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Victoria's Shanghai show is no secret

    Victoria's Shanghai show is no secret


    Pictured in their day clothes, Victoria’s Secret models pose to mark the countdown to the 2017 Victoria’s Secret fashion show, which is due to take place in Shanghai tonight and air globally next week. 

    The star-studded, super-hyped Victoria’s Secret lingerie show hits the catwalk in Shanghai today, the first time the US brand has held its self-described “sexiest show on earth” outside the United States or Europe.

    Coming to China is all about business — the company’s bottom line is sagging and it is staking its future on the growing Chinese market.

    The annual festival of music, lace and flesh is now in its 23rd year.

    Western markets for intimate wear have matured, but China’s is still blossoming. China’s women are a growing consumer force and more interested than ever in expressing their sexuality, say fashion analysts, and they have the money to do so.

    Lingerie is among the fastest growing segments of Chinese women’s apparel market, reaching 112 billion yuan (US$17 billion) in 2015, according to market-intelligence firm Mintel Group, which projects it will grow by another 32 percent by 2020.

    Victoria’s Secret, whose business performance has withered amid US competition and product realignment, has taken notice, opening its first two Chinese flagship stores this year, including a four-story Shanghai emporium.

    Making the VS runway is one of the most coveted gigs in modeling, but the company has been accused of bias toward leggy blondes or Latinas in selecting its “angels” — so-called for the trademark wings they wear.

    But last year it tapped a record four Asian models and, in a nod to this year’s hosts, Shanghai will feature six of Chinese origin, according to reports.

    They are led by China’s top model Liu Wen, the first Asian on Forbes’ annual list of the world’s highest paid fashion divas.

    She’ll reportedly be joined by Shu Pei, Sui He, Xiao Wenju, Shanghai’s own Ming Xi and Paris-born Estelle Chen, who will prowl the catwalk along with top earners such as Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, Jasmine Tookes and Karli Kloss.

    US model Gigi Hadid withdrew after online claims of racism and warnings to stay home over a video clip of her making a squinty-eyed “Asian” face.

    Hadid, who apologized to Chinese fans in September, gave no reason for her sudden withdrawal, and it was not clear whether VS or China’s government may have dropped her to avoid a PR fiasco.

    Critics pan the show as a sexist and bloated branding stunt, but it nevertheless manages to generate significant buzz with its mix of bling and star power.

    Musical performers through the years have included the Spice Girls, Phil Collins, Destiny’s Child, Sting, Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga, and A-list celebs typically occupy audience seats that reportedly cost thousands of dollars.

    This year’s performers will include Harry Styles and Chinese singer Jane Zhang.

    The night’s highlight comes when a model dons the jewel-encrusted “Fantasy Bra.”

    The honor this year goes to Brazil’s Lais Ribeiro, who will model a US$2 million bra made by Swiss-based luxury-goods company Mouawad and studded with nearly 6,000 gemstones that include diamonds, yellow sapphires and blue topaz.

    The show will be recorded in Shanghai tonight but will not air globally until November 28.

    Even with its splashy China debut, Victoria’s Secret and its premium products — a single bra in its Shanghai store runs up to 658 yuan — may have a tough battle on its hands.

    A range of established domestic and foreign brands such as China’s Aimer and Cosmo Lady, and France’s Aubade, have already staked out Chinese turf, and growth rates are tapering off.