If there’s anyone in China who can predict what will be the next darling bag charm sprucing up the purse straps of Sanlitun’s fashionistas, or the next must-have leather tote for brunch in Shanghai, it’s Mr. Bags.
Recently named the number three fashion blogger on Weibo by investment company Exane BNP Paribas, Tao Liang, a.k.a. Mr. Bags, is tasked with not only keeping his massive following on Weibo informed about the latest luxury handbag trends, but giving high-end fashion labels a foot in the door when it comes to learning just what China’s women are looking for in a shoulder accessory. Since Jing Daily first spoke with him a year ago, Tao has been busy turning his blogging career into a design and marketing platform. Last June, he assembled a small team and began working with brands, connecting them to his followers, whom he calls “Bagfans,” doling out advice, and more recently, partnering with them to create capsule collections to mark major shopping events.
For Valentine’s Day, Mr. Bags teamed up with Givenchy to create a pink leather bag called the Mini Horizon, which he made available on WeChat exclusively to his followers. The whole affair, ultimately, was a successful one: all 80 pieces in the collection were reserved in 12 minutes. Similarly, the month before, two mini bag styles he worked on with Strathberry sold out in just one minute on WeChat.
We caught up with Tao to find out just what was behind these feats and how he balances his blogger role with official partnerships.
Tune in to our Instagram page on February 19 for our first social media takeover, featuring Mr. Bags. For one day, he’ll be posting to Instagram @jingdaily as he attends London Fashion Week and talks with Mulberry designer Johnny Coca about their newest collection.
Tell us more about how you and Givenchy decided to work on this collaboration together.
I had asked my followers if there was any collaboration that they really would love to see Mr. Bags have with a brand. Many of them really wanted me to do an exclusive collection of luxury handbags. I met with Givenchy and told them the idea and they were quite fond of it.
How did you decide to do a Valentine’s Day partnership?
Our team is really trying to do whatever we can to create exclusive and joyful experiences for Bagfans and help them find happiness. Because Valentine’s Day is such a sweet day full of love, we figured it might be the very day that can bring Bagfans the most happiness. Plus, we collaborated with Dior on Chinese Valentine’s Day (Qixi Festival in August), which was the first time a luxury brand sold handbags through WeChat. Out of 200 limited-edition pink Lady Dior bags, Bagfans purchased more than 110 of them. That was when we realized that Bagfans actually had a need for beautiful bags during these very special days, and thus we came up with the idea for a Valentine’s Day collaboration.
What is the process of a collaboration with a luxury brand like? How much input do you have?
Well, it depends. Every collaboration is different. However, our team is now quite experienced after several huge collaborations, and we are able to give a lot of advice to luxury brands on how to develop a strategy to optimize Bagfans’ shopping experiences as well as how to meet Chinese customers’ needs. With Givenchy, we worked really well together.
How do you balance partnerships and sponsorships with your own content? Do you ever worry about conflicts of interest or not being able to have the freedom to tell your readers what you truly think about a collection?
Actually, I never think of partnerships and sponsorships as contradictions to a blogger’s development. The real obstacles are the content that readers either don’t need or they don’t want to see. That’s why we never rule out business collaborations as long as they are beneficial to my Bagfans. To be honest, we are very picky about who we work with. Most of the brands and clients we have worked with have all been high-end international brands that Bagfans are most interested in. Plus, it’s a new era in terms of marketing—both luxury brands and our team are looking for new ways to collaborate because nobody likes rigid advertisements.
Whenever we are starting a new project, I talk to the brand myself about what I like and what my Bagfans are currently in love with. Then, we decide which bags to promote. There has never been a situation where I have to say I’m fond of a bag that I actually don’t like.
Can you tell us more about Bagfans? What kinds of handbags are they looking for?
My followers are the best! As for what they want in handbags, they are like most girls. They want bags that are great for different events and occasions. They want to have bags that can express their styles and personality. They want bags that are practical and versatile, but that doesn’t mean they want all of these characteristics in one bag. The kinds of bags that can bring them happiness—that’s what they are looking for in a handbag.
How have your followers’ tastes changed since you first started blogging?
Generally speaking, they used to only invest in more classic styles. I am always trying to broaden their horizons a bit by introducing new designers and more up-to-date and seasonal styles. Some handbag styles have become extremely popular in China after I highly recommended them to my followers, such as the Loewe Puzzle and Chloé Lexa. So now, a lot of my Bagfans will try brand new styles, and they have expanded their range to a selection of emerging handbag designers like Kara and Strathberry.
You were recently named one of Weibo’s top 10 bloggers. What is your biggest piece of advice as a blogger?
First of all, I have to say I’m really honored. I didn’t expect that to happen because I never really think about comparing myself with others. The most important thing to me is to always create the best content and to be responsible for my fans. I think a blogger should never forget why he started blogging. Also, one must have his own trademark. There are so many bloggers out there, so why would your fans want to keep following you? That’s where it’s important that one’s own characteristics stand out.
Do you expect to work with Givenchy in the future? Do you have other luxury brand collaborations lined up?
Of course. It was great working with the Givenchy team. There will absolutely be future collaborations. To tell you the truth, Mr. Bags’ goal for this year is to not only provide good blog content for Bagfans, but also build an all-round experience for them, including offline events, such as Bagfan meetings, limited-edition bags exclusively for Bagfans, video content, games, and any other activity possible. We want our Bagfans to feel like they are living out a fantasy full of new surprises and creations with Mr. Bags.
Do more people celebrate Chinese Valentine’s Day or Western Valentine’s Day?
I think more people celebrate Western Valentine’s Day. Most people celebrate them both. Everyone needs a few special days to enjoy themselves. The more the merrier!