At Paris Fashion Week, Brands Tap Online Celebrity Power

This season’s Jing Daily Fashion Week Score, which evaluates how a brand’s collection resonates with the Chinese audience through a range of parameters, is wrapped up now that Paris Fashion Week is complete.

Similar to London and Milan, PFW wrestled with the impact of a spreading of the COVID-19 virus in Europe, which led to canceled shows and absent attendees. But having seen a successful livestreaming experiment in Milan, more brands shown at PFW chose to collaborate with Chinese tech giants like Tencent and Sina, local e-commerce platforms like Secoo, and online video platforms such as iQiyi and Douyin.  

For Paris Fashion Week Fall 2020, Jing Daily looks at brands who have a stake in the Chinese market and who stand to gain from heightened efforts. Dior and Chanel achieved exceptional online exposure through leveraging the power of celebrities on social media. Lanvin invited Chinese KOLs based outside mainland China to fill in the front row of the runway show. Others like Hermès and Balenciaga opted to stay relatively muted for this season. Overall, luxury houses played with experiments and innovations in both collections and communications at this season’s PFW.

The Jing Daily Fashion Week Score is based on the following parameters:

  • Model representation: evaluates representation of Chinese models on the runway.
  • Digital impact: evaluates Chinese netizen reception and engagement on leading social media platforms, including Weibo, WeChat, and Little Red Book.
  • KOL & celebrity visibility: considers the star power associated with the brand through strategic KOL and celebrity partnerships.
  • Special brand efforts: considers special programs or efforts on a brand’s part to speak to the Chinese audience. Company or brand contributions toward the on-going virus crisis are also considered.
  • Design context: a qualitative assessment of how the brand’s collection will speak to the Chinese audience based on current trends and preferences.
  • Brand history: considers existing brand history in China, including overall presence, social reach, number of stores, earning trends, and brand missteps.



Illustration: Haitong Tong/Jing Daily.

For Autumn/Winter 2020, Dior won praise in the West for championing female power. For the Chinese market, it also found a way to leverage the power of their Chinese VIPs despite not having them in physical attendance. In its livestream post on Weibo, Dior tagged about two dozen Chinese ambassadors, media heavyweights, and KOLs whose 300 million followings in total resulted in 12 million views, the highest score compared to all other brands Jing Daily has seen during the four top fashion weeks. Prior to the livestream, Dior also readied the 250 million fans of its six brand ambassadors, including model and actress Angelababy and actress Zhao Liying (赵丽颖), many of whom changed their profile pictures at the same time. Meanwhile, Dior’s sensitivity around the COVID-19 crisis in China has been commendable. By pinning a short video of its Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri backstage at its runway show sending regards to China, Dior shows that a brand can strike a balance between high fashion and sympathy.



Illustration: Haitong Zheng/Jing Daily.

Chanel earned exceptional social exposure for the 2020 Fall ready-to-wear runway show through embracing the digital world and leveraging its star power online. The Weibo hashtag #秋冬高级成衣系列 (#FW-Ready-To-Wear) has seen over 160 million engagements, while the livestreaming on the platform has received 12.3 million views by the time of publication. For this season, designer Virginie Viard pointed the brand in a younger direction, featuring Chanel’s classic black and white undertone garnished with some light green and raspberry pink. Given the general absence of celebrities and fashion KOLs from China, Chanel invited many of them, including brand ambassador Zhou Xun (周迅), supermodel Liu Wen (刘雯), Singer Song Qian (宋茜), Editor-in-Chief of Vogue China Angelica Cheung (张宇) to repost the official Weibo livestream of the show. The reposts drove overwhelming traffic on Weibo for the brand. Working with such Chinese heavyweights indicates how urgent the house is in terms of maintaining the connection with Chinese customers, since the brand’s scheduled 31 rue Cambon 2019/20 Métiers d’art collection show in Beijing has been cancelled in light of the continuing COVID-19 crisis.



Illustration: Haitong Zheng/Jing Daily.

Lanvin, which is owned by the Chinese conglomerate Fosun International, has taken its digital strategy to the next level by working with a slew of Chinese platforms like luxury e-tailer Secoo and video platforms Yizhibo, Douyin, and iQiyi as a way to build a cloud-based runway. The hashtag #lanvin云秀场 (#lanvinCloudBasedRunway) has over 5 million views, and with the theme “conversation piece,” Lanvin truly stood out by starting conversations about the shape of its handbags via streaming technology. In addition to working with VR, iQiyi also rallied many young idols, including the boyband UNINE’s Jiayi (嘉羿), to invite their fans to watch the livestream, which helped direct a younger audience to the brand. Beyond its new clothing,  Lanvin’s latest handbags — which are inspired by everyday objects like takeaway boxes for cakes — appeared to be a favorite topic on Chinese social media.



Illustration: Haitong Zheng/Jing Daily.

Nicolas Ghesquiere’s 2020 fall ready-to-wear for women embodies a sense of playfulness, which is refreshing compared to the brand’s social perception that it’s only worn by the well-heeled upper class. Just like Dior, the brand also recorded a pinned Weibo video with its chief designer sending regards to the usual Chinese VIPs who couldn’t make the show due to travel restrictions. This along with a series of runway posts has only made thousands of impressions thus far, and it hasn’t posted anything about the show on WeChat, which might be due to sensitivity around the virus crisis. It has, however, already won Chinese people’s hearts with its previous five posts (100 million impressions), which feature its brand ambassador — the Chinese singer and actor Wu Yifan (吴亦凡) — alongside friends of the brand to boost morale for China’s hospital workers. As the face of the luxury group LVMH, Louis Vuitton has shouldered a great level of social responsibility lately, which should help the group’s China business for a very long time.



Illustration: Haitong Zheng/Jing Daily.

Once again, Hermès adopted a toned-down strategy for Paris Fashion Week and set itself apart from the buzz of social media and trendy seasonal looks. The collection offered the clean and elegant lines and tailoring that best embodies the brand’s legacy, but this season with added touches of Mondrian-inspired primary color blocks, reminiscent of the new lipstick containers for their upcoming Rouge Hermès collection. Compared to Hermès latest handbags, Chinese consumers have demonstrated stronger interest in their upcoming beauty line, a more budget-friendly — though still rather expensive — accessory which is expected to be the brand’s next cash cow. The show’s low-key strategy, however, was also consistent with their overall communications during the COVID-19 crisis. Instead of proactively promoting products and campaigns, the brand initiated the Chinese Song Qingling Foundation’s Hermès White Angel Guardian plan, along with donating 5 million RMB ($0.72 million) to the foundation. Meanwhile, the house’s successful online to offline campaigns in China and new stores in Qingdao and Dalian contributed to their remarkable 2019 financial results released last week. Given this, there’s every indication that Hermès long-term strategy in the region will only continue to grow.



Illustration: Haitong Zheng/Jing Daily.

Balenciaga holds a strong presence among Chinese luxury consumers thanks to its signature Triple S and Track sneakers and its Hourglass handbags. For Paris Fashion Week Balenciaga turned the catwalk into a catastrophic metaphor — from the spreading “flood” to the monastic styles, presenting designer Demna Gvasalia’s take on climate changes for the planet. Chinese audiences’ feedback on the show, however, has been divided, with positive impressions on the avant-garde and frightening presentation, while a few negative reflections on certain quirky looks. “I don’t get the point of these jerseys, thermal underwear suits, and the lunch-box-like handbags,” fashion KOL Dipsy commented on his Weibo. Likewise, audiences were split on the brand’s Summer 2020 campaign launched last month, which featured similar apocalyptic absurdity as their runway show. Some favored the creativity and newness of the campaign, while others critiqued the creepy aesthetics. While sustainability is a trendy discourse in the fashion industry these days, the house should be mindful of playing with the idea of an apocalypse when the much of the world is suffering from the COVID-19 crisis.



Illustration: Haitong Zheng/Jing Daily.

As one of Kering’s enduring brands, Saint Laurent has encountered growing challenges from other luxury houses, particularly Celine, which is under the new direction of Heidi Slimane. Bringing audiences back to the Yves Saint Laurent era, the yuppie style for this season featured double-breasted chunky blazers and latex leggings, both resonating with vintage frenzy among Chinese fashionistas. Elsewhere online, the attendance of Rosé, a member of the girl group Blackpink and the brand ambassador nominated by designer Anthony Vaccarello, drew traffic for the show from her Chinese followers. The model representation, however, is as low as last season’s catwalk — only one Chinese face out of a total of 67 looks. Though Saint Laurent appears less dazzling in China due to surging competitors, the house put efforts in navigating the market through innovative approaches like collaborating with domestic artists, which can be exemplified by the short film SELF05, released last month and directed by one of the most renowned Hong Kong directors, Wong Kai Wai (王家卫), and featuring the Chinese model, Ju Xiaowen (雎晓雯).



Illustration: Haitong Zheng/Jing Daily.

Pierpaolo Piccioli enriched the definition of “timeless elegant femininity” that has been regarded as Valentino’s enduring legacy for ready-to-wear Fall 2020. From model casting to codes of uniform dressing, the designer embraced inclusivity and reinterpreted sexy regardless of age and gender. The collection has been widely praised by Chinese audiences, noting it is the perfect marriage of elegance and coolness. The latest Valentino Garavani bags launched with this collection have also been spotlighted on Weibo. Fashion KOL Gogoboi, who has 9.9 million followers on Weibo, added that “the petals mounted in the bags look like sheets of armor, gentle yet powerful.” Meanwhile, powered by Wu Xuanyi (吴宣仪) from the Chinese girl group Rocket Girls 101, one of the most popular idol groups in China, and the fashion TV personality Li Ai (李艾), the show was livestreamed on Tencent and received over 128k engagements. From inviting Wu to host the livestream to the brand’s active social strategy, it has been clear that the house is now targeting younger Chinese consumers.



Illustration: Haitong Zheng/Jing Daily.

The brand’s biblical theme this season — Noah’s Ark — as well as its decision to show men’s and women’s wear at the same time, resonated well with the Chinese audience. The latter also serves as a reminder of what the brand is best known for: reconceptualizing suits, including breaking the boundaries between male and female ideals. Veteran KOLs like Anny Fan chimed in remotely to share a few of her favorite animal-shaped bags, and a few users compared the quirky animal masks to Chinese zodiac signs. It’s unknown which Chinese models were on the runway, however, given that most of the models were wearing masks or black veils. But the Chinese model Ju Xiaowen (雎晓雯) was invited as a guest, and her street pictures have been widely circulated.



Illustration: Haitong Zheng/Jing Daily.

Under the leadership of Creative Director Hedi Slimane, Celine slowly rolled out its digital strategy for China. After officially launching its first WeChat Mini Program last July, Celine teamed up with Tencent for livestreaming its 2020 Paris runway amid the spread of COVID-19. Though the brand doesn’t have an official Weibo account, that didn’t slow down the buzz brought by the brand’s new muse: Lisa Manoban. The member of the all-girl Blackpink band is one of the most influential personalities from Thailand, and she has nearly 25.5 million followers on Instagram and over 1.6 million fans on Weibo. She successfully became a trending topic on major Chinese social media platforms with her smart fashion sense and the way she channels ease and refinement via a classic French style. Another thing that brought the brand into the public eye was the rumor that its former Creative Director Phoebe Philo is going to launch a new brand. This much-loved British fashion designer imprinted the Old Celine style onto many Chinese consumers with a series of sleek and sophisticated collections. If the rumor is true, her big comeback could affect Celine’s sales. There wasn’t a major Chinese celebrity presence at Celine’s show this year thanks to the virus outbreak, and only one Chinese model represented the brand this year.



Illustration: Haitong Zheng/Jing Daily.

Brand CEO Virgil Abloh may want to move into high fashion from streetwear, but the latter is what’s selling in China. Case in point: the brand’s crossover with Nike Air Jordan and Canadian outdoor brand Arc’teryx. As influencer Anny Fan said on Weibo: “Another round of buying rush is about to start.” Regarding social exposure, Tencent Video invited two young idols — Lun Sibo (伦思博) and He Luoluo (何洛洛) — with 10 million Weibo followers total to watch Off-White’s Paris show with a Chinese audience made up mostly of their young fans. Thanks to Tencent’s livestream, impressions from the post and relevant hashtags contributed over 10 million views to the brand. Off-White has also been packing heat on Chinese streetwear e-commerce app Poizon, although the conversations are mostly about sneakers, not its recent runway show.

Reported by Wenzhuo Wu, Yaling Jiang and Emily Fu.