When the last model appeared at Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2021 Menswear show in Shanghai, the crowd became charged. As he walked onto the runway carrying an inflatable doll twice as big as himself, everyone raised their phones, eager to take a snap.
“Oh my God, that’s Kris Wu!” Many in the audience screamed out his name. Shortly afterwards, the Weibo topic #Kris Wu Walks Runway With a 2M Doll (#吴亦凡背着两米高玩偶走秀#) quickly hit the social platform’s hot topic list. At the same location, however, members of the GQ China team were not looking at Wu, but at their laptops, working to get a variety of promotional materials shot right before the show ready to distribute on different communications channels. The fashion show marked the second time Louis Vuitton worked with GQ China as a media partner to generate buzz for an important event.
In recent years, with ever-evolving changes in technology and consumer pursuits, the relationship between media and fashion brands have hit a “refresh” button regarding fashion shows. While the media may only have been able to amplify a brand’s voice in the past, it now can shoulder some of the responsibilities of putting creative marketing ideas into execution and communicating to a target audience for the brand in its own voice.
Jing Daily took this opportunity to learn about how Louis Vuitton presented a physical runway show in China, the country that first emerged from COVID-19 pandemic, as well as how it partnered with GQ China to help it double its impact.
For a brand rooted in travel, the on-going international travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Louis Vuitton to rethink its approach to showcase upcoming collections. But that doesn’t mean giving up the concept of doing a physical show. “I think fashion shows have to remain live. There has to be an audience. There has to be anticipation,” said Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton’s Chairman and CEO. “We know people are not going to be able to travel, so let’s not have people travel to the venues. Let’s have the clothes travel to the venues.”
Today, China continues to be one of the most important luxury markets, and Louis Vuitton supported the country when the initial COVID-19 outbreak began. It was among the first global luxury brands to make donations and to create posts to comfort the Chinese people. Although marketing in China was rather quiet during the last Paris Fashion Week in March, again, due to COVID-19, the brand won 100 million impressions with its five posts from the event, which featured Kris Wu, its brand ambassador, alongside friends of the brand to boost morale for China’s hospital workers.
Louis Vuitton used the same approach for their pre-show promotions this time. One day before the show, Louis Vuitton invited Wu and other friends of the brand, including Ouyang Nana, Zhong Chuxi, and Fan Chengcheng, to create their individual teasers for Weibo. These triggered a total of 63,000 likes, almost 100,000 comments, and a whopping 620,000 shares.
The brand’s choice to present their first runway show in Shanghai was not by accident. China’s economy has been slowly recovering since the national lockdown lifted in mid-March, and consumer sentiment has warmed up. According to the global consulting firm Bain & Co, Chinese consumers are expected to contribute about 50 percent of total global luxury consumption by 2025 and it’s set to be a key driver for the rebound of the global luxury industry. By showing in China, Louis Vuitton made the right decision to bring some positivity and celebration to the Chinese people at this trying time.
What does Virgil Abloh want to say to China?
This was Virgil Abloh’s fifth fashion show at Louis Vuitton since being appointed in 2018. Although he could not fly in himself, the audience saw him as a giant doll on Wu’s back. With the title “Message in a Bottle,” Abloh brought the audience into a world free from discrimination and conflict, saying: “We can change the world, but we have to allow people a second to get up to speed and feel and hear, instead of other drastic means. I run a studio of optimism, and I have a general belief in good and beauty.”
As characters specifically built for Spring 2021, ”Zoooom with Friends“ is a bunch of toys Abloh bought near his Paris studio. At the venue in Shanghai’s artistic West Bund, they materialized into giant dolls to safeguard Louis Vuitton’s cargo containers that were shipped from Paris in July. Meanwhile, they are also integrated into this season’s collection design. Abloh assumes from a child’s perspective and imagines what the world looks like without inherited social preference. In an age of regional protectionism and rising tension between the world’s major economic powers, a show that breaks through barriers and amplifies unity is ever more important.
What Does GQ China Bring To The Table?
In addition to building momentum through fashion shows, Louis Vuitton is well-versed in using digital marketing to strengthen the brand. Earlier this January, it chose to work with GQ Lab, a WeChat account under GQ China, as a media partner for the 2020 Spring Menswear pop-up store. GQ China also manages the brand’s official Weibo account, and through strategizing hot fashion topics relevant to the pop-up, the team successfully helped Louis Vuitton drive sales by catching the attention of young consumers.
As the first luxury fashion show in a post-COVID-19 China, GQ China was once again invited to leverage its tools to help the brand break the ice after a quiet marketing period. On the same day of the show, the GQ China team took over the brand’s official Weibo account at 10 in the morning.
During the takeover, teasers were sent out to Louis Vuitton’s 4.3M followers and the 20 celebrity guests’ billions of followers. Each star was recorded a one-liner that encapsulated what the viewers remember about them lately. For example, Wang Qian, an actress and contestant from popular reality TV show Sisters Who Make Waves said in her 11-second teaser: “I’m coming with waves!” These short videos garnered more than 1.6 million likes, 210,000 comments, and 1.73 million shares in one day.
Combining a childhood-like theme and storytelling, GQ China also made sure that the event and the celebrity guests had exposure on its own Weibo account. After the show, a short video of actor Zhu Yilong telling everyone “That’s a wrap!” went viral. One Weibo user commented, “How theatrical!” While another one said, “He’s a man of stories.” The topic #GQ knows how to photograph (#GQ好会拍) found itself on Weibo’s list.
The multimedia materials were all produced on deadline. Altogether, GQ China coordinated with the 20 celebrity guests to shoot 20 teasers, 4 group short videos, a group portrait, six fun short videos, 20 portraits with a newspaper theme, and 20 glamour shots. “All of the materials were finished shooting in under three hours. We also published a full article about the event after the show, which is the fastest among all media,” Condé Nast China’s group publisher Paco Tang told Jing Daily.
When asked about how GQ China sets itself apart from other media when it comes to being a partner. “GQ has been at the forefront of creation, which doesn’t only materialize in our forms of storytelling, but also in the mindset of our team members,” Tang said. “We also aim to produce and create with the highest efficiency.”
As media outlets from around the world grapple to pivot in the digital era to compete with search engines and social platforms, GQ China has carved a path for itself. Since 2017, it has established WeChat official accounts such as GQ Lab and GQ Love, producing articles with rich illustrations and humorous advertorials that often had with 100k+ views, the highest number WeChat shows to the public. For GQ China, which started out as a Menswear magazine in China just like its US counterpart, it has harvested a tremendous amount of local fans through digital trials across different social channels. The recent appointment of Rocco Liu, who formerly spearheaded its digital venture GQ Lab, as the title’s editor, further points at the team’s digital future.
From a commercial standpoint, brands are more likely to partner with media and influencers and with a clear positioning. Whether it’s Lipstick King Li Jiaqi, or top livestreamer Viya, who recently worked on Victoria Beckham’s new beauty brand launch, their success has everything to do with their carefully crafted public identity.
GQ China’s identity, according to netizens, is that of a storyteller with creativity. After initial success on WeChat, it hasn’t stopped. With last year’s “Men of the Year,” a black-tie event for GQ China‘s 10th anniversary, around 60 top celebrities were present. Many participated in GQ’s “Look Back in Vanity” (名利场回眸) photoshoots, which brought the relevant Weibo topic three billion views. The name has transformed into a video column on GQ China and GQ Lab, continuing to show different sides of celebrities.
For fashion brands, other than leveraging the power of celebrity guests, working with a media partner with creative power can show different possibilities of the collection. The age of post-COVID-19 might give birth to more forms of media partnerships, and the one between Louis Vuitton and GQ China, two digital leaders in fashion and media, is surely leading the pack.