At PFW, Which Brands Connected With China's Millennials?

    Fashion week presents an opportunity for brands to connect with Chinese audiences. In Paris, some brands excelled while others missed the mark.
    Jing Daily
    Zhuoxuan PengAuthor
      Published   in Fashion


    Jing Daily Fashion Week Score#

    evaluates a range of parameters to assess how a brand’s collection resonates with Chinese audiences. Shows have become a powerful tool for brands to speak directly to their fans, bypassing the filter once held by editors. This means fashion week now presents a major opportunity for brands to connect with the Chinese community and set the tone for the success of their collections.

    For Paris Fashion Week Spring 2020, Jing Daily looks at brands who have a stake in the Chinese market and a few who stand to gain from heightened efforts. Brands like Chanel and Hermès adopted more toned down communication strategies that reflected the exclusive nature of their brand, while heavyweights like Dior and Valentino came out full force resulting in highly buzzed about shows. Elsewhere, Givenchy made quiet attempts to rebuilt its presence in China following recent political missteps.


    Jing Daily Fashion Week Score#

    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 star power associated with the brand through strategic KOL and celebrity partnerships.
    • Special brand efforts: considers special programs or efforts on a brand’s part to speak to the Chinese audience.
    • 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 brand history in China, including overall presence, social reach, number of stores, earning trends and brand missteps.


    Illustration: Dustin Tong/Jing Daily.
    Illustration: Dustin Tong/Jing Daily.

    At this year's Spring 2020 show, Dior leveraged the star power of its two Chinese brand ambassadors, Angelababy and Sophie Zhang. The two's total Weibo following reaches over 106 million, with Angelababy herself holding over 100 million followers. The two garnered over 2 million engagements for the brand. But the success of Dior goes beyond just leveraging celebrity star power. Banking on its 3.4 million of followers on Weibo, Dior adopted an active social media strategy, sharing over 40 posts. Unlike many brands that either cover celebrity attendance or share runway details, Dior's content spanned a wide range of topics from celebrity presence, runway decor, design inspiration, and even makeup tips based on the runway looks. The content connected well with netizens, who actively expressed a genuine interest in Weibo's comment section. The brand was also very active on WeChat, posting 7 articles related to the runway show, with an average view count of 50 thousand. Dior also live streamed the runway show through Tencent video, which was widely promoted on Weibo and WeChat. The livestream received over 3 million views, with over 60 percent of viewers reported as Generation Z.


    Illustration: Dustin Tong/Jing Daily.
    Illustration: Dustin Tong/Jing Daily.

    Valentino employed one of the most successful communication strategies among brands at Paris Fashion Week this season. The brand stuck a balance between male and female celebrities as well as age range that reached a wide demographic. The brand invited pop idol 24-year-old Xuanyi Wu, the 40-year-old Chinese famous female actress Qin Lan, and the 18-year-old male idol turned singer Linong Chen. Even though the three's following adds up to only to 48M, the total engagements on Weibo were over 3.2 million, the highest engagement we've seen for a brand showing at Paris this season. In addition, this season's runway received wide compliments from Chinese netizens for the neon colors and the variety of design in the 12 white looks. Therefore, the show generated a lot of organic buzz and sharing on Weibo not only related the the celebrities invited, but also the runway looks and styles. Valentino also heavily promoted the latest Rockstud Spike Fluo handbags from its Spring 2020 season and offered a limited-time online boutique through its official website. The link to the purchasing page and the runway recaps are integrated in every post in Weibo and the page design is very mobile-friendly that almost mimics a WeChat Mini Program. However, the brand did not keep its WeChat up-to-date for the Spring 2020 show and did not fully leverage this channel.


    Illustration: Dustin Tong/Jing Daily.
    Illustration: Dustin Tong/Jing Daily.

    Thom Browne has made active efforts to grow its business in China and is betting big on the market, currently operating eight boutiques in the region. Although the brand's official Weibo account has less than 7,000 followers, Thom Browne is actively employing engaging strategies to improve its performance with Chinese fans. This season, Thom Browne partnered with fashion blogger Mia Kong, who took over the brand's official Weibo for 24 hours during the show and introduced the audience with a first-person perspective to the front and backstage of the show. Additionally, Thom Browne invited famous Chinese model Xiaowen Ju to the show. While successfully speaking to the loyal followers of Xiaowen Ju and Mia Kong, Thom Browne did not generate interest among a wider public on Weibo. On WeChat, Thom Browne appeared to have success in promoting its runway show up to six days before it premiered. Overall, conversation across platforms points favorably to the creative and outlandish nature of the design, and the brand appears on track to build a stronger following in China and carve out a portion of the market.


    Standout invitations at the Chloé Spring 2020 included pop star Meiqi Meng and Chinese actress Jiani Zhang. Posts from these two celebrities alone generated over 1.1 million engagements for the brand. Engagement from Chloé's official accounts was split, as the brand was active on Weibo but failed to utilize WeChat in promotion. Chloé also employed a highly creative strategy that aimed to spike organic engagement from netizens. The brand posted to Weibo posts featuring four different Chloé outfits and prompted netizens to comment and guess which look Meiqi Meng and Jani Zhang would wear to the show. The winners would be entered to a lottery for a surprise gift from the brand. The performance of these posts was well above the average of most brands' pre-show content. However, the brand was only live streaming the show through Chloé's official website, which could have otherwise been a good way to gain customers' attention if integrated through WeChat.


    Illustration: Dustin Tong/Jing Daily.
    Illustration: Dustin Tong/Jing Daily.

    Consistent with the brand's exclusive image, Chanel adopted a limited strategy to publicize its runway show this season. With over 3.4 million followers on Weibo, the brand only shared four posts related to the runway, resulting in minimal engagements. Chanel's WeChat also did not promote the show. On celebrity strategy, Chanel also remained relatively silent. The brand invited Chinese male idol Ziyang Mu and Chinese female actress Zhilei Xin to the show, but neither of them posted on Weibo related to the show. Chanel also invited Jennie from the Korean girl group Blackpink, who owns a massive fan base in mainland China. The hashtag "Jennie's raw photo at Chanel's show" later became a popular search topic on Weibo search, where one single post featuring Jeenie received over 200 thousand engagements on Weibo.

    But given the special timing of this show that overlaps with the National Day of China, the search of this hashtag was believed by the netizens to be a media buy from Jennie's team and was blamed by the netizens for insensitive timing. Organic sharing by fashion accounts are huge on Weibo since Chanel still holds the leading position in the fashion and luxury world to many Chinese, and Chanel's runway show as always been a central topic of decision. However, this season, audience feedback on the latest design has been divided, with many feeling new creative director Virginie Viard is missing the mark.


    In line with the brand's refined identity, Loewe abandoned a high-traffic and high-volume celebrity strategy for its Spring 2020 show. Instead, Loewe's key Chinese celebrity invite was 49-year old veteran Chinese actress Yong Mei. By leveraging Yong Mei's image of a cultured, elegant, and sophisticated woman("气质女人"), Loewe sent a clear message to the public of what the brand represents and received positive feedback from netizens. Bottega Veneta adopted a similar strategy earlier this season in Milan, focusing on the presence and spirit of actress Faye Yu. However, Loewe's show failed to generate the same amount of buzz and conversation compared to Bottega Veneta. The brand's official posts likewise did not perform well either. With over 290 thousand followers on Weibo, the brand's 11 posts received less than one thousand total impressions. Numerous Chinese fashion bloggers were also present at the show, but the discussion on Weibo of the presentation appeared weak when compared to other brands of Loewe's size. On WeChat, however, the bran's performance was more positive. Through a WeChat article, Loewe invited the brand to watch its runway show as well as its new campaign featured Jodie Comer. The challenge for Loewe is learning how to speak to the Loewe woman in China, cutting through much of the social media clutter that perhaps does not completely align with the brand's tone.


    Illustration: Dustin Tong/Jing Daily.
    Illustration: Dustin Tong/Jing Daily.

    While Saint Laurent holds a strong brand presence among Chinese followers, the brand's Spring 2020 runway show failed to spark excitement about the collection itself, with conversations instead focusing on the celebrities in attendance or the atmosphere of the show. Saint Laurent invited at least three notable Chinese celebrities to the show, whose followings total to 41 millions and their respective posts about the show added up to 869 thousands engagements on Weibo. Among these was Ouyang Nana, who was recently reported to hold the highest influence in terms of driving sales among Generation Z Chinese consumers. However, the brand did not go the extra lengths to capitalize on the celebrity's presence, missing out an opportunity to directly drive sales and excitement about the collection thanks to Ouyang Nana's presence. In addition, model representation at the show was highly lacking — only one Chinese model was present among a total of 87 looks.


    Balmain's ambition to engage with Chinese consumers was clear this season, embracing an aggressive celebrity and influencer strategy, which has been core to the brand's marketing since the appointment of creative director Olivier Rousteing. Notably, the brand had one of the most diverse runways this season, featuring 11 Chinese models. Key celebrity invitations included Meiqi Meng, Yukee Chen, and Bridgette Qiao, whose following adds up to over 50 million. The star power resulted in high interaction from netizens, with their posts reaching a total of up to 1 million engagements. On the other hand, influencers in attendance did not garner as much engagement as celebrities. Balmain's post about the presence of influencers was not well received, with an average of less than 100 engagements. Influencer's own content of the show likewise did not result in high engagement or organic discussion and was below average compared to the same influencers' posts about other brands. Balmain likewise made efforts to engage with audiences on WeChat, posting three different articles including a runway invitation, runway recap, and a conversation with designer Olivier Rousteing. However, the articles were met with limited engagement and the strategy could have been strengthened with stronger integrations. The brand also missed an opportunity to market its new Balmain B-Buzz bag to the Chinese audience.


    Banking on the popularity of creative director Virgil Abloh and streetwear's influence, Off-White has gained notoriety among Chinese consumers. However, the brand's Spring 2020 runway show was received with little fanfare from Chinese followers. The brand invited Yamy, the lead of Chinese pop group Rocket Girls 101. But the reception from netizens appears average compared with other brands who leveraged the traffic of Meiqi Meng, another idol from the same group. The post from Off-White featuring Yamy only received 15 thousand engagements, while the ones featuring Meiqi Meng could easily garner up to 1 million engagement. The brand likewise did not promote the runway show on WeChat ahead of time nor any recap following the show. Additionally, no KOLs or fashion bloggers were vocal about the show, and as a result, the organic content and conversation around the show was very limited. Chinese model representation was also lacking on the runway, with only two Chinese models present.


    For Spring 2020, Balenciaga did not make clear efforts to promote its show to Chinese followers. The brand only shared two posts on Weibo related to the event and was completely silent on WeChat. There were likewise no visible Chinese celebrities or influencers in attendance, who are key traffic drivers for shows. However, Demna Gvasalia's design direction for Balenciaga has always been at the center of Chinese netizen's discussion and this season is no different. The Hello Kitty bag and super oversized shoulder jackets sparked lively and engaged debate from the Chinese community. While silent or subdued social media strategies from other brands can seem intentional, Balenciaga's communicated as a missed opportunity, given the viral nature of the brand.


    Hermès has become synonymous with the word "luxury" in many Chinese consumers' minds. However, this season the brand did not actively promote its runway show on Weibo or WeChat and information about the show was very difficult to access. Only one Chinese celebrity, Yuxi Zhang, was visible at the show, and neither the brand's official Weibo account nor the actress posted anything about this presence. Hermès has a track history of employing strong digital campaigns in China, including interactive programs on its official WeChat account. The most recent campaign for its latest accessories line even features an interactive game and was received positively. Therefore, the brand was well positioned to create more exposure and visibility behind the show. The muted strategy for fashion week echoes the brands high positioning and reflects the traditional days of fashion week when consumers could not readily see runway collections as they occurred. However, given the strong demand in the market for the brand, and increasing competition, opting out of this to opportunity to engage with fans of the brand may result in an adverse effect.


    Notorious for its anti-social media strategy, Celine only joined Instagram in 2017. Likewise in China, the brand does not have an official Weibo account, but does operate an official WeChat account. Notably, Celine has a well built WeChat Mini Program, that serves as a direct channel and mimics the brand's official website. The Mini Program includes everything from a brand overview to runway information and practical functions including store locations and product information. It also contains well-curated imagery and information of Chinese celebrity ambassadors.

    However, with such a strong infrastructure already built, particularly compared to other brands, Celine did not make the most use of its Mini Program. For example, two days since the show debut, the section where customers can explore runway collections has not been updated with the Spring 2020 offering. There was no major Chinese celebrity presence at Celine's show, but the brand did invite a few Chinese influencers like Mr. Bags and Anny Fan to the event. In addition, the brand received organic discussion thanks to posts by larger fashion accounts on Weibo. However, netizens are still expressing conflicting opinions about the house's design direction under Hedi Slimane controversial opinions about the latest design of Celine under Hedi Slimane. Chinese model representation was also highly lacking for the brand.


    Givenchy was among the brands that came under fire during the recent China T-Shirt Controversy, where brands listed Hong Kong and Macau as independent regions. Because of the scandal, the brand's beauty line ambassador Qianxi Yiyang stepped down from his role. Unlike in previous seasons where Chinese celebrities were present, this season, there were no notable Chinese celebrities on the runway. Yet, unlike other brands like Coach and Versace, who have gone mostly silent, Givenchy is quietly trying to rebuild their image in China. The brand promoted its Spring 2020 show by sharing videos and runway looks with netizens. However, even with 1.6 million followers on Weibo, reaction and engagement was extremely low.

    Discover more
    Daily BriefAnalysis, news, and insights delivered to your inbox.