This fashion week season defied the long-held belief that the medium is the message. Now it’s all about the message, and where that comes from, be it location or platform, is far less important. Brands are continuing to experiment and disruption was evident everywhere and despite the difficulties of the pandemic, designers are learning to live with COVID-19.
Burberry held its show in London, yet appeared on the Paris Fashion Week schedule, while Louis Vuitton livestreamed its show on the Chinese short-video platform Kuaishou — a luxury first. The unlikely partnering (the platform is known for its strong user base among users outside of China’s Tier 1 cities) was unexpected; however, with nearly 40 million viewers tuning in, the gamble paid off.
Moreover, large-scale shows could well be a thing of the past too, though some big luxury names seem to disagree. Dior and Hermès were among the houses still clingingto the power of the runway spectacle. And, while the lingering impact of the outbreak is forcing labels to be more digitally conscientious, the garments and settings alike indicate that fashion is in the mood to party hard. That said, when it comes to enticing valuable Chinese audiences, how well did their outings stack up?
From Dunhill to Dior, Prada to Loewe, Jing Daily highlights a combination of the best shows from the various men’s schedules.
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.
Kim Jones teamed up with Gen Z’s favorite rapper Travis Scott for the creation of its Spring 2022 Menswear Collection, “Cactus Jack Dior.” The collaboration was infused with hip hop elements and proved an instant success with its digitally native audience. The “everyday” pieces and accessories — Dior-logoed bucket hats, floral blouses, and sleeveless knitwear — are now all on the wish list of many users, including @wangfodou who wrote: “I want to wear them now!”
The French Maison amassed a total of 218 million impressions for the collection, thanks to the pre-show announcement amplified by celebrities and KOLs, in particular driven by ambassador Wang Junkai, who enjoys 80 million followers on Weibo. Ambassadors Yi Lin and Arthur Chen, livestreamer Fu Peng, WSJ China editor-in-chief Li Baojian, and actor Hu Bing all commented about the show, further elevating the presentation’s social engagement.
Virgil Abloh presented Spring 2022 Menswear Collection as a 16-minute film “Amen Break,” in addition to a runway show which shared his thoughts on culture and collective communication in the time of the pandemic. Through the lens of subcultures and their archetypes, Abloh delved into “the nuance between black culture and design,” how facets of black culture such as hip hop have impacted the global fashion scene.
In advance of the broadcast, Louis Vuitton released short video teasers starring five Chinese male faces: Kris Wu, Gong Jun, Dylan Wang, Chase, and INTO1-Mika on social platforms including Weibo, Little Red Book, and Kuaishou. Alongside the presentation, the house also announced rising Chinese actor Gong Jun as its brand ambassador. Both initiatives contributed to a livestream viewership of 13 million as well as substantial engagement rates on Weibo.
For Spring 2022, Prada brought audiences to the white sands and crystal waters of Sardinia to explore its “utopia of normality.” The bright colored bucket hats, floral patterned sweaters, and skirt-like shorts evoked the feel and spirit of the Italian island’s landscape. As part of its social responsibility, Prada paid tribute to the Sardinian community by committing to support the MEDSEA Foundation to restore its marine ecosystems.
The show was screened at its two cultural sites, Fondazione Prada in Milan and Rong Zhai Residence in Shanghai. The Italian house fully leveraged its KOLs, inviting all eight local ambassadors to attend the show at the residence. In particular, the young idol Cai Xukun, who has 35 million followers on Weibo, helped the brand to garner impressive traffic online. The livestream hit a 16 million combined viewership on the brand’s website, Weibo, and Douyin.
Riccardo Tisci staged his menswear presentation at an urban desert landscape at London’s Millennium Mills, which was a derelict flour mill. The show presented reconstructed workwear, sleeveless coats, and oversized T-shirts reinterpreting Burberry’s classic trench coats while infusing them with high street elements. Yet, it was not the garments but the models’ piercings that incited the most online debate: some netizens appreciated the daring experimentation of the designer, while others mentioned “feeling uncomfortable.” Fashion blogger @Pipijuice pointed out the show’s “Human Rider” concept — one model sitting on another model’s shoulders — was not new (it had already been used by Tisci for the Givenchy campaign in 2015).
Burberry has kept a low-key profile since the Xinjiang cotton controversy which happened in March this year and cost the brand its two ambassadors, actress Zhou Dongyu and actor Song Weilong. The brand also failed to livestream its show but still earned 86 million impressions on Weibo thanks to amplification from media outlets.
Xiamen-based designer brand Sankuanz presented its show, “Bell from another China,” during Paris Fashion Week where it has shown since 2017. This season, their unisex collection explored youth culture through an oriental lens, as seen in the recurrent blue Chinaware glaze pieces and the reconstruction of traditional tunic suits. The addition of decorative metal accessories suggested an Eastern punk style.
Thanks to the recent capsule “Good Bai” created in collaboration with the celebrity Bai Jingting, the brand is enjoying significant traffic. This 16-minute presentation gained over 114,000 views and an impressive 75,500 reposts. However, to reach a broader audience the brand should further leverage local media outlets and create a dedicated KOL strategy.
This season, Creative Director Véronique Nichanian has brought Hermès back to the runway with spectators gathered at the brand’s favorite venue, the Mobilier National. With the digital aftermath from the pandemic set to remain, theater Director Cyril Teste’s massive screens positioned along the catwalk broadcast every imaginable angle of the models indicating phygital is the new reality. The collection “Double Game” expressed optimism towards life after the pandemic; the integration of formal and leisure wear, the vivid color of the garments, and the relaxed shapes offered the perfect outfit for any occasion.
As usual, Hermès forewent any celebrity and KOLs, as well as any media outlets for the show’s announcement. Given its notoriety, the brand easily gained traction on its platforms — its Weibo livestream garnered nearly nine million views.
Creative Director Jonathan Anderson projected a post-pandemic fantasy of multi-manifested photography, printed matter, video and social media imagery to create a rave vibe for Loewe’s presentation. Anderson drew inspiration from memories of his personal holidays in Ibiza with his family in the 1990s, as well as experiences of growing up in conservative Northern Ireland as a gay teen. Thus, he symbolized his own liberation from social norms with garment shapes and colors — satin dresses, neon pinks and yellows — to manifest rebellion and confidence.
The early “club culture” video presentation communicated awkward beauty and optimism which resonated greatly with Chinese audiences, especially millennials who felt connected to the vibrant era portrayed in the video. Weibo user @EvaFang_ commented that this collection “brought her back to the 1980s” and “reminded her of the light-hearted and free atmosphere” back then.
The designer brand’s collaboration with the sportswear label Fila was a highlight of the Spring 2022 Ready-to-Wear Collection. Glenn Martens and his crew scoured Fila’s archive and has reinvigorated classic staples with Y/Project’s witty approach. Still, Martens’ playful proportions and rearranged garments were prominent here, engaging consumers to be part of the experimental journey with the creative director.
Despite the absence of official social channels in China, the brand is one of the most recognized, avant-garde names among local fashionistas. This season’s presentation generated wide discussions within fashion communities. Many adored the partnership that eluded a straightforward collage of brand logos but instead married the two labels’ DNAs organically. Fashion KOL @MarsAmateurFashionCritic pointed out that Y/Project’s iconic pleats and asymmetric details were well integrated in the collaboration.
Dunhill’s Creative Director Mark Weston continues to reiterate British characteristics in his design. This menswear collection, entitled “Identities,” is no exception. Weston played with traditional male archetypes, from deco dandies to hi-vis handymen, to explore a collision between utilitarian and extravagance. Dunhill also collaborated with artist Ellen Carey, featuring her conceptual photography in its prints.
These functional silhouettes, bathed in pastel colors, received positive reactions from Chinese netizens. The video presentation and the campaign hashtag #dunhillSS2022 respectively received 6.88 million views and 720,000 views on Weibo. Still, the brand has missed the opportunity to leverage celebrity power this outing but on August 5 will host a livestream to showcase the 2022 Spring collection on Weibo with ambassador Yang Yang.
Reported by Wenzhuo Wu, Lisa Nan, and Gemma A. Williams.