Zhang Ziyi's loss is Tang Wei's gain

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"Girl next door" Tang Wei is the new face of China after making her comeback in the film Crossing Hennessy (2010).

Following a two-year hiatus since appearing in the controversial Ang Lee flick Lust, Caution, she has become the most sought-after actress by a host of fashion brands.

She appears to have replaced actress Zhang Ziyi as the image ambassador for fashion magazines and product endorsements, reckons Cosmopolitan China's fashion critic Wang Xiaoyuan.

Tang's agency, EDKO Films, said companies are lining up for Tang to be their brand ambassador, or get involved in their advertising campaigns.

Tang Wei will appear on the cover of next month's Chinese Vogue. [Provided to China Daily]

She was invited to Christian Dior's fashion show in Shanghai earlier this month and appeared in a simple black evening dress, wavy hair, light cosmetics and without any accessories.

She is also the cover girl of fashion bible, Vogue (China version), next month. Tang smiles sweetly in a Dior floral one-piece dress. Stylist Emmanuel Sammartino says the look is endearingly natural.

Tang is one of the few actresses to have appeared more than once in Vogue, twice in the past two years, signaling what an important fashion industry figure she is.

"Tang is pretty. Compared with Western actresses who always deliver sexy images, Chinese women still prefer a traditional sweet face," Vogue's editor-in-chief Angelica Cheung explains.

Esquire feature editor Liang Dong says Tang has also done spreads for the magazine.

"She certainly is hot. She has her own style, sweet and soft, unlike the other cold faces in fashion industry. It is the new trend," he says.

Tang has also built up a good relationship with fashion brands and the deals she's making are worth millions.

Tang's status as a fashion icon earned her a deal with cosmetic brand Unilever in 2008, which was worth 6 million yuan ($880,000), according to Xinhua Net.

Her relationship with Dior started last year, when Tang wore a black, silk, polka-dotted dress from the label's autumn/winter collection, bringing a touch of glamour to the opening of the Dior store at ION Orchard, Singapore.

It seems Tang is winning the marketing battle with Zhang Ziyi, possibly China's best recognized actress and one of Ang Lee's other favorite film stars. The two are often linked by local media as "Ang's girls".

Salvatore Ferragamo introduced both of them onto the fashion stage.

While Tang took a break from filming from 2007 to 2009, Zhang was the country's favorite actress and represented various international brands, including Emporio Armani and Mercedes Benz.

Now the situation is reversed, as Zhang has been troubled by a charity donation scandal, while Tang is back bigger than ever.

This year, Zhang has only appeared in local magazine iLook. As for Vogue, though its China version was launched in 2005, it took Zhang three years to become its cover girl in the 2008 April issue.

But according to an article in Southern Entertainment Weekly, Tang still needs to work hard to beat Zhang.

Her biggest problem is Trends Media Group, the largest fashion media company in the mainland. Tang has only appeared in Cosmopolitan among its stable of titles, while Zhang's face has been on the cover of all its major fashion magazines, including Harper's Bazaar.

Even so, the trend is away from Zhang's cold and sexy look, to Tang's demure image, Vogue's Cheung says.

"Tang's sweet style is traditional, and it will never be abandoned by the fashion industry," Cheung says.

The fashion battle reminds many onlookers of the former rivalry between Gong Li and Zhang, who were known as "Mou's girls", in reference to director Zhang Yimou.

Now its Ang's girls and a face-off between Tang and Zhang.

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