The “Shanghai Ladies” Weibo Fashion Phenomenon

“The pressure to keep buying these designer items is insane.”


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In October, a Weibo influencer created a group chat named “Shanghai Ladies” (上海名媛) full of girls living in Shanghai. The group exposed a shocking subculture.

These “Shanghai Ladies” are women who couldn’t afford luxury goods and experiences on their own. In order to keep up appearances on their social media, they made a group chat to split expenses on an extreme level.

One night at the Shanghai Bvlgari Hotel is almost 4,000 yuan– $600 USD. Over forty girls split the cost for one hotel room.

They spent the night taking turns snapping pics inside the room to upload to social media. And it doesn’t stop there.

This cost-sharing became commonplace between the women in this group chat.

Why would someone go to these lengths to show they stayed at a fancy hotel? The answer is simple: they want to appear to have a luxury lifestyle.

China’s youth are so well-known for their appetite for luxury brands that they are referred to as  “addicted to luxury shopping”. All over Weibo, Instagram, and other social media sites, you’ll see them show off luxury goods.

Bags, clothes, vacations: there seems to be a culture of extravagant spending on things the average person can’t afford. In Western culture, luxury brands and experiences seem to be pursued by a far smaller group—for example, some influencers design their whole brand around luxury goods. In Chinese culture, however, the widespread buying of luxury goods isn’t necessarily restricted to such a small group.

At New York University, my college, the international students from China are always decked out in the latest luxury brands. Gucci, Anti Social Social Club, Louis Vuitton… sometimes our campus looks like a fashion show. To Western students whose idea of college fashion is going to class in sweatpants, it’s a very noticeable trend.

There seem to be different ideas about what, exactly, is the cause of this luxury culture. Some say it’s “a way of expressing their personalities”, and others believe luxury goods are a sort of status symbol that work as a means of “social advancement”.

Luxury goods are not only something to wear, but also a “lifestyle choice” that makes them a part of a unique and exclusive community.

I asked my friend Jack, who lives in his native Shanghai, what he thinks about this culture. He told me that it’s a never-ending competition. “Everyone looks up to those who can afford all the newest things. The pressure to keep buying these designer items is insane.”

However, luxury goods just aren’t accessible to everyone. Just like the girls in the Shanghai Ladies group chat, many people who want to live this lifestyle simply can’t afford it.

As a result, women like he Shanghai Ladies came up with an ingenious plan to fix this problem. Rather than go without the luxury goods and experiences they want, they find other like-minded girls and share the costs.

For them, spending all night taking turns snapping photos in a shared hotel room is worth the reward of faking this lifestyle online. If they can’t actually own the luxury items, or have these experiences, the next best thing is to make other people think you can.

After this “Shanghai Ladies” group chat was exposed, people expressed mixed opinions. What do you think? Do you think these Shanghai Ladies are entrepreneurs who’ve found a loophole? Or do you think it’s an indication that materialistic culture in China’s youth is going too far? Tell us your opinion in the comments.


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