The Remarkable Strategy Behind Louis Vuitton’s Shanghai Spin-off Show

Nicolas Ghesquière’s voice wafted across the Louis Vuitton Womenswear Spring/Summer show in Shanghai, directing audiences across a sumptuously decorated ballroom. On November 17, the Shipyard Repair Docks on the Huangpu River was decked out with dozens of antique chandeliers, echoing the collection’s premiere at the Louvre’s Passage Richelieu.

The presentation marked Louis Vuitton’s second show in Shanghai since the pandemic began (last year’s Spring 2021 Menswear show was the first). And even with the house celebrating the 200th birthday of its founder, it was Ghesquière’s first presentation in China that received the most significant attention.

After stepping into the spectacular ballroom, guests were greeted by a dazzling feast. Conversations about the backdrop and sets soon popped up in person and across social media on various platforms. And with Chinese supermodel Xiaowen Ju closing the show, audiences loudly applauded the breathtaking fantasy Ghesquière and the Maison had co-created.

Stepping into the spectacular ballroom, attendants were surrounded by antique chairs and hundreds of chandeliers. Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Hosting physical runways and gatherings in China has been common in the post-pandemic era, so the benchmark for bringing newness to Chinese runways has become increasingly challenging. As such, Jing Daily took a look at how Louis Vuitton is redefining the spin-off show and how this recent initiative will surely fuel the house’s China business for years to come.

Ghesquière’s creative vision was restaged in Shanghai with the brand’s local team 

Instead of repeating or replicating shows in a key market, Vuitton personalized this Shanghai spin-off runway for China through some local twists. As Vuitton chairman and CEO Michael Burke explained in an exclusive interview with WWD: “Each show has an intimate relationship with its predecessor and announces its successor. A spin-off reinforces and builds on the previous show.”

Staged next to the Huangpu River, a symbol of Shanghai’s complicated history as a crucial trade port, the show emanated Louis Vuitton’s rich brand DNA, which has always been rooted in travel culture as seen through a local lens. This complex and modern history set the tone for a China-based reinterpretation of the collection.

In addition to the selected location, the house professed its dedication to Chinese audiences by designing 19 exclusive looks (and three handbags) for the show. Powered by the house’s local teams, these initiatives align with how Burke sees fashion shows being communicated to global audiences in the future, specifically “taking events to people instead of flying people to events.”

Leveraging a diverse celebrity profile

But Vuitton did not build this impressive Shanghai spectacle overnight. First, the brand teased the event with a 40-second video featuring an orchestra playing in various locations around Shanghai city, from subway tunnels to the Bund. The house also teamed up with ten Chinese celebrities (eight women and two men) to post online invitations to its livestream.

Their combined social following (300 million) allowed the show to reach massive user demographics in China. Of particular note, the house announced Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu as its new brand ambassador on the same day the show was presented. Zhou and the brand’s other China ambassador Liu Yifei strongly reinforced the identity of Vuitton’s womenswear line among local consumers.

Louis Vuitton announced Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu as its new brand ambassador on the same day the show was presented. Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Then, on November 17, a group of 35 celebrities — alongside creative talents, industry insiders, and the house’s VICs — attended the show. Their social media images drove substantial social traffic: over 600 million views for the campaign hashtag, #LVSS22WomenswearShow, within 12 hours. Also of importance: Ghesquière’s signature anachronistic combinations, such as ancient-looking coats and futuristic Archlight sneakers, for instance, received many positive comments from local fashionistas.

A pioneer in the social media arena 

Vuitton’s spin-off show and livestreams could be found across six platforms, including Weibo, WeChat Video Chanel, Tencent Video, Douyin, Kuaishou, and OTT, and garnered a combined 158 million views in three hours. It was the second time the house livestreamed a runway show on Kuaishou via the T Magazine channel after testing the waters in June by broadcasting its Spring/Summer menswear 2022 presentation from Paris Fashion Week in collaboration with Nylon magazine.

Livestream teasers on T Magazine’s Kuaishou channel. Photo: Screenshots from Kuaishou

Both initiatives indicated that the digitally adventurous luxury brand is ambitiously seeking out demographics in lower-tier Chinese cities. As confirmed by the China Consumer Report 2020 released by McKinsey & Company, those consumers are “flush with disposable cash” thanks to a lower cost of living and ample free time to follow trends and make online purchases. Their strong buying power has also been confirmed by Alibaba Group’s statistics from the Double 11 Shopping Festival, which show that the number of luxury shoppers from lower-tier cities increased by nearly 50 percent in 2021, year-on-year.

With agility in omnichannel touchpoint expansion, Louis Vuitton should continue to experiment with various social platforms, finding the best ways to communicate with different domestic audiences. And now, after introducing Ghesquière’s creative vision to local women, the house expects to elevate its womenswear category with this lucrative segment.

In an era when many luxury brands simply wait for untapped opportunities in China, Louis Vuitton turns this potential into action.