At the start of Milan Fashion Week, while some Chinese KOLs and celebs trickled in, it was clear that the big pre-COVID China contingent was missing. So how did shows go down in the powerful China market? Which brands hit it big globally but missed out in China and vice versa?
Influencer and social media marketing platform Lefty’s comparison of Earned Media Value (EMV) across the fashion week offers some critical insight. The top five performing brands for China during Milan Fashion Week were Gucci, Moncler, Prada, Fendi, and Versace (in that order), while global rankings placed Prada first, followed by Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, BOSS, and Versace.
Chinese favorites like Gucci, Prada, and Fendi continue to perform well because of strong multi-tiered connections to the local market and community; the trio of Italian powerhouses generated a combined EMV of over $31.74 million in the country. At number two, Moncler hit high notes with $9.44 million in EMV because of key Chinese celebrity appointments, strong growth, and a loyal consumer base, despite not making it onto the top 5 global rankings. Meanwhile, Dolce & Gabbana’s popularity in China is still impacted, and BOSS posted a surprising high global EMV metric.
Here we take a look at five key brands in the first half of Milan:
The talk of the town was #GucciTwinsbury where the brand cast 68 twins from around the world as models. And with plenty of Asian and Chinese sartorial references (such as qipao) on the runway, Alessandro Michele managed to present a cultural melting pot lineup that felt like innovation rather than appropriation. Another sign that the brand is doubling down on its commitment to the Chinese market is its growing cast of local brand ambassadors, including Xiao Zhan, Cecilia Song, and Venda Li, who all sent out video invitations on Weibo. Xiao Zhan’s invite drove significant traffic, with one post generating $4.93 million in EMV, making up 28 percent of Gucci’s total EMV. Acknowledging that most Chinese viewers cannot travel to attend the shows, Gucci hosted a Beijing screening of its runway which kept guests amused and posting.
The livestreamed show was posted on Weibo and garnered almost 47.5 million views according to Lefty — as well as on Tencent’s Super QQ Show. “As a result of these efforts, Gucci skyrocketed to the top as Milan Fashion Week’s #1 brand in China in terms of Earn Media Value (EMV),” says Lefty’s report.
By mid-week, when asked what her most memorable Milan Fashion Week moment was, Yuyu Zhangzou (one of the few Chinese KOLs who managed to make it out to Italian city) told Jing Daily that it was Gucci. “We were all just like ‘wow’ and super excited with the show. I can’t lie, I almost cried, the tears were around my eyes during it,” she says. “I can’t really find the words to describe how I felt. That moment really reminded me why I’m still working in this industry…and why I love fashion so much…Those moments make you so alive. It’s something so strong that hits your heart and your brain.”
The Prada duet of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons offered up a touch of domestic disturbia that combined the prim and the perverse. There were references to vintage eras like the 50s and 60s, as well as a 90s gothic Addams Family vibe in this collection titled “Touch of Crude,” defined by slinky shapes, tailoring, thigh slits, and a moody palette (bar some welcome shocks of highlighter hues). Earning a $7.61 million EMV, though “a fan favorite in both East and West, Prada ranked lower in China than its previous Menswear SS23 presentation in Milan in June,” reported Lefty, which speculates that the main contributing factor to the drop might have been “a lack of a fully-fleshed media campaign on Chinese social networks…and the brand’s loss of its most critical brand ambassador Li Yifeng just days before Milan Fashion Week.”
It’s doubtful that the brand is losing real traction, however; Prada has a solid presence in China and is well respected across generations. A newly appointed Chinese ambassador, actress Chun Xia, even made her official debut at the Milan show. The luxury brand also partnered with KOLs on Weibo like @希林娜依高, @李一桐Q, @乔欣Bridgette, and more who invited fans to watch the livestream.
Boasting perhaps the biggest runway show in Milan, Diesel invited the public and Italy’s fashion school students to watch alongside industry insiders in a 5,000-capacity stadium — a move to further democratize fashion access. A huge inflatable sculpture of intertwined bodies made for a centerpiece that models walked around. The denim-anchored fashion brand hit the 90s nail on the head with a collection that capitalizes on fashion’s current Y2K craze, beloved by China’s Gen Z and beyond. The brand jumped to the top 8 global position in terms of EMV, with 57% growth whilst it ranked 11th on Weibo with $2.01 million EMV.
Creative Director Glenn Martens works his magic, tapping the zeitgeist while creating elevation through sophisticated, multi-textured fabrications, with dramatic denim fringing being the most memorable and daring. The dangerously low waistbands, the aesthetic shadow of Julia Fox (who attended the show), and the classic Diesel logo here and there also recalled the brand’s 90s heyday. A high-energy, jolting start to Milan Fashion Week, the runway reminded people that the Italian fashion capital could be just as conceptually daring as Paris when it wants to play that card. Chinese Diesel fans shouldn’t be disappointed come spring.
On the other side of the aesthetic spectrum, Max Mara’s serene SS23 offering evoked aristocrats and elegant bohemians flocking to the Riviera — embodied by this season’s muse Renee Perle, lover of Jacque-Henri Lartigue. Huge sun hats and headscarves, languid backless tanks, floaty skirts, and sailor pants all evoke a sun-kissed, sinuous femininity that will strike chords with China’s jet set, especially those attracted to graceful vacation and summer dressing. Ranking an impressive 7th place on Weibo with $3.5 million EMV, this show did better in China than in global stats. This collection soothed and smoothed, and eschewed any kind of dramatic roughness. The sensual wearability of the garments and those flattering silhouettes will no doubt work well in retail when the items land in store.
Doused in vibrant minty green, silky neutrals, and ivory, Fendi’s SS23 collection championed modern femininity and functionality. It was an effortlessly wearable assortment with striking details such as green rubber platforms and Japanese-inspired pleated belting, tied at the back. Recording an impressive $6.33 million EMV rating among Chinese consumers, it slipped into fourth place for the Milan brands. In the mainland, the brand engaged ambassadors Zhang Ruoyun, Tang Yixin, and other big-name celebrities on Weibo to invite fans to watch the show online. There were also several KOLs who attended in person, such as Mr. Bags, who kept a keen eye on the accessories offered in this youthful, commercially strong SS23 collection by Artistic Director Kim Jones.