style photo contest would coincide top fashion would lead them to become one of the top KOLs in the country.

“I was very serious about that [referring to the contest]. I didn’t want to wear those recognizable luxury brands in competition. Instead, I preferred to find niche brands to express my fashion ideas. That was probably the main reason why I won the championship. I always know what to wear,” Fil recalls.

With her bold, determined style choices, Fil won the competition and was invited to travel overseas for Fashion Week. And she was initially excited to take part — until she checked online. As netizens questioned her qualifications and negative comments piled up, she quickly came to terms with the fashion business: you have to earn public approval to earn a place in the industry.

So, the Chengdu native worked hard to make a name for herself and soon rose to fame by working as a stylist on the fashion reality program Me, supermodel. This, along with her role in the idol competition program Produce 101She laid the groundwork for a career as a celebrity stylist.

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But now, Fil considers itself more of a fashion KOL than anything else. Since opening her Weibo account in 2011, she has specialized in live streaming to better connect with her followers and share her product suggestions and purchases from overseas boutiques. She has also built an impressive portfolio of luxury clients, photographing with brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.

Fil Xiaobai performed at a Chanel event earlier this month. Photo: Xiaohongshu

Dubbed the “first generation KOL,” Fil has struggled to stay on top. As many other reputable content creators suffered from burnout or were reluctant to join emerging platforms, Fil buckled and embraced the new trends. she She has built her profile on various platforms including Douyin, Xiaohongshu, and Bilibili, with consistently high-quality content piling up 7 million followers.

As fashion influencers continue to play a key role in shaping trends and promoting luxury brands, Ying daily spoke to Fil to better understand the opportunities and barriers in the industry.

How would you describe the job of a stylist? What makes it different from a fashion KOL?

High emotional intelligence, good taste and the ability to work hard. The barriers to becoming a stylist are high: it takes a lot of experience, especially for the kind of trend-leading stylists, and talent. In contrast, the threshold for mode KOLs is relatively low. Many individuals, even VIPs from numerous luxury labels, now share their outfits on social media channels that are visually indistinguishable from those of fashion bloggers.

To excel as a fashion KOL, you must be recognizable and have additional vocations and abilities. For example, I am both a stylist and a fashion KOL. The two complement each other.

Fil Xiaobai is known for its street style. Photo: Xiaohongshu

What are the obstacles facing today’s stylists?

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Even though Stylists are invited to many programs these days, and many offer them too little creative freedom. For example, on a show, virtually anyone can comment on a stylist’s look. This can make the job extremely difficult, and too many opinions can stifle the talent’s ideas.

in the past few years, I’ve seen that online comments aren’t always nice to stylists. Many fans of a celebrity are not objective enough to comment on their outfits, so we see a lot of extreme compliments or criticism. Without a thorough understanding of the underlying background or story behind a garment, some people only want well-known brands and haute couture, which I think is a bad trend. Although the industry is expanding rapidly, the challenge is figuring out how to keep moving forward.

What do you think of China’s KOL industry?

I think the time this business did best was between 2016 and 2021 when the whole industry was thriving. As more people flock to the KOL track to take advantage of this opportunity, it becomes harder to stand out. I recommend young people who want to become an influencer to first secure a job with a stable income and then try it as a hobby. That way they don’t have to compete for public attention and instead focus on producing quality content that increases their market value.

What do you think of live streaming in e-commerce? Would you consider joining?

In fact, few fashion KOLs want to sell products via live streaming as we find it difficult to explicitly ask viewers to place orders like other sellers in the live streaming space. I think this activity doesn’t really correspond to our identity. Instead, I can use my expertise to help sellers by providing some helpful styling suggestions. While I understand that livestreaming e-commerce is one of the most profitable industries right now and that many people will jump on this trend, I believe there is still a need for KOLs to think clearly about their own direction rather than breaking away from the tide getting carried away – it’s easy to lose yourself.

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Have there been drastic changes in China’s fashion KOL industry after COVID-19?

After the pandemic, many KOLs focused on the domestic market. I have to say that the domestic market is really big and today’s youth was born at a good time; As long as you work hard on content, you can become a star.

Talking to many foreign bloggers, I realized that the Chinese market is much better than the global market. Foreign KOLs must compete with KOLs from around the world and update very frequently, which requires a higher level of skill. If they are a little careless, they can be left out of this fierce competition. However, I feel that many people in China are not using this environment, which is a shame.

What kind of KOLs do brands want to work with?

First, KOLs should be scandal-free, which is a major concern for many brands as they want the collaboration to receive positive feedback. The sellability of the KOL is also an important criterion. This depends on their ability to produce content that captivates audiences and convinces them to pay for their featured products.

Now that fashion brands are collaborating more broadly, influencers from all walks of life have an opportunity to collaborate with luxury names, including athletes and artists. Ultimately, it’s all about the quality of your content.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.





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