Louis Vuitton has announced that Chinese actress Liu Yifei will join its ranks as a brand ambassador alongside names like Alicia Vikander, Emma Stone, and Léa Seydoux. A Spring 2021 campaign that will star Liu and be directed by Nicolas Ghesquière, the artistic director of its Women's collections, will follow shortly. Liu is certainly riding a wave right now; she is also the global spokesperson for adidas, was featured on the cover of Vogue China, and plays the lead in Disney’s blockbuster live-action remake of the Chinese folktale, Mulan.
Business in China is booming for Louis Vuitton, with CEO Michael Burke hinting that it has doubled despite the COVID-19 pandemic and price hikes. Global ambassador Kris Wu’s influence was previously credited with helping the house improve its digital performance in China, particularly in menswear. Therefore, all eyes are now firmly set on Liu with the hopes she will do likewise.
On paper, there is a highly-bankable upside to Liu’s hire for the valuable China market, as LVMH’s largest brand has surely done its due diligence. The talented Wuhan actress boasts a vast Weibo fanbase of 68 million, overshadowing Wu’s. And as an American citizen, she has more international appeal than her China-based counterparts.
However, choosing a luxury brand ambassador is always a minefield in China. High-profile mishaps have dogged several companies, and Liu herself is no stranger to controversy. In August 2019, the actress reshared content displaying support for Hong Kong police and received a large backlash from Hong Kong citizens. The subsequent hashtag #LiuYiFeiMulanBoycotted# now has over 1 million views.
That made her adidas appointment in December of 2019 rather rocky as well, and the Hong Kong store was attacked following the announcement. But overall, the online reaction to the announcement was positive.
Roughly 90,000 netizens rushed to her defense with remarks like “Yifei Liu, you’re the best” and posted pictures of her sporting looks from the label. And while Disney’s film has been universally panned, Chinese publications and government officials have offered Liu encouragement, praising her as “a modern Mulan,” since, even today, very few Chinese stars land leading roles in Hollywood movies.
In China, Liu is widely recognized as the ‘Fairy Sister’ (神仙姐姐), the nickname of her first and best-known TV role, so Louis Vuitton’s latest power play should pay off. However, it is still a roll of the dice. And with this news just being announced, it will be up to Chinese netizens to decide whether the appointment is a triumph or flop.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.