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Beauties turn entrepreneurs

China Daily

Beauties turn entrepreneurs

Zhang Wenjing, a model-turned-storeowner on Taobao, China's largest online bazaar, parades products from her online store. Photo / Provided to China Daily 

More fashion models for online shopping site, Taobao.com, are changing roles. Instead of just posing for the site, they are selling clothes online. Xu Junqian finds out their motivations in Shanghai.

Getting paid 50,000 yuan ($8,090) a day to dress in the latest fashion and have their pictures taken is no longer attractive for models working for Taobao.com. Instead, more of these beauties nicknamed as Tao Girl, are changing roles — selling clothes, not only modeling them, on the country's largest online shopping bazaar.

Competition on Taobao, home to about 1.3 million women's wear stores, is getting fiercer and well-taken photos have become the main bargaining chip for these virtual stores to survive the competition. Seeing the potential, girls who used to make a decent living by modeling on Taobao, are now becoming their own boss.

"It's like a fashion trend," says Arzugul Nijat, a Tao Girl of the Uygur ethnic group. "Almost everyone of my Taobao model friends is thinking about opening a store, or has already opened one, on the website."

The 21-year-old college student who lives in Shanghai, started a store of her own after her two-year career as Tao Girl. Though she gave up just two months after the "grand opening" because of her "lack of business sense", the spirit of entrepreneurship has been ignited ever since.

The 1.65-meter-tall, 43-kilogram petite girl started her modeling career for a Japanese fashion magazine in 2009 and transferred to Taobao because money comes "faster and easier". She charges 1,000 yuan an hour for shooting.

Statistics from Taobao showed that by the end of 2012, there are more than 37,000 Tao Girls modeling for its online stores, 85 percent of whom work part time and the average age is 23. The "most expensive face" costs 50,000 yuan a day.

One of the base camps of the online models is Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, which is also the headquarters of Taobao and home to the country's biggest apparel wholesale market.

Online models are paid in three ways: hourly or daily, by the pieces of clothes they put on during one shooting, or based on contract. And the charges vary greatly, from 100 to 200 yuan a day to several hundred yuan for a piece of dress.

"An online model doesn't have to be, or rather, cannot be super-pretty or super-curvy," says Nijat, whose "runway name" is Azi. "Everyone can be an online model, because the clothes displayed is sold to everyone."

"But once you become the face of the shop, you may be the determining factor for the success of the shop. Tens of thousands yuan of sales may be lost if you jump ship to another shop," she shares.

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