What Happened: Over the past week, Italian luxury house Fendi has swiftly taken center stage on Chinese social media, surprising consumers with its first ever collaboration with buzzy Chinese beverage brand Heytea, as part of its promotion for the opening of Fendi’s traveling “Hand in Hand” exhibition in Beijing.
Selling out on the collaboration’s debut May 17, Fendi x Heytea has already proven a triumph for both brands. Images of customers clutching the limited edition cups filled with its photogenic passion fruit and mango drink are all over Weibo and Xiaohongshu — the dedicated hashtag #喜茶fendi联名# has been read by 32.6 million on Weibo alone, with 8,662 organic posts on the platform thus far.
To promote the limited edition passion drink with the accompanying yellow and black accessories, Fendi and Heytea are hosting a Hutong Tea Room experience in Beijing. From May 19 to June 16, consumers can relax in a premium lounge sporting the collaboration’s color scheme at historic site Temple Dongjingyuan, where the exhibition is also being held.
The luxury house’s “Hand in Hand” exhibition is at its third stop after Rome and Tokyo. The show presents a host of reinterpretations of Fendi’s signature Baguette bag by regional craftspeople.
For the Beijing showcase, Fendi invited artisans AXiWuZhiMo and LeGuShaRi who represent one of the oldest ethnic groups in Southwest China, the Yi ethnicity, to recreate its iconic baguette bag.
To create Peekaboo bags alongside the artisanal baguette designs, contemporary artists Ni Youyu, Chen Fenwan and Wei Pingyuan designed special takes.
The Jing Take: In 2023, luxury brands are accustomed to partnering with players outside their industry to maintain consumer attention, marketing themselves as cultural entities to reach broader demographics. Fendi is doing just that with this Heytea launch.
Seeing as the Italian luxury leader has previously implemented playful marketing strategies in the mainland, such as working with artist Oscar Wang on its Fendidi Panda, the Heytea collaboration is not as unusual as Western consumers might believe.
After all, in China, Heytea even collaborated with Elon Musk’s high-end electric vehicle company Tesla earlier this year — a luxury name that seldom ventures into the collab space.
As a household brand in the mainland that’s famously popular among young people, Heytea is a failsafe connector for Fendi to gain cultural capital and social media attention. Local netizens love jumping on the photo-posting bandwagon when there is something photogenic to eat or drink.
Working with Heytea is also an effective way to gain exposure for the “Hand in Hand” exhibition. Co-curated by the brand alongside Chinese singer and actress Jike Junyi, who is a Yi ethnic, and Chinese contemporary art collector Kylie Ying, it is a profound celebration of the local culture.
Furthermore, the event has been trending as a result of Chinese-American actress Joan Chen and Angelababy (105 million fans on Weibo), as well as brand ambassadors Tang Yixin, Xu Guanghan, Xu Kai, Song Zu’er, and Tan Zhuo all attending the opening night.
Both the Heytea launch and exhibition reflect stellar, innovative ways of marketing a luxury label beyond fashion collections to reach mainstream audiences. Whether or not the Italian brand could maintain its reputation with a fast-food chain in the West is another story, though.
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