moves to Milan to analyze which brands and designers best-engaged with online Chinese audiences. And although some big names were missing (Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Versace, and local favorite Angel Chen were all absent from the schedule), the show still went on(line) in Milan.
But like much of what is happening now, it has become a tale of two sides. It’s hard not to connect this year’s schedule holes to COVID-19, which Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana says reduced turnover by 25 percent. But for brands like Fendi, which dished up a palate-cleansing collection, sales have gone up. Prada also reached profitability during 2020, with its sales jumping up by over 50 percent in China.
From a 1920-style cabaret setting to the Piccolo Teatro di Milano, designers made herculean efforts to present pre-recorded runways and fashion films. But disappointingly, engagement with fans in China was scant. Few ambassadors were involved this week. But when they were, names like Zhao Wei for Fendi, Mr. Bags for Ferragamo, and Sun Rui for Ports 1961 worked their magic.
Prada, however, always has it nailed. This season, the brand offered up a textbook example of how to cultivate engagement by enlisting no fewer than eight celebrities — including actress Jin Chen and new faces like Fei Qiming — and over thirty KOLs to share posts. By the end of the livestream, views had hit 41 million.
is based on the following parameters:
Model representation: evaluates representation of Chinese models on the runway.
Digital impact: evaluates Chinese netizen reception and engagement on leading social media platforms, including Weibo, WeChat, and Little Red Book.
KOL / celebrity visibility: considers the star power associated with strategic KOL and celebrity partnerships.
Special brand efforts: considers special programs or efforts on a brand’s part to speak to the Chinese audience. Company or brand contributions toward the on-going 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 history in China, including overall presence, social reach, number of stores, earning trends, and missteps.
“Ease and movement” summed up the latest collaboration by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, with the house’s Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection spotlighting knits and drop-shoulder silhouettes (developed for Fall 2021 menswear) as well as glittering paillettes and soft faux fur, exploring a fluidity between masculinity and femininity. The effort was explained by Simons as an attempt to connect men and women — the masculine in women and the feminine in men — inspired by ideas of change and open possibilities. This time, Prada continued its seasonal conversation by featuring the designer duo alongside five other creative talents.
This season, the heritage brand leaned on social engagement by leveraging extensive celebrity endorsements: eight celebrities in total, including actress Jin Chen and new faces like Fei Qiming. Over thirty KOLs were also called upon to share relevant social posts both before and after the show. By the end of Prada’s livestream, viewership on the Jiemian, Weibo, and Douyin platforms rose to 41 million, proving the brand’s solidity and that its previous controversy with brand ambassador Zheng Shuang was ancient history.
Kim Jones’ first women’s ready-to-wear presentation with Fendi paid homage to the house’s legacy with a deft and dynamic hand, as his methodological and meticulous approach reinvigorated the heritage brand with a modern twist that redefined woman-power in a contemporary context.
To drive pre-show engagement of Jones’ highly anticipated ready-to-wear debut, the brand had ambassador Zhao Wei and leather goods ambassador Zhang Ruoyun post invitations to the show’s livestream on Weibo. Together, they have a combined social following of 111 million and attracted over 12 million views among Chinese audiences to the virtual presentation as of publication.
To mark Max Mara’s 70th anniversary, Creative Director Ian Griffiths turned the runway into a celebratory procession. The collection featured the house’s iconic 101801 and teddy bear coats but also more functional silhouettes, bomber jackets, quilted gilets, and liners in new colors like khaki and green.
Apart from posting the virtual presentation on Weibo, Max Mara failed to initiate special social efforts. However, its online traffic has been growing organically, thanks to actress Zhang Xiaofei. The new star gained recognition from her acting in the blockbuster film Hi, Mom, which was launched during the Spring Festival. The actress’s endorsement at the 2020 Weibo Night Gala on February 28 resulted in netizens commenting that her appearance and personality perfectly match Max Mara.
Valentino’s Fall 2021 ready-to-wear presentation “Valentino Act Collection” was unveiled at Piccolo Teatro di Milano. The show was part of Pier Paolo Piccioli’s ongoing project, which digitalizes and catalogs over 10,000 pieces to create an interactive archive. Black-and-white tones — along with the brand’s iconic check, lace, and rivet — dominated the line-up, balancing house heritage with sleek playfulness.
The show’s broadcast on Weibo garnered over 6 million views on Weibo within an hour, while its livestream on Tencent Video, featuring Chinese singer Curley G from the girl group Hard Candy, drove considerable traffic for the virtual screening event.
Legacy Continua pays tribute to this brand's 170-year-old heritage and extraordinary leather craftsmanship. For its anniversary, Bally invited Offshore, a well-known Swiss design studio, to create a celebratory monogram. The iconic Bally Stripe has been reinterpreted through an embossing technique that emphasizes a trompe-l'oeil effect and uses 100-percent renewable or recycled materials, as well as natural and environmentally friendly dyeing processes.
Bally’s Chinese (and global) social media accounts have been extremely low-key, and exposure has mainly relied on the social platforms of major publishing companies like Madame Figaro, Rayli, and InStyle, helping the brand gaining 54,000,000 impressions on Weibo.
Paul Andrew created a “future-positive” world, driven by digital improvements and sustainability for a greater post-COVID social context. Influenced by the American science fiction film Gattaca, the brand's Fall season presented an optimistic yet futuristic vibe through the designer's revisions of typical uniforms in sectors like military and sports.
While the embrace of digital and sustainable trends should resonate with young generations in China, the brand did not emphasize that enough on social channels, unlike some other brands. Though the brand’s official account still received a high engagement (thanks to fashion KOLs such as @Mr.Bags and @Fil小白), some social followers wanted more visibility for its ambassador Lin Yun within the brand’s campaign.
MM6 Maison Margiela presented a topsy-turvy show this Fall 2021 season, drawing inspiration from the uncertainty and absurdity of our post-pandemic situation. The reversed blazers, inside-out denim jacket, and jeans, as well as upside-down knitwear, all conjured up an inverted world, based in a theatrical cabaret setting from 1920s Paris.
Two teasers and a five-minute presentation were posted on the official Weibo account, garnering nearly 13,500 views. While the brand maintains a low profile on social media, the show still generated impressive organic online content as well as positive reactions from Chinese audiences.
The Shanghai-based designer showed her Fall 2021 collection via a three-minute short film titled Water Ripples, which was filmed in the designer's tranquil hometown of Hangzhou. Standing next to lakes and rivers, the models reflected the movement and fluidity of time. This collection also paid homage to the Swiss feminist artist Miriam Cahn, who explores the dynamics between self and surroundings. More than half of the garments were made from a stock of previous collections and newly introduced sustainably-sourced faux fur.
The designer brand has now built recognition in the local market due to endorsements from celebrities like Jolin Tsai, Wang Linkai, and Coco Lee, as well as a partnership with local retailer LABELHOOD.
Art director Karl Templer and his design team once again embarked on a journey of inspiration and discovery. By blurring the boundaries of functionality and attractiveness, the collection added a touch of homely comfort to the brand's looks: a sculptural coat with buttons on the back, a flowing windbreaker, and layered skirts, each showcasing the new season's indoor aesthetic.
An invitation to watch with Sun Rui, a member of the all-girl group SNH48, drove exposure to the brand’s Weibo account. Rui’s fans greeted this with positivity, saying, “Thank you for inviting SunRui, truly looking forward to the show.”
For Fall 21, Sara Wong (who is the creative director of her eponymous brand) presented her collection through a video-story created in partnership with Vogue Talents. The collection, called Tartary — Shades of Mongolian, was inspired by the 19th New Culture Movement in China when several Mongolian intellectuals returned from overseas and brought Western culture to China.
The inspiration was well-received by Chinese audiences, who praised its originality and called it “sublime.” Surprisingly, the Shenzhen-based brand failed to promote the show in its home market, where it has an impressive 183 stores and has won considerable notoriety on digital platforms like Little Red Book 10,000+ UGC. The video-story has reached over 5,000 views on Instagram but only 540 on Weibo.
Zhao Huizhou is the founder and creative director behind this Shenzhen-based brand in its seventh outing at Milan Fashion Week. A few days before the launch of its Fall 2021 film, the brand invited several influential people to offer good luck to the brand, which launched a competition to encourage netizens to like and repost. The cultural elements can be seen in shadow puppetry elements that resonated with Chinese netizens and raised sentiments.
For Fall 2021, Dolce Gabbana presented DG Next Chapter, created in collaboration with Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia. The collection blended craftsmanship with technology while exploring the brand’s made-by-hand (or ‘Fatto a Mano’) craft through the new lens of robotics research and Artificial Intelligence. It was a colorful '90s vibe, mixed with futuristic elements; robots even carried iconic handbags. In some way, Dolce & Gabbana is helping define the next chapter of fashion.
Netizens have not openly welcomed the return of Dolce & Gabbana to China since its 2018 scandal, and the Little Red Book keywords “dolce gabbana” are still banned from the search engine. And Chinese audiences did not spare Dolce Gabbana’s pre-show announcement, furiously commenting “Get out of China” and “Please don’t forget his insult to Chinese people.”
Reported by Wenzhuo Wu, Lisa Nan, and Gemma A. Williams.