Reports

    From Jeno to Xiao Zhan: Asian star power boosts MFW’s new creative wave

    Milan Fashion Week is witnessing a creative overhaul. We look at how brands can amplify their reach and EMV in China with celebrities.
    Image: Weibo screenshots
      Published   in Fashion

    In recent years, Milan Fashion Week has witnessed a significant reshuffling in creative leadership. Notably, Gucci appointed Sabato de Sarno as the creative lead following Alessandro Michele’s departure last year. Maximilian Davis assumed control of Ferragamo, and Matthieu Blazy took the reins at Bottega Veneta in late 2021, succeeding Daniel Lee.

    This season marked Matteo Tamburini’s debut with his inaugural collection at Tod’s, succeeding Walter Chiapponi, who departed in July to lead Blumarine. Meanwhile, Adrian Appiolaza presented his first show at Moschino, and Tina Lutz and Katie Chung unveiled their first joint collection for MCM.

    How are Chinese audiences reacting to these creative changes? In partnership with marketing agency Lefty, Jing Daily delves into the Earned Media Value (EMV) of these houses and their efforts to expand the reach of their runways to the Chinese market.

    Gucci#

    Gucci's Fall Winter 24/25 runway finale. Image: Gucci
    Gucci's Fall Winter 24/25 runway finale. Image: Gucci

    Following the exit of Alessandro Michele, anticipation surrounds Sabato De Sarno in redefining Gucci's aesthetic. As a former Valentino talent, expectations are high for his ability to reverse Kering’s recent sales downturn. Chinese netizens are also fixated on ambassador Xiao Zhan, whose presence propelled Gucci's show livestream to over 33 million views.

    However, the question arises: Can Xiao Zhan alone sustain the megabrand's sales, especially when targeting an annual revenue exceeding 10 billion dollars?

    Bottega Veneta#

    Guo Jingjing's “chillax” look comprises a white T-shirt layered with a baby blue shirt and a pair of jeans. Image: Bottega Veneta
    Guo Jingjing's “chillax” look comprises a white T-shirt layered with a baby blue shirt and a pair of jeans. Image: Bottega Veneta

    Bottega Veneta has strategically evolved its fashion week strategy, reducing its reliance on celebrity exposure. At Saturday’s show, the presence of Guo Jingjing, the Chinese diver and Olympic gold medalist married to Kenneth Fok, a member of one of China’s wealthiest and most influential families, showcased the brand’s savvy KOL approach. Guo, known for her understated personality, perfectly embodies the label’s quintessential customer.

    Guo’s attendance not only added prestige to the FROW but also garnered significant attention for the brand. The hashtag #GuoJingJingAttendingMFW has amassed over 15 million views on Weibo. Chinese netizens admired her “chillax” look, which was one of this season’s runway ensembles — a white T-shirt layered with a baby blue shirt and a pair of jeans. The show livestreaming on Weibo received a total of 24.9 million views.

    Matthieu Blazy remains steadfast in his mission to provide “everyday clothes” for various occasions, whether it’s for the office, a date, or a casual walk with the dog. He pays meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship, steering away from statement pieces. It’s worth noting that all of Kering’s brands seem to be heading in this direction — crafting offerings of quiet luxury while adopting similar marketing tactics.

    Ferragamo#

    Taking inspiration from the vibrant 1920s, Davis skillfully merges sensuality and sophistication in this season’s collection. Image: Ferragamo
    Taking inspiration from the vibrant 1920s, Davis skillfully merges sensuality and sophistication in this season’s collection. Image: Ferragamo

    Ferragamo’s financial results for 2023 haven’t been stellar, with total revenue declining 7.6 percent year-on-year to $1.24 billion (8.9 billion RMB). Despite these challenges, Maximilian Davis is growing more confident in his designs, and the brand’s reputation is on the rise.

    Taking inspiration from the vibrant 1920s, Davis skillfully merges sensuality and sophistication in this season’s collection. The inclusion of wrapping dresses and flowing gowns accentuates the body’s natural curves, while the three-dimensional cutting enhances the impact of these pieces, encouraging women to embrace their most graceful postures. The show commenced with an unconventional military green hue, earning widespread appreciation from fashion insiders. Chinese bloggers and netizens have flooded the comments with overwhelmingly positive feedback.

    While the global presence of Korean idol Jeno Lee attracted attention, the absence of Chinese celebrities directly impacted the livestream viewership, drawing just 1,996 viewers on Weibo.

    Tod’s#

    For Matteo Tamburini’s inaugural show, Tod’s commandeered an entire railway station in Milan, creating a picturesque backdrop. Image: Tod's
    For Matteo Tamburini’s inaugural show, Tod’s commandeered an entire railway station in Milan, creating a picturesque backdrop. Image: Tod's

    For Matteo Tamburini’s inaugural show, Tod’s commandeered an entire railway station in Milan, creating a picturesque backdrop where bloggers and celebrities eagerly posed for photographs. Located near the city’s Chinatown, a throng of fans gathered to witness the arrival of Tod’s global ambassador, Xiao Zhan, creating a frenzy of cameras even within the show venue.

    Amplifying a collection’s visibility is crucial for a new creative director, and securing the presence of influential celebrities serves as a significant gateway to mass audiences. Tod’s livestream on Weibo garnered an impressive 12.8 million views. Just weeks before the show, the brand had announced Xiao Zhan’s global ambassador title.

    Tamburini stayed faithful to the essence of the quiet luxury brand, preserving its Italian heritage while infusing elements of urban chic and relaxed elegance. The harmonious layering in similar tones, coupled with oversized bags, served as the finishing touches to this modern collection.

    Tom Ford#

    Chinese celebrities Qi Wei graced the event in a golden dress. Image: ChloeCaoDaily’s Weibo
    Chinese celebrities Qi Wei graced the event in a golden dress. Image: ChloeCaoDaily’s Weibo

    Tom Ford is also banking on star power to maximize the visibility of its show. Alongside Hollywood stars Sharon Stone and Uma Thurman, Chinese celebrities Qi Wei, Gülnezer Bextiyar, Liu Tao, and Zeng Li graced the event. In the previous season, actresses Zhang Bozhi, Zhu Zhu, and Sun Yi were part of its star-studded lineup.

    Qi Wei’s golden dress and Gülnezer’s sequin ensemble swiftly became online sensations, with Chinese netizens praising the stunning appearance of these celebrities in Peter Hawkings’ creations. The hashtag #GülnezerMilan has garnered over 12 million views on Weibo.

    Interestingly, Tom Ford chose not to livestream the show on Weibo, opting instead to direct followers to its website. Given that Chinese consumers predominantly rely on social media to watch videos and are less accustomed to accessing brand websites, Tom Ford’s runway show may have missed out on potential Chinese viewers attracted by local stars. This is unfortunate given its latest collection features gold, fringes, and sequins — elements that align perfectly with China’s trending “metallic girl” aesthetic.

    Moschino#

    Diverging from Jeremy Scott’s vision, Appiolaza dedicated himself to honoring Franco Moschino’s legacy. Image: Moschino
    Diverging from Jeremy Scott’s vision, Appiolaza dedicated himself to honoring Franco Moschino’s legacy. Image: Moschino

    Adrian Appiolaza assumed the role of creative director at Moschino on January 11, following the sudden passing of his predecessor, Davide Renne, just nine days into the job. With only 42 days to prepare, Appiolaza worked tirelessly to craft his debut collection, which he presented on the runway on February 22.

    Diverging from Jeremy Scott’s vision, Appiolaza dedicated himself to honoring Franco Moschino’s legacy by reinterpreting iconic archive pieces such as the cloud print, the smiley face, and slogan pieces promoting love and peace. Compared to Scott, Appiolaza’s offering is eccentric yet more balanced, making it suitable for everyday wear with some playful touches.

    Initial reactions in China have been neutral, with many feeling that the collection didn’t bring too many surprises. However, it’s important to allow more time for a creative director to fully develop his vision before reaching a definitive judgment.

    MCM#

    Young singer Caelan Moriarty, a prominent figure in China with 2 million followers on Weibo, was invited to MCM’s showroom. Image: MCM
    Young singer Caelan Moriarty, a prominent figure in China with 2 million followers on Weibo, was invited to MCM’s showroom. Image: MCM

    Tina Lutz and Katie Chung, the dynamic creative duo at the helm of the German accessories brand MCM, transformed Palazzo Serbelloni into a celestial journey between Mars and Earth for their collection presentation.

    The new pieces unveiled by the brand offer a sneak peek into its revamp, with a focus on sourcing plant-based leather alternatives to craft eco-conscious collections. The aesthetic transformation at MCM is striking, with a rise in subdued yet elegant designs and a significant reduction in the presence of logos. According to Sabine Brunner, MCM’s global president, loyal consumers are embracing the refreshing changes.

    Despite the low consumer confidence in the Chinese market, Brunner remains optimistic, seeing it as an advantageous time for the brand to reposition itself. MCM’s commitment to the market is evident from its relationship with young singer Caelan Moriarty, a prominent figure in China with 2 million followers on Weibo, who was invited to the showroom donning the new collection. His post garnered an impressive 212,000 social engagements on Weibo.

    In a strategic move, MCM is placing a significant bet on the fragrance category, which is thriving in China. The latest addition to its portfolio is “Crush,” a bag-shaped pink fragrance. Brunner expresses confidence that this pink fragrance will find success in the market.

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