First Streetwear, Now Hip Hop: When Brands and Musicians Meet

From the Rolls Royce name drop in Drake’s song ‘Portland’ to the Bruno Mars hit ‘Versace on the Floor’, it’s evident that luxury labels and American chart-topping pop and hip-hop artists are familiar bedfellows. Now with the rise of China’s “little fresh meat”—a term for the handsome, young male pop stars that have found a big market in the country—and a millennial market with a thirst for high-end fashion, this phenomenon is hitting Chinese pop music.

Millennials are the biggest consumer of digital content, and if there’s any question as to just how much musical content is a part of the younger generation’s daily life in China, one only needs to reference the soaring popularity of the music video-cum-social media app Douyin. This generation also happens to be emerging as one of the largest group of consumers for luxury retail brands, and fashion houses around the world are recognizing the need to grow their appeal to this market.

That’s where music comes in. Chinese hip-hop and pop talent shows like The Rap of China and Idol Producer have earned themselves enormous new fan bases, and the pop industry is now emerging as a sought-after platform for luxury brands. Collaborations regularly come in the form of lending clothing to singers or sending KOLs (a term for an opinion leader with a very targeted audience) to attend high-profile events and letting them work their magic on social media. But now, luxury partnerships geared toward millennials—such as Chanel’s conscious collaboration with Pharrell Williams on a curated Apple Music playlist—are becoming much more explicit.

Below are three examples of Chinese music that mix with luxury fashion. While it’s not clear whether these collaborations sold more products (brand association may be enough), fans of Chinese pop stars will likely see more of this cross-promotion as these songs continue to shoot up the pop charts:

Burberry: ‘B.M.’ by Kris Wu

Flex on ya yay yay

I’m Burberry made

High fashion ain’t cheat

Draped down to my feet

Even before he became Burberry’s first Chinese brand ambassador and made history by signing with Universal Music Group (while also collaborating on a single with hot American rapper Travis Scott) the Chinese singer/model Kris Wu released a song dedicated to the time-honored British clothier. The former member of the Korean boy band EXO wrote the song “B.M.”, which stands for “Burberry Made”, in a nod to the luxury fashion house. Soon after, Burberry collaborated with Kris Wu directly on a capsule collection which featured embroidered lyrics from the song alongside elements of Wu’s signature streetwear style.

Chaumet: ‘I Need U’ by Zhang Yixing

Girl girl girl

All the street signs point to you

Tell me you you you

If you have me, you’ll become the happiest princess in the world

While pop singer Zhang Yixing didn’t explicitly reference the jewelry and watchmaking designer Chaumet in his love song ‘I Need You’, the video for the tune was filmed in the brand’s salon and boutique in Paris last October. Zhang has since worked on ads for Chaumet and served as the face for its Chaumet World event in Beijing. The artist (also known as Lay) is yet another former member of the K-Pop group EXO (the same boy band that made fellow “little fresh meat” stars Lu Han and Kris Wu famous) and is among the many good-looking, young male celebrities that luxury brands are leveraging with an eye toward their many young female fans.

Fendi: ‘Fendiman’ by Jackson Wang

We made it Great Wall 2007, yeah

We made it Fendi jacket on my shoulder balling through, yeah

Made it rome Fendi building with my flip flop, yeah

Call me Fendiman

 Just a month after American hip-hop stars like Drake and Big Sean were seen partying with Fendi at their FF Reloaded Experience event in London, Shanghai took in a similar celebration with the Hong Kong-born heartthrob Jackson Wang, where he dropped this hit single dedicated to the luxury fashion brand. The song, “Fendiman”, soared to the top of two separate U.S. iTunes charts the day after its release, drawing adoration from many of Wang’s fans on the popular Chinese social media app, WeChat. A member of the K-pop boy band Got7, Wang released his song and music video (filmed on the roof of Fendi’s headquarters in Italy) for the brand in tandem with Fendi’s capsule collection launch celebrating its iconic double-F logo. The clothing line was released on JD.com’s new luxury platform, TopLife, and while the company wasn’t able to relay exact numbers, they reported that sales have been going very well so far.

Despite K-pop typically being associated with streetwear, the Fendi collaboration was yet another example of luxury brands crossing categories in an attempt to relate to a younger, aspirational, and trend-focused audience in one of the world’s fastest-growing markets.

“FendiMan is a word I created. It represents a fearless spirit that respects differences,” Wang told the South China Morning Post in a recent interview. “The millennials have the same view—as each one of us is a unique individual who is irreplaceable—which also echoes the spirit of the brand.” A shout-out to mainland China in the song references Fendi’s groundbreaking runway show on the Great Wall in 2007—the first time a big-name brand hosted a catwalk there. The event brought out Karl Lagerfeld himself, as well as popular Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi.

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