Luxury Brand Hierarchy Explained by China’s New Hit Drama

What happened: 

When Samantha Jones used Lucy Liu’s name to jump the queue to get a Birkin bag in “Sex and the City,” viewers understood the social currency that the coveted bag held. Two decades later, China has a version of its own. The new hit TV drama “Nothing But Thirty” offered a realistic depiction of luxury brand hierarchy in China. One of the main characters, Tong Yao, went to a social gathering carrying a Chanel limited-edition 2.55 flap bag from 2017, while the rest of the wealthy housewives came with Hermès Birkin or Kelly bags. Tong later found out she got cut out from the group pictures. Afterward, she pulled some strings to get a hold of a Kelly bag in short notice so that the group could accept her at the next gathering. The scene soon became a well-discussed topic among the online audience for its realistic portrayal of Chinese social hierarchy. There are over 2,000 posts related to the topic on Little Red Book

The Jing Take:

It might be the first time in recent years that a Chinese TV series has portrayed a fashion moment accurately. Though the luxury brand hierarchy existed long before that, someone even made a luxury brand hierarchy pyramid where Hermès looks down on other brands from the top of the pyramid. The show mirrors how Chinese consumers think of luxury brands. Admittedly, there have been discussions about how the legend of Hermès is diminishing due to competition from “second-tier” brands such as Channel, Lous Vuitton, and Dior. Also, the trend of young Chinese Millennials looks beyond the luxury icons represented by Hermès. Increasingly, they are now in the hunt for labels that are more niche and au courant. Brands like Moynat and Goyard caught their attention for being “Hermès alternative.” However, today Hermès is more of an adjective than a brand in China, the name conveys power and exclusivity. Just like how the character in the show used the bag as a tool to crack into the circle for potential business collaboration, the added value and the symbolic meaning of the bag are way beyond its intrinsic value. 

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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