It was the pale-pink Elie Saab spaghetti-top-cum-turban that did it—the one she wore to the designer’s 2011 fall/winter show in Paris, vaulting her from just another starlet into a major fashion obsession. Well, maybe it wasn’t only the turban. Her onslaught of glamour throughout that week—at Gaultier, Dior, Louis Vuitton—gave rise to thousands of blog posts, all asking one question: Who is Fan Bingbing?

Now 30, Fan Bingbing has been a mega-star in her native China for well over a decade, starting out in TV and graduating to films with a sideline as a pop star. More recently, she’s become a fixture on the international circuit too, making appearances on the red carpet in Cannes and at runway shows the world over. When Fan was a little girl, her mother owned a boutique, and she grew up devouring fashion magazines. “I fell in love with dressing myself up,” she says.

Fan Bingbing’s first inspiration was Greta Garbo, but today her aesthetic is a seamless fusion of Dita Von Teese’s high-gloss pinup doll and Lady Gaga’s demented artiste. Yet her look is wholly her own, that of a kooky sophisticate whose favorite designer remains Alexander McQueen.

Empirically, she is a great beauty, though her unusually sharp features have been the subject of national debate. In 2009, she was awarded 100,000 yuan in damages after a Chinese hospital used her name and likeness in its ads for plastic surgery. But Fan, never circumspect when it comes to her vanity, confesses that she cannot bring herself to leave the house, ever, without makeup—especially her red lipstick. “It makes me look alive,” she says.

Her emergence as a fashion-world powerhouse augurs the coming dominance of the Chinese consumer in the luxury market: by 2015, China will constitute the largest consumer base for such goods in the world, a market worth an estimated $27 billion.

Jun 26th '12 #Fan Bingbing
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