Who Won the Chinese Market at Paris Fashion Week?

Jing Daily analyzes the final of the “big four” fashion weeks for the Jing Daily Fashion Week Score. From Paris Fashion Week — which managed to produce an impressive and inventive array of physical runway shows — we evaluated how a brand’s collection resonates with the Chinese audience through a range of parameters. Brands took guests on journeys, not only flights of the imagination, but to glamorous locations around the city too: Saint Laurent’s thundering waterfall underneath the tower Eiffel, Louis Vuitton at the Louvre Museum, and Chloé by the Seine.

Iconic names like Dior, Saint Laurent, and Chanel drew huge traffic to their shows thanks to the presence of their Korean ambassadors, namely Blackpink members Jisoo at Dior, Rosé at Saint Lauren, and Jennie at Chanel. There was, however, some disruption as well, namely at the Louis Vuitton show, where a climate activist protested the runway show.

Moreover, while independent labels from China were notably absent, the Hermès’-backed brand Shang Xia created much buzz following the appointment of fashion maverick Yang Li. Its debut at the event was a minimalist, tailored affair. Chinese model Cong He walked the runway, and appeared in eight other shows including Miu Miu, Givenchy, and Fendi. Overall, there was a distinct lack of Asian faces at the show with an average of three looks per show.

And finally, The Simpsons made an appearance thanks to Balenciaga’s branding experiment, but the closing show was the most poignant: 45 fashion houses celebrated the late Alber Elbaz under the banner “Love Brings Love.” Gucci, Dior, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, and Comme des Garcons all created looks for the AZ FACTORY Spring Collection. A fitting tribute to one of fashion’s icons.

Methodology:

  • Model representation: evaluates representation of Asian models on the runway.

  • Digital impact: evaluates Chinese netizen reception and engagement on leading social media platforms, including Weibo, WeChat, and Xiaohongshu.

  • KOL & celebrity visibility: consider the star power associated with the brand through strategic KOL and celebrity partnerships.

  • Special brand efforts: consider special programs or efforts on a brand’s part to speak to the Chinese audience. Company or brand contributions toward the ongoing virus crisis are also considered.

  • Design context: a qualitative assessment of how the brand’s collection will speak to the Chinese audience based on current trends and preferences.

  • Brand history: considers existing brand history in China, including overall presence, social reach, number of stores, earning trends, and brand missteps.

Louis Vuitton

Brand History: Louis Vuitton enjoys over 7.3 million followers on Weibo and is one of the most followed luxury brands on the platform. The house counts 57 stores in China, placed in the most prestigious venues. In 2020, the brand kicked off its worldwide popup exhibition “See LV” in Wuhan, which had just recovered from the COVID-19 outbreak. The popup received immense popularity, drawing between 2,000 and 3,000 visitors daily.

Model Representation: 6/45 looks

Influencer Impressions: The show’s livestream invitation was sent by celebrities like Liu Yifei and Zhong Chuxi, while influencers @ElephantKingdom, @AnnyFan, and @Mr.Jiliang posted about the show, leading to a remarkable social reach of 210 million netizens in total.

Netizen Reaction: Overall divided. Louis Vuitton’s 19th century-inspired monumental skirt was a focal point for netizens, but opinions were mixed. While some found the design very appealing, others judged it to be “clumsy.” However, the focus quickly shifted from the collection to the protester who managed to get onto the catwalk while carrying a sign that read “Overconsumption = Extinction.”

The Verdict: By leveraging its two popular ambassadors, Liu Yifei and Zhong Chuxi, Louis Vuitton garnered nearly 40 million views for its livestream show. This number is impressive, especially considering the brand lost an important ambassador — Kris Wu — in recent months. It seems this celebrity scandal has not affected the French Maison much at all.

Saint Laurent

Brand History: The French Maison Saint Laurent, beloved for its handbags and glamorous dresses, owns over 50 stores in China’s Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities. But, surprisingly, the luxury house lacks a Chinese brand ambassador. As such, its official Weibo follower count is well below the average of its rivals — numbering only 427,900.

Model Representation: 3/62 looks

Influencer Impressions: With influencers like @MaissenH, @Dipsy迪西, and @PipiJuice as well as fashion media outlets @Vogue, @Bazaar, and @MadameFigaro posting about the show, social reached an impressive 210 million netizens in total.

Netizen Reaction: Overall highly positive. Netizens were charmed by the thundering waterfall set of the Spring 2022 show, set beneath the Eiffel tower. But even more charming were the dresses and all the collection details. Some netizens commented that they wanted to purchase as many as ten items, with some stating that Anthony Vaccarello was a genius.

The Verdict: Although Saint Laurent missed the opportunity to have a Chinese ambassador promote the show, the collection still reached the Chinese market. Thanks to Rosé, the brand’s global ambassador, Korean idol, and Blackpink member who attended the show in Paris, the brand received impressive organic content and traffic on Weibo (the celebrity has a solid following of 3.2 million followers in China).

Dior

Brand History: Dior is one of the top luxury brands in China, where the French Maison has over 7.2 million followers on Weibo and 286,000 followers on Xiaohongshu. The brand’s popularity is due to its long legacy and heritage, and local consumers prefer its handbags, ready-to-wear, and makeup line.

Model Representation: 6/87 looks

Influencer Impressions: With celebrities like @Angelababy and fashion press such as @Cosmo, @Vogue, and @Elle posting about the show, social reached an impressive 270 million netizens in total.

Netizen Reaction: Overall negative. This time, Dior’s womenswear creative director, Maria Grazie Chiuri, delivered a clean and minimalistic collection for its Spring 2022 show. However, the sudden shift from its original style has not impressed netizens, and they have accused the brand of plagiarizing Prada and Miu Miu’s previous runway looks. Some even mocked the show, describing it as “Dior by Miuccia Prada.” So, will the collection sell in China?

The Verdict: Dior knows the formula for garnering traffic on Chinese social media platforms: leaning on celebrity influence. Before the show, it invited six domestic stars with a combined following of over 45 million followers to announce the preshow invitation. Yet, K-pop idol and Blackpink member Jisoo was the idol that attracted the most traffic for Dior both in China and worldwide. The brand livestream on Weibo hit over 50 million views, and many of those viewers were supporters and fans of the Korean celebrity.

Hermès

Brand History: The 184-year-old Maison Hermès has over 65 stores across China. The French house is one of the most valuable brands worldwide, and its iconic handbags — the Birkin, Kelly, and Constance — are considered social currency for Chinese consumers. Nonetheless, the brand is diversifying its offerings to avoid over-relying on one hero product. Recently, it launched a gym store popup in Chengdu and created a WeChat Mini Program offering free gym courses. Additionally, the brand released a China-exclusive blush for its newly introduced makeup line.

Model Representation: 6/57 looks

Influencer Impressions: With influencers like @Anny Fan and@Mr.Jiliang and fashion press @Elle, @iWeekly, and @Bazaar posting about the show, social reached a remarkable 83 million netizens in total.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. “Superior” and “classy” were adjectives used to define Hermès’ Spring 2022 collection, if not its entire collection. As usual, the brand used fine fabric and clean, majestic silhouettes for its garments. The monochrome looks and the use of leather were also widely appreciated by netizens.

The Verdict: As usual, Hermès does not lean on any celebrities or KOLs. Yet, thanks to the preshow announcement from media outlets @iWeekly and @Elle, who have a combined following of 25 million followers, the livestream show attracted over 8 million views.

Balenciaga

Brand History: With 35 stores across China’s Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities, Balenciaga has yet to expand its footprint in the country despite its current popularity. Indeed, the brand’s street-style approach to luxury is beloved by local Gen Zers, and its latest collaboration with Gucci heated up the Chinese web. Although the brand became embroiled in some controversy for a racist campaign, the house still enjoys a solid following of culted buyers in China.

Model Representation: 4/64 looks

Influencer Impressions: With influencers like @Fashion_Bangz, @Mr.Jiliang, and @Youranmila and fashion press @Elle, @Bazaar, and @MarieClaire posting about the show, social reached an impressive 163 million netizens in total.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. Finally returning to physical shows, Balenciaga’s Spring 2022 collection surprised the audience with its originality. The show opened with a short film in collaboration with the cartoon The Simpsons. Then, the collection was presented just like a Hollywood red carpet film festival. The show’s originality has amused netizens, and many looks were loved (yet some expressed it was far from their understandings of fashion).

The Verdict: Balenciaga continues to capture netizens’ attention through its groundbreaking approach to fashion and catwalk shows. The brand does not lean on any celebrity influence, but the originality of the short film has paid off: The brand garnered over 8.2 million views for its livestream.

Lanvin

Brand History: After its acquisition by the Fosun Group, the brand consolidated its presence in China by appointing actress Zhang Xiaofei (5.6M followers) and actor Yu Menglong (27M followers) as brand ambassadors. The brand now counts 11 stores in Chinese cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Sanya, Hong Kong, and Taipei.

Model Representation: 4/49 looks

Influencer Impressions: Thanks to the coverage from influencers like @ElephantKingdom, @FashionAmberR, and @PipiJuice and fashion media outlets @Elle, @Bazaar, and @Wallpaper, social reached a remarkable 153 million netizens in total.

Netizen Reaction: Overall divided. While some netizens considered Lanvin’s use of bold prints and metal colors too daring, other people appreciated the fashion-forward spirit. Additionally, the brand collaborated with the Marvel hero Batman. There were many references to the character, for instance, on a sneaker with Batman printed on it, which attracted particular attention from netizens, who joked about the shoes.

The Verdict: Thanks to the actor Yu Menglong, who enjoys a loyal following of over 27 million fans on Weibo, the brand garnered massive traffic for the show’s livestream, which was co-hosted by the young celebrity. As Chinese stars are unable to attend physical shows in Europe, co-hosting livestream shows seems like a great way for brands to lean on their ability to drive traffic.

Chloé

Brand History: Chloé owns 18 boutiques in China’s major cities and is present on popular social platforms Weibo, Wechat, Xiaohongshu, and Douyin. Renowned for its iconic Faye, Drew, and Nile handbags, it is time for the brand to release the next IT bag to consolidate its positioning in the dynamic Chinese market.

Model Representation: 3/31 looks

Influencer Impressions: With influencers like @悠然米拉, @YangfanJame, and @ElephantKingdom and fashion media outlets @Vogue, @InStyle, and @Grazia posting about the show, the brand reached an impressive 170 million netizens in total.

Netizen Reaction: Overall divided. There were mixed opinions about Gabriela Hearst’s latest collection for Chloé. Some netizens expressed their appreciation for the vibrant color tones and the exquisite tailoring presented in the collection. Yet, others argued that it was far from being commercial and couldn’t be sold.

The Verdict: The collection continued Chloé and its creative Director Gabriela Hearst’s commitment to sustainable and ethically-made garments. But although China has seen much talk around sustainability, its consumers are not prepared to fully embrace the concept yet. Nonetheless, as more netizens become climate-conscious, pioneering brands could get reimbursed for their initiative. Perhaps Chloé can find some sustainably committed ambassadors in the Chinese market for better targeting its consumers?

Shang Xia

Brand History: On September 22, SHANG XIA — jointly owned by Exor, Hermès, and Qiong’er Jiang — announced it appointed designer Yang Li as its fashion creative director. Following a 60-percent sales increase in 2019, the brand expects to keep growing under Li’s new creative direction while expanding its retail presence in exclusive locations in China and beyond. Currently, SHANG XIA has garnered around 69,100 followers on Weibo.

Model Representation: 7/37 looks

Influencer Impressions: With coverage from fashion media outlets @Bazaar, @SohuFashion, and @SinaFashion, social reached an impressive 60 million netizens in total.

Netizen Reaction: Overall divided. This time, Yang Li’s distinctive gothic-punk design approach wasn’t present in the collection. Instead, the designer showcased clean and minimalistic silhouettes that focused on colors and tailoring. This exquisite craftsmanship was enjoyed by the majority of netizens. Yet, fans expected a greater infusion of Chinese aesthetics, and for some, the show felt boring.

The Verdict: Yang Li’s debut collection for SHANG XIA was highly anticipated by the media, and netizens were intrigued to know what the talented designer would bring to the brand. For Spring 2022, the creative director perfectly married the brand’s DNA, with some netizens calling the collection “China’s Hermès.” Although the looks were sober, considering the progressive clientele of SHANG XIA (who looked toward more sophisticated and less ostentatious garments), the clothes ultimately fit with the brand’s targeted segment.

Marine Serre

Brand History: Marine Serre’s official Weibo account only has 4,045 followers, but this figure does not do justice to the brand’s popularity in China. In fact, it has garnered over 6,700 UGC instances of consumers showcasing their Marine Serre looks on the lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu. Currently, the brand is stocked at 14 renowned stockists in China, including Lafayette, SKP, and Dover Street Market.

Model Representation: 5/53 looks

Influencer Impressions: Thanks to the coverage of fashion media outlets @Sinafashion, @Tencentfashion, and @Phoenixfashion, social reached 30 million netizens in total.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. Although the looks featured unearthly designs and style combinations, netizens found the collection oddly beautiful. Aside from Marine Serre’s avant-garde approach to fashion, the brand’s popular moon monogram has been a key sales driver in China and worldwide.

The Verdict: The niche brand has raised impressive awareness in China, thanks to its instantly recognizable moon monogram. However, hype brands succeed quickly but quickly fade from the public eyes, too. Given its current popularity, Marine Serre should further penetrate the market by dressing local celebrities and KOLs. That would ensure continued exposure and keep it relevant in China.

Reported by Lisa Nan and Gemma A. Williams 

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Fashion