Did Hermès, Miu Miu’s diverse casting bet pay off in China?

    When Hermès reprised its spring 2024 runway, its unconventional choice of male models sparked discussion in China.
    Photo: Hermès
      Published   in Fashion

    Hermès surprised the fashion set when it staged a show right after Shanghai Fashion Week. Even more surprising? Its choice of runway models.

    On April 2, the French luxury brand reprised its men’s spring 2024 runway in the West Bund Art Center’s N Wing in Shanghai — its first major event in China since the pandemic. Strutting their stuff was a diverse lineup of local stars, including The Wandering Earth director Guo Fan, Michelin star restaurant Ling Long’s head chef Jason Liu, Olympic short track speed skater Wu Dajing, director at the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art Philip Tinari, architect Liu Yichun, actors Wang Yang and Liu Jia, and reality star Wang Yuheng.

    These talents joined professional models showcasing the house’s menswear collection, which debuted in Paris last June. Quiet, effortless luxury was clearly the theme as Hermès leaned into the weightlessness of summer with its beach blazers, airy shirts, and short shorts.

    Chinese architect Liu Yichun and film director Guo Fan walk for Hermès. Photo: Hermès
    Chinese architect Liu Yichun and film director Guo Fan walk for Hermès. Photo: Hermès

    Hermès highlights Chinese industry leaders#

    Online and in person, the men were met with cheers from audience members. Part of this success was driven by the element of surprise.

    “When the Hermès manager invited us to the show, they mentioned there would be amateur models, leading us to believe they might be some well-presented Hermès fans doubling as models,” wrote @Gentle Gerbao (@斯文的格宝) on Xiaohongshu. “To our surprise, as we arrived at the venue, familiar faces began to appear: Wang Yang, Wu Dajing, Shui Ge, Liu Jia ... only then did we realize that the so-called amateur models were actually celebrity models.”

    “Friends who adore Wang Yang jokingly remarked that it seemed like Wang wasn’t there to walk the runway, but to enlist in the army; Wu Dajing was recognized because of his perky butt ... The whole audience laughed!” the user continues.

    Chinese netizens react to actor Wang Yang and athlete Wu Dajing’s walk for Hermès. Photo: Xiaohongshu
    Chinese netizens react to actor Wang Yang and athlete Wu Dajing’s walk for Hermès. Photo: Xiaohongshu

    Other netizens felt the inclusion of non-models helped them better see themselves in the collection.

    “They represent a certain identity or profession, and in life, there are countless people like them. However, they also deserve better, deserve to be stylish, deserve to dress themselves up,” fashion blogger @FashionBaker wrote on Weibo to his 1.4 million followers.

    “Compared to models, they’re more relatable to our daily lives – the charm of high-quality men wearing Hermès!” as Xiaohongshu user @Buyerkey put it.

    However, not all were impressed with the down-to-earth direction. “Seeing regular people wear [the collection], I have no desire to buy it,” the most-liked comment under Hermès’ official Xiaohongshu post stated. That said, most complaints were directed at the apparel and styling decisions rather than the guest stars themselves.

    To Miu Miu, age is just a number#

    Hermès isn’t the only luxury brand making some interesting runway choices. Miu Miu, the youthful, edgy sister to Prada, also sparked conversation with its age-diverse cast at Paris Fashion Week, which included 63-year-old actress Kristin Scott Thomas, 68-year-old Spanish actress Ángela Molina, and 70-year-old Chinese doctor-slash-style influencer Qin Huilan.

    Qin, known for being a loyal Prada and Miu Miu client, has risen to fame for redefining how older women should dress. She boasts over 41,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 45,000 on Xiaohongshu.

    Her appearance aligns with Miu Miu’s spirit of women’s empowerment and individuality. “Before the age of 70, I only cared about my patients as a doctor. Who would have thought that at the age of 70, I would be standing here on the runway today?” Qin posted on Instagram.

    View post on Instagram

    This cast of older women, particularly Shanghai-based Qin, was well received by Chinese netizens. As Xiaohongshu user @Zhao Jingjing and Her Friends (@赵晶晶和她的朋友们) wrote, “I truly feel that @Miu Miu is at the forefront, not pursuing whiteness and slimness, but instead showcasing 70-year-old [Dr. Qin] from Guangxi! We all have age anxiety, afraid of being eliminated by society! This Miu Miu show, on the other hand, has given me a shot of confidence!”

    A winning strategy?#

    Love it or hate it, the unconventional cameos grabbed people’s attention. But beyond that, they also supported each brand’s messaging.

    “By including a diverse and unconventional casting for their show, Hermès sparked discussions and strategically elevated their brand presence in China. Moreover, this approach authenticates real-world diversity and solidifies Hermès’ creative positioning in the industry,” Alison Bringé, CMO of Launchmetrics, tells Jing Daily.

    “Similarly, luxury brands like Miu Miu have embraced showcasing unique profiles with distinctive styles to celebrate timeless beauty and connect with a broader audience, signaling a significant move towards inclusivity and authenticity,” she adds.

    For brands considering this tactic, they should first look at their own DNA and mission to decide on guests appropriately, Fabio Becheri, CMO of Chinese down jacket brand Bosideng, advises.

    In Hermès’ case, “they can invite whoever they want,” he says. “The brand is the epitome of timeless and long-lasting values; therefore, I think they are in a position to invite anyone of any age as long as they are accomplished people.”

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