Fairy Tales 1 - please do not use
[Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Fairy Tales: The Fashion Misfit of China

Overnight fame comes with a price for an unlikely fashion designer in China who thinks she is the next Coco Chanel.

Editor’s note: This film is no longer available to view online.

Fairy Wang may be a working class girl from rural China, she thinks she’s the next Coco Chanel.

After posting her eccentric designs on Weibo, China’s largest social media site, Fairy becomes an overnight internet celebrity.

But fame comes at a price for this misunderstood fashion misfit, as she quickly becomes a target for cyberbullies. 

Filmmaker Rongfei Guo befriends Fairy and joins the unlikely designer’s very first fashion show, as well as a foray into Shanghai’s fashion scene. 

Filmmaker Rongfei Guo poses in a creation by Fairy Wang [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]
Filmmaker Rongfei Guo poses in a creation by Fairy Wang [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]


By Guo Rongfei

Fairy Tales focuses on an overnight Chinese internet celebrity, Fairy Wang, a working class girl from a rural area who believes she is the next Coco Chanel. Her eccentric fashion designs made from trash and found objects have brought her fame, but at what cost?  

I was hoping to film Fairy’s story to explore China’s unique internet and media culture, as well as the social expectations facing its working-class women, by documenting the designer’s first fashion show which took place in her small village. 

I spent seven days with Fairy to shoot the film: four days in Fairy’s hometown and three in Shanghai, where her works were displayed at a fancy upscale gallery. 

During this seven-day journey, I discovered that no one really cares about Fairy’s dream. After shooting, in an intimate conversation, Fairy said to me, “People care about a person like me being able to have a dream. None of them really care about what kind of dream I have. Now I understand, a dream is to be used [by others], not to be realised.” For example, television shows used her dream to increase their ratings. 

Fairy’s life still hasn’t changed. She is currently working at a restaurant in the village she lived in. She gradually lost her fame as more and more internet celebrities appeared. Fairy has become more realistic about her future, which saddened me. 

Fairy’s story is a good example of the irony of the “Chinese Dream”, a slogan promoted under Xi Jinping’s presidency. The Chinese Dream is not about the dream itself. It is about that “Chinese people are able to have a dream”. 

For example, one of the TV shows in the film where Fairy gets a big applause, is a show which invites working class people with a talent to perform and declare their dream. The show always mentions, “this is an amazing Chinese dream”. But no one cares about the realisation of those dreams.