When Su Mang started in fashion publishing in the early 1990s, the very idea of luxury in impoverished China seemed unlikely. But even then, she had a sense that times were changing and people aspired to more.
"We wanted to make the people understand ... You should make the country beautiful, your career beautiful but also yourself beautiful," she said.
Ms. Su is VP at Trends Media Group, helping build it over two decades into a powerhouse magazine publisher with 18 titles including Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Good Housekeeping. She's also executive publisher of Harper's Bazaar, one of China's top fashion magazines with circulation of 1 million, which she has helmed since its launch in 2001.
Ms. Su is one of the most influential figures in the Chinese fashion media world. Under Trends' partnership with Hearst Corp., she insists on editorial control over the magazine, which allows her the freedom to run original content about Chinese culture, art and poetry.
"People need to know how to be fashionable, but you also need to give them something they can't get from other magazines," she said.
The publishing company's fortunes have mirrored the country's explosive economic transformation over the past 20 years. China has become the world's largest growth market for luxury goods. Unlike the declining print advertising market in the U.S. and Europe, the top Chinese magazines attract luxury brands anxious to tap into the market.
Ms. Su has helped launch 12 lifestyle and fashion magazines -- such as Trends Home, Bazaar Jewelry and Bazaar Art -- all intended to educate on the finer points of better living. Her instincts about what's hot keep her ahead of the curve. This year, Ms. Su started Bazaar Movie, aimed at professional filmmakers and movie lovers just as Hollywood is working hard to crack the Chinese market.
Ms. Su's dedication to her mission has translated into major success, said Jeff Chang, VP of strategy and business development at Trends Media Group.
"No one else in China has as many years in this business. Anything you do for 20 years, think of how much influence and how many relationships you can build," he said. "That really gives her an edge."
Ms. Su is now working on digital media platforms to target a new generation of readers, like "my daughter, who wants to be fashionable but doesn't want to look at a [print] magazine."