What to Wear on Business to China

Wintour, Andrew Bolton, Wendi Deng Murdoch - Press Preview Metropolitan Museum - Getty-H 2016
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I have a meeting in Hengdian, now what?

Personal shoppers and stylists agree when heading to China for business, the most important dressing strategy is to hit the tailor before you leave.

Hollywood decision-makers have a penchant for wearing things “a little big,” says stylist Jeanne Yang, who has dressed Vin Diesel and Robert Downey Jr.

While the Chinese will undoubtedly be looking for familiar labels, “they are very body conscious without being revealing,” adds Yang.

For women, focus on a more natural palette when it comes to hair and makeup, longer skirts and one or two key pieces of jewelry. Skip the open-toed shoes and low cut necklines.“Even if your blouse is slightly low cut, wrap a Hermes or Chanel scarf to cover up your neck,” says personal shopper Jordan Lane. “It’s about understanding the nuances and cultural respect that can be paid.”

For men, “you have to make sure your jacket sleeves are tapered to the width of your arm and the length of your jacket isn’t too long. The hem should sit at the top of your shoe,” says stylist Andrew Weitz who also notes that when in Beijing, execs should be more conservative. That means wearing a tie. Whereas in Shanghai, a tie is optional, he notes.

Weitz and Yang both agree that black or navy Tom Ford suits and Berluti or John Lobb lace up shoes or loafers are a good starting point. “Everyone needs to up their game at all times,” says Catherine Bloom, a style advisor at Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills, who recommends her clients pack according to color.

Whether it’s a Chloe print blouse with a navy Celine pant, or a Gianvito Rossi suede boot with a Proenza Schouler skirt, “you can change out your blouses and tops and still have all your pieces work together.”

This season Bloom has paired burgundy and brownish terra cotta pieces with black mainstays for women and always advises her clients to pick up a fresh blazer. Right now it’s Brunello Cucinelli or Lanvin. “It’s nice to be current, it says you know what you are doing,” she adds.

“For Chinese travel it should be conservative but doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish, for them it’s about respect,” says personal stylist Meg Gallagher. “Suiting right now is so chic. Amal Clooney wears a Dolce and Gabbana pantsuit like no other woman could, she’s incredibly conservatively polished in a chic way.”

For both men and women, she advises packing one or two suits in a neutral color like navy or black. Although that may seem banal, Gallagher says the drama comes in the tailoring and silhouettes. She favors British based fashion label Joseph as well as Alexander McQueen, both of which can be mixed and matched for women, and Ermenegildo Zegna for men.

Not a fan of color? “You want to lift and lower the eye. A jacket in boucle with a black silk blouse, plus a trouser all in black fabrics are different and cause the eye to move around,” Gallagher adds, explaining how to vary a look using texture.

In addition to the suits, personal shopper Dana Asher Levine, whose clientele includes Fox Searchlight president Nancy Utley, Fox production president Emma?Watts and DreamWorks Animation co-president Bonnie Arnold, recommends sheath dresses. Alaia or Prada are a couple of her favorites for one of her more petite clients, The Good Wife co-creator Michelle King.    

Stylist Jason Campbell, who dresses Li Bingbing and Wendi Deng, echoes Levine. “I like to play with the colors to tell a chic but not too adventurous story,” he says. A navy blue Prada cashmere cardigan with Akris sheath dress, and a Roger Vivier or Salvatore Ferragamo flat are current favorites.

“China is not afraid of color and prints for men or women,” Campbell says, “but don’t come in with all this bravado. Clothing and styling continues is an important currency, so let your clothes introduce you.”