Dolce & Gabbana ditched models in favor of Chinese celebrities at its Milan fashion show catwalk on September 23 – and the net erupted.
Twenty-six-year-old Chinese actress Dilraba Dilmurat delivered her second catwalk, this time in a D&G floral gown, and relevant hashtags quickly climbed Weibo’s top trending list with more than 506,000 page views. Total engagement under the brand’s official Weibo account reached six digits within hours.
Reviews were fiercely split. Some praised her catwalk as displaying Chinese female power as it was “very powerful and more professional” than models’, while some criticized her makeup as looking old, with the dark floral elements seeming heavy for such a young celebrity.
Even though this is the second time the Italian luxury house had celebrities ditch the front row seats and walk the runway, a controversy over who gets to walk lives on. For example, this year, besides Dilmurat, A-list stylist Han Huohuo also participated, but netizens were confused about his presence and debated whether he had as much influence as Dilmurat. Han is known as the one who dresses the celebrities, but with nine million fans on Weibo, he is a fashion influencer and celeb in his own right. By turning the fashion show into an influencer melting pot, D&G reshuffled the power dynamic in the fashion hierarchy, but critics questioned whether it has become a huge social media extravaganza more than a fashion presentation.
Questioning voices haven’t stopped the brand from embracing the influencers’ traffic and commercializing it. Just a few days before the show, D&G’s famous duo designers, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, presented their birthday gift – a customized white birthday T-shirt–to Wang Junkai, the company’s Asia-Pacific brand ambassador. All 400 T-shirts priced at about $1,123 (RMB 7,700) were made available for pre-order via WeChat. Amid the show, D&G released several of Dilmurat’s behind-the-scene clips via Weibo, which garnered almost as many views as her walk did.
Even though it’s hard to say how much of the traffic can convert into sales, in today’s age where social media is the new currency and fashion shows are increasingly losing relevance to consumers, Dolce & Gabbana’s move seems to be a savvy play.