This week, Prada unveiled a new form of offline branding to Chinese audiences at Rong Zhai, Prada’s social and cultural hub located in the heart of Shanghai. There the brand offered screenings in different rooms of the residence as well as receptions. The initiatives were part of worldwide physical programs celebrating its Prada Spring/Summer 2021 womenswear show – one of the most hotly-anticipated presentations at this season’s Milan Fashion Week.
Ever since the announcement that Raf Simons was joining the brand as a co-creative director in April, Chinese consumers have had high expectations for the first-ever collaboration between the brand’s two illustrious directors, and the presentation didn’t disappoint.
While watching the screened films, guests sitting in Rong Zhai’s Lotus side could be heard exclaiming things like: “This is so Raf Simons” and “What a genius spark between Prada and Simons.” Conversations about the season’s presentation were built up in-person and across social platforms, as Prada expected.
Among all of the brands featured during Milan Fashion Week, Prada was the first to kick off local and physical activations, and their accomplishments will be hard for others to top. Here, Jing Daily takes a closer look at how Prada approached its digital show, how it found ways to be relevant to the local viewership, and what the house’s vision for China is over the long term.
Leveraging a physical gathering in post-pandemic China
Maintaining public hygiene is of primary importance for all fashion week schedules and gatherings. Since China became the first country that emerged from the pandemic, social distancing rules were loosened, and offline activities were allowed faster than in other countries, which is why many luxury houses have been eyeing the region for offline reactivations.
[Prada’s Spring Summer 2021 show led the pack.]
The country didn’t just recover from the pandemic quickly; its economy also bounced back faster than others while buying power and consumer sentiments are currently higher in China than in all other nations. According to the latest forecast from the consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, the Chinese demand for luxury goods is now projected to grow by as much as 30 percent this year, thanks to the high-income mainland shoppers that drove the country’s post-pandemic economic rebound.
Prada’s sales in China reflect this boom, which can be seen in a statement from Prada’s CEO, Patrizio Bertelli, to Reuters on September 11. that, “To date, the Prada Group’s sales in China have already largely exceeded the levels of 2019, showing double-digit growth since the beginning of the year.”
Amid the pandemic crisis, China bucked the gloomy market by expanding domestic consumption, paving the way for Prada to launch a localized initiative that was dedicated to Chinese audiences.
The verdict on how Prada and Simons’ first show resonated with local audiences
Fashion has always been shaped by its surroundings. As such, Prada and Simons drew their inspiration from the current dynamic between technology and humanity, in this case, by exploring the multi-layered interpretation of the word “uniform.” The idea connotes community, collectivity, and a visual representation of identity. Yet, the uniform’s surfaces in this collection are consistently being disrupted through superfluous decoration, hand-held garments, and art by Peter de Potter, a long-term Raf Simons collaborator.
[Singer Cai Xukun and actress Zheng Shuang at Prada’s Shanghai Rong Zhai event.]
To better engage with Chinese viewers, the brand organically integrated the physical gathering with digital activations, particularly livestreams via its official site, Weibo, and Douyin. At Rong Zhai, the presence of brand ambassador Cai Xukun and celebrities like Zheng Shuang, Ou Hao, and Li Gengxi drove high social traffic, with the Weibo hashtag “#pradass21” hitting over 170 million views in one day.
In addition to celebrity endorsement, the show received impressive feedback from fashion veterans and influencers. Hung Huang, publisher, writer, and a key tastemaker in modern Chinese fashion, stated to Jing Daily, “I think all fashion can be shown this way — very low carbon! And the collection is young, vibrant, and rebelliously wearable. The Prada-Simons combo rocks.”
Engraining cultural integrity and sustainability beyond social buzz
Prada’s presentation was accomplished through a special session, where the two creative directors answered pre-collected questions across global social channels. This way of constructing dialogues between viewers and designers happens to be very appealing to Chinese audiences. The viewership of this livestream garnered over 42 million total views — 26 million on Weibo and 16 million on Douyin, as of the end of livestream.
Yet, Prada still insisted on putting social and cultural relevance ahead of social buzz, which contributes to a more inclusive brand community and diversifies the global cultural sphere. For example, the Prada Mode Shanghai from August 31 — the fifth iteration of the traveling social club — featured Chinese “MIAN” culture and demonstrated the house’s dedication to indigenous cultural reference.
[Prada’s livestream Q&A session drew in millions of Chinese netizen viewers.]
Elsewhere, a Re-nylon-themed pop-up shop opened on September 23 at Beijing SKP-S, offering more proof of the house’s consistent contributions to sustainability. With the goal of substituting all nylon products with renewable fabrics while diversifying its product offerings, Prada showed how a brand can successfully put social responsibilities into practice.
Prada’s sister brand, Miu Miu, will be unveiled on October 6 at Paris Fashion Week. While digital presentations are challenging for brands in terms of engagement and influence, they can also open up more possibilities. In an era when most brands call for sustainability and deeper conversations, the Prada group is one that has practiced what it preaches.