Margaret Zhang, Vogue China’s Editor-In-Chief, Will Step Down From The Magazine

By Emma Gleason
Margaret Zhang attending Paris Fashion Week in September, 2023. Photo / Getty Images

The latest turbulence in the Vogue universe, this week it was announced that influential Australian Margaret Zhang will be ending her role at Vogue China. While surprising to many, it comes after Zhang has complained of personal attacks amid domestic criticism of her leadership, and wider change at Condé Nast.

After three years at the helm of Vogue China — making history at 27 as the youngest ever editor-in-chief appointment at the magazine group — Australian Margaret Zhang will leave her role as Vogue China editor-in-chief.

Zhang announced the news on Instagram (the go-to platform for fashion industry players to reveal professional updates and control the narrative around their careers) with a carefully worded letter, bearing her Vogue letterhead.

“As we kick off a transformative Year of the Dragon, I’m excited to announce that I have decided to wrap up with Vogue and jump into the next chapter of my career,” it said. “I am immensely proud of the radical evolution that we have driven at Vogue China over the past three years, expanding its impact from its print beginnings to becoming a multimedia bridge for creative culture — China to the world, the world to China.

“We have celebrated record growth in Vogue video, award-winning audio-programming and the highest engagement events in the history of Vogue China. But more importantly, we have leveraged our platform to springboard the careers of Chinese models through our Vogue China Open Casting; Chinese designers and fashion students through our new Vogue China Fashion Fund; Chinese female film-makers through our Vogue Film mentorship programme; traditional Chinese craft communities through our social sustainability craftsmanship initiative; and Chinese photographers through our local adaptation of PhotoVogue.

“Never before have we seen so much Chinese creativity showcased across the global network of Vogue editions. The legacy of these achievements is a testament to the Vogue China team’s belief in excellence and innovation.”

She also revealed the June issue of Vogue China would be her last.

Her 2021 appointment — replacing Angelica Cheung, who had been in the role for 15 years — came as something of a surprise to the industry, which usually sees editors ascend the journalist ranks or come from styling backgrounds.

“Margaret creates content on so many different platforms and brings a new perspective and voice to Vogue China,” Condé Nast Global Chief Content Officer Anna Wintour said at the time.

Some considered Zhang and her “unorthodox resumé” a gamble.

Back then Zhang, who studied commerce and law at Sydney University, was most well-known as a fashion blogger and influencer, helping pioneer the vocation in the early days of the profession.

Considered one of Australia’s savviest digital influencers, Zhang was 16 when she launched her blog, Shine by Three, in 2009. She built a loyal following, became prominent on Instagram, worked with leading brands like Louis Vuitton and Clinique — thanks to her creative talents and high-quality content creation at a time when the field was emerging — and even appeared on a reality television show. Zhang also made history as the first Asian cover star of Elle Australia. She currently has two million followers on Instagram.

Zhang’s stint at Vogue China is understood to come at the end of her contract. “Her Condé Nast contract ends this spring and won’t be renewed,” reported Asia Milia Ware for The Cut, pointing out the change of climate in the industry since Zhang started. “Anna Wintour chose Zhang in 2021 to lead the publication during an era when Vogue was bringing more creative diversity and digital savviness to the brand.”

Vogue China September 2021 cover, Margaret Zhang's first as the magazine's editor-in-chief. Photo / @margaretzhang
Vogue China September 2021 cover, Margaret Zhang's first as the magazine's editor-in-chief. Photo / @margaretzhang

At the time, it seemed to signify a period of change for the industry. Zhang’s departure comes as a blow to fans and followers, with many expressing their shock and disappointment on social media, and sharing notable issues from her tenure, including the “Every Body” issue in March 2022, which featured Asian models of all sizes.

While the news has raised eyebrows, Zhang’s time at the helm of Vogue China wasn’t without controversy.

In January 2022 The Sydney Morning Herald reported that she was criticised by Sophia Liao, former president of Condé Nast China (who left the company in 2021 and sued it for unfair dismissal) for only seeing “China through a Western lens” and that “growing up and living in Australia and overseas, her understanding of China is too superficial and limited.”

Liao isn’t the only person to publicly criticise Zhang. Chuxuan Feng, founder of Huasheng Media, which publishes Chinese versions of T: The New York Times Style Magazine and Kinfolk allegedly called her “a foreign influencer girl who doesn’t know about media,” reported WWD, which tied the feud to model Du Juan breaking Zhang’s non-compete clause.

With Zhang finishing up in June, it’s understood that Condé Nast is making it a top priority to fill the Vogue China role swiftly (according to a reported internal memo from Wintour).

Anna Wintour attends Milan Fashion Week in February, 2024. Photo / AP
Anna Wintour attends Milan Fashion Week in February, 2024. Photo / AP

The country plays a pivotal role in the global luxury fashion market.

Vogue China debuted in 2005 and is published in partnership with the state-owned China Pictorial Publishing House.

While we wait to see who will step into Zhang’s shoes, it’s nearly certain that the role will look different. It will most likely follow the trend of the company’s other global titles, with lead regional roles now called “head of editorial content” instead of “editor in chief”, operating under Anna Wintour.

The recalibration has seen a series of high-profile changes across Vogue’s global editions: Eugénie Trochu replaced Emmanuelle Alt at French Vogue in 2021, and Chioma Nnadi replaces Edward Eninful at UK Vogue this year, following the March issue, his last.

In other global Vogue news this week — the announcement of Vogue World Paris — another famous Antipodean made headlines. New Zealander Parris Goebel will be the artistic director for the event, which is set to take place on June 23 just ahead of the Paris Olympics.

“If Vogue World: New York (2022) was a street affair, and Vogue World: London (2023) was a glamorous night at the theatre-supporting arts and cultural organisations in London, Paris will be a kind of opening ceremony; one that celebrates 100 years of fashion and sport, as well as an extraordinary city,” Anna Wintour said in a statement, and the third iteration of the event signals a focus on entertainment for Vogue’s new era.

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