Disappearing Fan Bingbing

Chinese actress Fan Bingbing models a Montblanc watch

Chinese actress Fan Bingbing has mysteriously disappeared after being accused of tax evasion — and she’s started disappearing from her fashion sponsorships as well. Do fashion companies have a responsibility to keep her as the face of their brands? How should fashion brands adapt to China’s political culture? Associate Director spoke with the New York Times about ethics, strategy, and the important Chinese market:

Jeff Trexler, associate director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University, said displays of conspicuous wealth are seen as an affront to the message being promoted by the Chinese government: that everyone in the country is rising upward on an economic wave.

“The more wealthy your spokespeople are, the greater the risk is,” he said.

Companies also worry that if they upset the Chinese government by continuing to promote someone who has fallen from favor, as Ms. Fan appears to have, they might suffer in a variety of ways, from taxes audits to obstacles opening new stores.

What does this mean for marketing strategy? That was a central theme of our longer discussion with the Times — and that will be the topic of a more extensive analysis to follow!