As Gucci begins a new chapter with Sabato De Sarno as creative director, the brand shows no signs of slowing down. With a new Marsper x Gucci collectible toy collab and the launch of its fourth major exhibition in China, Gucci Cosmos, the Kering-owned fashion label is celebrating its past while reimagining the future of luxury collaborations in the metaverse.
Gucci is no stranger to curating high-profile immersive exhibitions in China, having held No Longer/Not Yet in 2015 and The Artist is Present in 2018, featuring artworks from Chinese and foreign artists. Shanghai was also a stop on the worldwide tour of Gucci Garden Archetypes in 2021 celebrating the House’s 100th anniversary.
Making its world debut at the West Bund Art Center in Shanghai until June 25 before embarking on a global tour, Gucci Cosmos pays tribute to the Florentine house’s 102-year heritage. To better connect with young Chinese audiences, Gucci has renewed its collaboration with Chinese pop IP Marsper and partnered with Tencent’s Super QQ Show to bring the event to the metaverse.
Created by China’s Lepop Group in 2020, the floppy-eared Marsper IP has won over fans with its cute yet nonchalant attitude, as well as its motto — “born to love.” In 2021, it became the first-ever Chinese IP to join Gucci’s fashion-oriented metaverse, presenting three virtual figures dressed in the Gucci Aria Fall Winter collection. The iconic figurine has since joined hands with other high-profile partners, including Casetify, Sprite, Erdos and Harmay.
The 2023 Marsper x Gucci collab ups the ante from the 2021 digital reveal, this time bringing the virtual character to life with a series of physical collectibles dressed in four different looks from the Gucci archive. Launched on China’s Children’s Day, which falls on June 1, the capsule resonates with Gen Z consumers who drive the market for toy collectibles in China, forecast to exceed 21.9 billion by 2025.
Shoppers had to enter a lottery to win a chance to purchase the limited-edition Marsper dolls, which dropped on June 9 on Gucci’s WeChat Mini Program. Since the launch, the #MarsperxGucci# hashtag has amassed 41.17 million reads on Weibo — peaking at 5.61 million views on the day of the drop alone.
Two of the Marsper x Gucci dolls are dressed in suits inspired by Tom Ford’s Fall Winter 1996 women’s collection: one in red velvet and the other in a double-breasted version in pinstripe. The other two looks are modeled after Alessandro Michele’s designs, namely a red silk shirt adorned with a bow, black suit pants, and a Double G belt buckle from his first Fall Winter 2015 men’s collection, and the GG canvas cape with rhinestone embroidery from the Gucci Aria Fall Winter 2021 collection.
The 30cm collectibles are each accompanied by a Gucci Savoy suitcase featuring the GG monogram, a nod to Gucci’s origins in leather luggage. The drop also includes two 60cm P(er)LUS size collectibles wearing the looks designed by Alessandro Michele.
Gucci’s ongoing partnership with Marsper is an affirmation of Made with China creativity and helps the brand connect on many levels with the lucrative “Chinese Cultural Consumer.” Not only do these shoppers spend an average of 42 percent of their monthly paycheck on luxury — including designer toys — but they increasingly prefer products embedded with Chinese cultural significance.
Moreover, Marsper’s “Born to Love” message aligns with Gucci’s spirit of self-expression, diversity and inclusiveness, which also resonate with China’s Gen Z shoppers. By exploring these themes, Gucci proves that it is not afraid to put a playful spin on iconic archival pieces to resonate with today’s youth.
[wpgallery id="143883"]The Marsper x Gucci figurines explore the rooms of the Gucci Cosmos exhibition. Photo: Gucci (Swipe Left)
In addition to keeping a finger on the pulse of China’s pop culture, Gucci is at the helm of digital innovation. Previously, the luxury brand has created virtual communities, ventured into gaming through its Good Game campaign, utilized AR try-on technology, as well as launched digital goods and NFTs. The Gucci Visions exhibition, currently running in Florence, highlights recent experimental initiatives in a dedicated metaverse room, such as Gucci Town on Roblox, Gucci Vault Land in The Sandbox, and Otherside Relics by Gucci and Yuga Labs.
The latest project sees the house partner with Tencent's 3D interactive space, Super QQ Show, to bring its 2023 Gucci Cosmos exhibition to the metaverse. Following the format of the physical exhibition, the immersive cloud-based experience leads viewers through eight virtual exhibition halls, where avatars — dressed in Gucci apparel, of course — can float with blooms and butterflies through Gucci Flora patterns and watch highlights from the Spring 2024 fashion show.
As Gucci stands on the precipice of change under the creative direction of Sabato De Sarno, one thing remains constant: Creativity and connection are key to a brand’s longevity.
Through experiences like Gucci Cosmos, the pioneering house shows its willingness to incorporate culturally-specific and modern elements into its storytelling to better resonate with China’s consumers.