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Daniel Lee Burberry

Goodbye Tisci, Hello Lee: A New Era At Burberry Has Begun

Today, Burberry confirmed the news that most of the fashion industry had already guessed: Daniel Lee has been appointed the British luxury house’s chief creative officer and will take the helm starting on October 3. In his new role, the designer from Bradford will oversee all of Burberry’s collections and present his debut runway show at London Fashion Week in February 2023. London trading shares rose 3.4 percent to £17.42 (133 RMB) on the news.

This means that the outgoing Riccardo Tisci’s Spring 2023 collection, shown this week in London with turnouts from Naomi Campbell (and watched by Kayne West from the front row) was his last for the company. It marks the end of a five-year stint for the designer who during his time there reimagined the Thomas Burberry Monogram. His exit follows that of Marco Gobbetti in 2021 — the chief executive who hired him — who has now been replaced by Jonathan Akeroyd (formerly of McQueen and Versace).

So what did China make of this? While Burberry has yet to officially share the announcement to its 1.7 million official Weibo fans, and there’s as of yet no hashtag trending, media outlets and KOLs have already started to spread the news. Mr. Jiliang, Neil王静昌, Mars, Fashion_BangZ, 单品毁灭者, and Tencent Fashion have all reported it. Overall it seems the fact that a British person is running the brand built on trench coats and that iconic check (with a British CEO, too) is resonating well with local audiences.

Burberry has 62 stores in total across Greater China and the market holds a vital importance to the label: in the first half of the financial year 2021, it was the group’s largest. Yet it reported sales growth of only 1 percent in its latest financial quarter because of the ongoing impact of Beijing’s lockdowns. The retailer went on to say that mainland sales fell 35 percent because of these restrictions and store closures, while they grew 16 percent across the rest of the world in the 13 weeks to July 2.

On June’s earnings call, CFO Julie Brown warned of a challenging trading environment in the new financial year. As well as these headwinds, the lack of “It” bags in recent years has also led to the plateauing of Burberry’s popularity, says Yishu Wang, founder of China agency Half A World. “Bags are the most important category in luxury for the Chinese consumer. Brands that manage to make iconic and popular handbags can lead the race,” she explains. 

On this point, Lee is a perfect fit. From 2018 to 2021, he acted as creative director at Bottega Veneta, where he helped redefine the Italian line and grew its appeal among younger audiences. Wang suggests that its pouch bag, released during Lee’s tenure, became “one of the most sought-after bags in China.” 

The Pouch handbag, introduced in the Fall/Winter 2019 collection, was Lee’s first “It” bag for Bottega Veneta. Photo: Bottega Veneta

A pioneering collaboration saw Li Jiaqi, the country’s top livestream blogger, sell 230 of another of Lee’s Bottega Veneta creations, The Mini Pouch, in seconds flat. “With this track record, it’s no surprise to see the excitement in China for his appointment at Burberry,” Wang continues. It is even arguable, she notes, that Lee’s experimentation in the department is what made Bottega Veneta an “It” brand.

Having said that, the Italian Tisci, who had previously reigned at Givenchy for over a decade, wasn’t exactly without his fans. The menswear sold well in China. Off the record, one Taiwanese fashion CEO lamented, “I do love Riccardo as I’m a bit more of a goth myself.” 

But even they couldn’t deny the partnership made sense: “Daniel does seem like a great fit.”

Dior Meta Ziwu Baidu

Dior Takes Its Chinaverse Presence To New Heights With Second Virtual Showcase

What Happened: Dior is extending its Chinaverse push once again. On September 27, the French luxury fashion house presented its Spring/Sumer 2023 ready-to-wear show in the metaverse via digital space Meta-Ziwu in virtual universe XiRang — a Web3 application owned by Chinese search engine conglomerate Baidu. Audiences were able to watch the livestream within a digitally-rendered space complete with large-scale Dior logos and an other-wordly aesthetic. 

Dior presented its SS23 show in Baidu’s virtual world, XiRang. Photo: Via Zoe Magazine

The Jing Take: The project signals a continuation of Dior’s exploration of the mainland’s online dimensions as well as an expansion of its existing relationship with the tech giant. Only earlier this year did we see the maison launch its first-ever metaverse exhibition,”‘On The Road,” again in partnership with Baidu and its virtual landscape of Meta-Ziwu. With this in mind, could the collaboration become a regular running narrative for the brand? This latest runway suggests that the maison could be working towards crafting a long-term relationship with the metaverse media platform as part of its China takeover strategy. 

But, as always for the luxury stalwarts, there’s competition. Investment banking company JPMorgan predicts that the total addressable market in China for business services and software in the metaverse will reach $27 billion (195.3 billion RMB), while digitalizing the offline consumption of goods and services will make up a $4 trillion market in China. As a result, we’re witnessing the proliferation of luxury houses utilizing large-scale tech groups in the country to leverage their virtual brand presences. In August, Prada livestreamed the repeat of its Fall 2022 collection via XiRang, in which onlookers across the globe could transport directly to the showcase and wave goodbye to the spatial constraints between the physical and virtual. 

With this in mind, will more brands begin to recognize the opportunities of XiRang? Is it possible that the Chinaverse may see its first-ever Metaverse Fashion Week schedule in the near future? If so, challenges lie ahead for Dior on how it can differentiate itself from its contenders to stay culturally relevant and remain one of the most influential, China-savvy luxury names across the mainland.

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

Salvatore Ferragamo logo

FERRAGAMO Renamed and Renewed: First Results Of The Brand Rejuvenation Strategy Have Emerged

Last week, the long-established Italian fashion label Salvatore Ferragamo announced that it was changing its name. From now on, it will be known simply as FERRAGAMO. The new moniker comes with a rebranded logo, designed by the famous graphic designer Peter Saville, in a simple serif font that reflects the house’s classy identity. To mark the occasion, FERRAGAMO launched a new flagship color registered in Pantone with the color number 3546C: a deep, emotive red.

All eyes were on the brand’s recent outing at Milan Fashion Week, as the event represented the debut of the label’s new creative director, Maximilian Davis. The decision to officially announce the name change at the opening of the schedule’s proceedings naturally increased expectations. 

FERRAGAMO Spring/Summer 2023 debuted on September 24, 1:30 p.m. local time, at the historic site of the seminary of the Archdiocese of Milan. It was a dialogue between the classic and the contemporary, where elegant traditions were reimagined through fearless, pioneering perspectives. As the new brand color illuminated the mysterious atmosphere of the seminary building, guests watched as the connections between FERRAGAMO and Hollywood played out in a new light. 

Milan’s historical seminary site gets a Hollywood makeover

Davis explained how he “wanted to take a new perspective on Hollywood culture and pay homage to the origins of the FERRAGAMO brand.” From Salvatore Ferragamo’s 1959 heels for Marilyn Monroe to the 1988 Wanda bag, the young designer had dug into FERRAGAMO’s 95-year-old brand archives to reinterpret Hollywood classics with a contemporary aesthetic.

The setting similarly had all the grandeur of the golden age of cinema. Passing through the imposing baroque entrance, you see a magnificent courtyard of about 3,000 square meters surrounded by a double colonnade. Red scrim fills the gaps between the upper and lower levels, and pillars become the brushstrokes outlining the geometric contours of classical architecture. Red, a symbol of the maison’s renewal, also spreads out onto the floor, where the vermilion stone becomes a blank canvas for capturing human footprints: after the show, the steps of the models, the caress of the clothes, and the footprints of the visitors were all recorded on this fine red stone.

This venue, the former seminary of the Archbishop at Venice Boulevard No.11, will be transformed at the end of November into Portrait Milano, the new hotel of the Ferragamo family’s hotel group Lungarno Collection. Built in 1564, the building is one of the oldest seminaries in Europe and lies at the heart of Milan’s fashion district. The monumental and dramatic nature of the architecture will carry the spirit of the brand — both merging art of the past with modern lifestyle — and serve as a bridge between the city and its historical glory.

Looks from Davis’ debut collection for FERRAGAMO. Photo: Courtesy

Alongside the signature red, optical white, deep indigo, cream, sky blue, and other colors from the Sunset Series by artist Rachel Harrison can be found in the collection’s gradient prints and hand-dyed fabrics. Organza and cotton poplin — loose, slim, and translucent — swayed before the backdrop of fine red sand. Here, the drama of the event was offset by the collection’s references to lazy comfort, to beach-holiday romance, to summer and sand. Davis sums it up best: “the show is as casual and sexy as possible.” 

Bringing new blood to the century-old fashion house

This season marks the official start of FERRAGAMO’s rebranding journey led by its new creative director. The young British designer, a graduate of the London College of Fashion, was born in a Trinidad-Jamaican family in Manchester who encouraged his early talent. At the age of only 26, Davis is already a design star — winning the hearts of celebrities like Rihanna, Dua Lipa, Kim Kardashian, and many more.  

Maximilian Davis joined FERRAGAMO as its new creative director in March 2022. Photo: Courtesy

The much-anticipated event demonstrated how he would integrate his personal style into the Italian brand’s DNA. “Sandstone is closely related to FERRAGAMO, Hollywood, and the sea, and has a strong bond with me,” said Davis. “In Caribbean culture, the ocean is a place that inspires thought and feeling. I wanted to explain the meaning of the sea to Caribbean culture from FERRAGAMO’s perspective.”

Davis is not the only new face at the firm. Last June, the Italian luxury outfit announced the appointment of Marco Gobbetti as its new CEO, who officially took office on January 1. Gobbetti has nearly 40 years of experience working with the LVMH group and is known for revitalizing companies and building them into global powerhouses. 

In March, Gobbetti appointed Davis as the next creative director of FERRAGAMO, signaling the launch of a new product-oriented plan. Gobbetti said in the first quarter post-earnings meeting in May that the business plans to double its sales in four to five years and double its marketing communications expenses from 2023 onwards (eventually reaching 10 percent of sales). The enterprise is expected to invest €400 million (2.75 billion RMB) in-store refurbishments, technology, and supply chains between 2023 and 2026.

The appointment of Davis is an important part of FERRAGAMO’s strategy of reaching younger consumers, and the young designer is already living up to expectations by breathing life into the nearly century-old establishment. At the same time, Davis’ distinctive designs may boost sales in ready-to-wear, transforming its current situation where footwear and leather account for more than 80 percent of sales. The company wants to strike a balance between maintaining product sales and reducing reliance on one single category.

Driving high-end digital transformation

Undoubtedly, the world is experiencing a change in retail as the younger generation grows into the main consumer force — becoming a target group that the luxury industry cannot afford to ignore. They favor personalized, youthful design and appreciate a diversified consumer experience. Therefore, in addition to revamping its products, FERRAGAMO began its digital transformation a long time ago in order to conquer the high-end virtual battlefield.

Following the launch of its new official website in Europe and the United States, FERRAGAMO finished upgrading its Chinese website in 2020, completing the online shopping journey for mainland customers. The label has also been stationed on platforms such as Tmall Luxury, JD.com, and WeChat mini-program to meet the needs of domestic shoppers with a more localized service.

FERRAGAMO is stationed on Tmall Luxury. Photo: Screenshot

In July 2022, FERRAGAMO officially debuted on the Poizon APP with leather goods, shoes, handbags, and other multi-category products, and launched graphics, videos, and livestreams to connect with young locals. A month later, the brand announced a global strategic partnership with luxury e-commerce platform Farfetch to drive digital business growth and further develop its appeal with millennials and Gen Zers.

On its official Tmall flagship store, official WeChat mini-program, and official Weibo, FERRAGAMO delivered the livestream of its Spring/Summer 2023 show. Fashion bloggers @宇博gogoboi and @Fil小白, as well as stars such as Gulnazar, Chen Linong, Fu Jing, and Zhou Keyu, were invited to watch the show together offline to hype up the event. At the time of writing, the related Weibo posts have received 105,000 likes and 39,000 retweets; the Weibo topic reached 230 million hits; and the live show in collaboration with Tencent has received 27.84 million views in total. It is reported that the house also set up a WeChat group for senior media personnel for the first time, sharing runway clips in a timeline manner to maximize publicity.

Chinese actress Gulnazar was invited to watch the FERRAGAMO Spring/Summer 2023 show. Photo: Courtesy

And so FERRAGAMO’s strategy is proceeding according to plan — and with much success. Earlier this month, the group announced key figures for the first half of fiscal year 2022, with sales up 20.3 percent year-on-year to €630 million (4.3 billion RMB), above analysts’ expectations of €621 million. With the two-prong strategy of digitalization and targeting younger consumers, FERRAGAMO’s goal of doubling revenue within five years is within reach. 

Hong Kong tourists quarantine

Hong Kong Cuts Hotel Quarantine But Tourists Aren’t Biting Yet

What Happened: On September 26, Hong Kong ushered in a new “0+3” arrangement for inbound travelers where mandatory hotel quarantine will be cancelled for the first time in over two years. Under this scheme, visitors can use a negative result from a self-arranged rapid antigen test (rather than a nucleic acid test) to board their flights. Once at Hong Kong International Airport, they will be tested again but will not be required to wait on-site for their results. With the mandatory hotel quarantine lifted, travelers are free to move around as they please but must adhere to three days of medical surveillance followed by a four-day period of self-monitoring.

The Jing Take: This is a relaxation only in the most relative sense. While travelers no longer need to endure the dreaded hotel quarantine — which could last up to 21 days at points — they still have to undergo a barrage of COVID tests (those who plan an eight-day trip will be subjected to these a whopping 12 times) which will likely deter pure tourists. Moreover, they are barred from “high-risk premises” such as restaurants, shopping malls, and bars for the first three days. Even the chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board acknowledged that the move “is expected to initially attract mainly business travelers, family visitors, and returning Hong Kong residents.”

The new testing requirements went into effect on September 26. Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board

To revive the local economy, these remaining restrictions would have to be scrapped. While travel-related searches for Hong Kong saw an uptick on Expedia, this was still overshadowed by the surge of outbound flight interest — indicating that the announcement was not as attractive as hoped. The ongoing zero-COVID policy has already cost the city its standing as Asia’s top financial hub due to an exodus of professional talent, a situation that has restricted its ability to conduct normal levels of business.

Still, Hong Kong retailers aren’t just waiting around for foreign shoppers to come back and hand them a recovery. Famously popular with mainland Chinese tourists, Tsim Sha Tsui’s mega shopping mall Harbour City opened more than 70 stores in the first three quarters of 2022, including a Dior flagship, and expects a total of 100 new tenants by the end of the year. Meanwhile, New World Group’s K11 Musea recorded a year-on-year increase of 21 percent in sales in H2 2021 while sister property K11 Art Mall added over 30 new brands, with the latter reaching a record high footfall last December and surpassing pre-pandemic sales. From hosting pop-up installations and art exhibitions to handing out coupons, these centers have doubled down on stimulating local consumption.

Recommended ReadingHope for Hong Kong Despite Lack of TouristsBy Julienna Law
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If Hong Kong wants to reclaim its status as both a leading business and travel destination, the government will need to further moderate its rules, especially as others in the region do the same. But at least by the time tourists do show up, fingers crossed, a world of luxury outlets will be waiting to welcome them.

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

Turning Aranya Pink Was A Stroke Of Genius From Valentino. Here’s Why

Valentino’s Pink PP campaign has been making waves on China’s social media since the house announced its dedicated takeover of the coastal city of Qinhuangdao’s Aranya district. Between September 22 and October 31, the beachfront Aranya Community Hall will be painted with the shade co-created by the brand and Pantone Color Institute.

Alongside this landmark event, a local cafe at the Tang hotel has had pink touches added on everything from coffee cup sleeves to ice cream cone holders. The all-pink visual merchandising like “V” logos and repainted parasols brought in quite a crowd, eager for the caffeine as much as the photo opportunity.

The Tang Valentino Pink PP Cafè. Photo: Courtesy of Valentino

According to iiMedia’s report, the market size of the country’s fresh coffee market was about $12.26 billion (87.6 billion RMB) in 2021, with a growth rate of 38.9 percent year-on-year. The number is expected to reach $26.58 billion (190 billion RMB) by 2024. More importantly, in the first- and second-tier cities, the drink has become a habit for many consumers and a crucial part of office culture. Given this, the image of coffee can help the maison, known for its haute couture, to become more approachable — and forge emotional connections with the younger generations.

A pop-up showroom was unveiled to present the Pink PP Fall 2022–23 offering, as well as the line’s collaboration with renowned novelist Douglas Coupland. The new capsule collection, composed of two cotton sweatshirts and two t-shirts in either black or the exclusive Pink PP, is online-exclusive beyond this special preview.

Valentino Pink PP showroom. Photo: Courtesy of Valentino

On September 22, Valentino kicked off the campaign with a physical event in Aranya, with attendees including brand ambassadors Lay Zhang, Li Ronghao, and Guan Xiaotong, Korean singer Jessica Jung, Chinese idol Liu Yu, and Gao Qingchen from boy group INTO1. Singer Li’s appointment was announced on the same day of the event, which did great things for the online traffic. And Zhang and Li’s all-pink looks worked to challenge the designation of pink as a color for girls — a nice touch, considering the firm’s belief in inclusivity. The online discussion of celebrity exposure has amounted to 1.1 billion on Weibo within just 2 days.

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Valentino’s brand ambassadors Lay Zhang, Li Ronghao and Guan Xiaotong, Korean singer Jessica Jung (swipe left) Photo: Courtesy of Valentino

The presence of the Korean idol and ex-member of the K-pop band Girls’ Generation was also a cause for excitement. Her performance in the hyper-popular variety show Sisters Who Make Waves (乘风破浪的姐姐) has given the star a much bigger profile in China. She suited the color well, and campaign photos featuring her long dress with bow details received 4,500 comments and 22,100 likes on Weibo.

Thanks to the localized approach, Valentino’s Aranya initiatives have driven over 1,000 user-generated posts on Xiaohongshu. When searching “Valentino” on the lifestyle social platform, the number of posts including the keywords escalated from 110,000 to 160,000 in 3 days. The unique and bold color has allowed the label’s pink takeovers to become users’ social media moments, like the many visitors who took selfies with the Aranya Community Hall and pink coffee cups.

Valentino could not have achieved the success of the Pink PP campaign here without the selection of Aranya. The seaside travel destination has seen increased popularity among young visitors in recent years, due to its commitment to creating a more inclusive and artistic lifestyle through various cultural projects. Sharing such values, the Italian establishment wanted to create visual experiences that would inspire audiences who yearn for an escape from urban life.

With 48 boutiques in the mainland, Hongkong, Macau, and Taiwan, Valentino has achieved an ambitious offline expansion in the Chinese market. In particular, the make has been reinforcing its presence in key cities such as Chengdu, Wuhan, and Guangzhou. A new store has just been opened in Shenzhen Bay MixC mall this week.

Earlier this year, CEO Jacopo Venturini disclosed that the business’ revenue was $1.36 billion (9.75 billion RMB) in 2021, posting a 41 percent jump in sales last year at constant exchange rates and a 3 percent growth compared to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Based on this momentum, in April the organization appointed Janice Lam as its chief executive of China (directly reporting to Venturini). Lam’s lead on expansion in the region will focus on “inspiring a sense of belonging, company passion, retail engagement, and client experience,” as detailed in Valentino’s statement. The leadership has been validated by the smart color marketing strategy behind the Pink PP campaign. By crafting an upgraded brand image with both modern and legacy attributes, Valentino should expect the payoff of its repositioning strategy.

Zhihu chinese mini program

Could China’s ‘Micro Variety Show’ Trend Be Luxury’s Next Big Thing?

With China’s crackdown on badly behaved celebrities (and their devoted fans) showing no sign of stopping, and government regulators keeping close tabs on brands’ marketing and advertising efforts, luxury brands face a rapidly changing market where the old way of doing business simply won’t work any longer. 

This isn’t just reflected in how brands need to spread their message in China — especially to reach the increasingly important Gen Z demographic — but also where. Over the past few years, some of the more adventurous global brands active in mainland China have turned to program sponsorships and integrations as an effective way to get in front of young audiences. 

This was first evident on major streaming sites like iQiyi, Tencent Video, and Mango TV. Idol competition programs like The Rap of China and Sisters Who Make Waves attracted millions of viewers along with sponsors like Valentino and Absolut vodka — and gave brands like Burberry and Supreme valuable unpaid screen time. Yet over the past year, young audiences and sponsors alike have increasingly turned to short video platforms like Douyin and Bilibili to get their entertainment fix in bite-sized pieces, providing new opportunities for brands to get in on popular content trends both earlier and cheaper. 

Valentino dressed the contestants of Sisters Who Make Waves Season 3 in its Pink PP collection. Photo: Valentino

This year, short video platforms have rolled out new programs in rapid-fire succession, looking for the next program concept that will stick. Considering Beijing regulators essentially put the kibosh on idol competition shows last year, we’ve seen a rash of relatively vanilla reality and variety shows hit the (very) small screen, with Bilibili arguably leading the way. Over the past year, Bilibili has pumped out dozens of reality programs, among them 90s Dating Agency (90婚介所2022), the college graduation series The Way We Were (第四个夏天), and the Gen Z art competition Crazy Artist (疯狂艺术家). 

Yet one of the more interesting variations on this theme is led not by Bilibili, Douyin, or Kuaishou but by Zhihu. Better known as a sort of Quora-meets-Reddit, Zhihu recently took its first step into entertainment via three “micro variety shows” (微综艺席). The programs are squarely aimed at Gen Z viewers with short attention spans, centered around some of the most popular themes in China right now: talk shows, documentaries, and reality shows. Wild Talk (荒野会谈), for example, brings together a group of young people for laidback chats in the wilderness, effortlessly leveraging China’s red-hot outdoor leisure trend. Meanwhile, The Career I Long For (我所向往的职业啊) and Goodbye, My Failed Gaokao! (我的高考笑忘书) take a more documentary approach, respectively focusing on careers and China’s notoriously difficult college entrance exam.

Goodbye, My Failed Gaokao! follows the lives of 12 people who failed the Gaokao exam. Photo: Zhihu

Though new, the shows have attracted headlines due to their relaxed style and pacing, lack of gimmicks, and casting of “real” people rather than celebrities or KOLs — with the exception of Zhihu personalities like Li Songwei, who appears on Wild Talks (which has been favorably compared to the Bilibili series Informal Talks). 

Short, themed programs in themselves might not be groundbreaking, but where this story gets interesting is in the depth of data Zhihu has at its disposal to create new programs (and therefore present sponsorship or product placement opportunities for brands). Based on the questions most commonly asked and answered on its platform, Zhihu has its finger on the pulse of what young demographics care the most about at any given time. As such, its first three program topics are a no-brainer; career and gaokao anxiety is evergreen, while millions of young Chinese now dream of reconnecting with nature (and one other) after nearly three years of COVID restrictions. For a brand, Zhihu’s understanding of what its users care about and want to watch at any time makes for a compelling brand sponsorship selling point.

From the looks of it, the lift for Zhihu in terms of cost and effort has been minimal, indicating the platform is dipping its toe into short video content creation by outsourcing production and solely casting personalities from within the Zhihu sphere, for now at least. And while the first shows recorded relatively modest (for China) viewership — The Career I Long For led the way with 52 million views, followed by Wild Talks with nearly 44 million — Zhihu seems to be taking the long view, understanding that its core users need time to adjust to this type of format.

So while micro variety shows may be an untested field for luxury brands, it could be the next one to try out, if only to reach some of Zhihu’s 106 million monthly active users.

Moncler Ushers In A New Chapter With Its 70th Anniversary Celebration

An extraordinary artistic spectacle was unveiled in Milan on September 24. In celebration of Moncler’s 70th anniversary, the house ignited the historical Piazza del Duomo in the heart of the city, with a performance directed by the avant-garde French choreographer Sadeck Berrabah (also known as Sadeck Waff). On the heels of the magical night event welcoming local communities, Moncler inaugurated a 70-day program of special events and brand experiences around the world.

The celebration programs mark an important moment for the Moncler brand, as Remo Ruffini, Chairman and CEO of Moncler Group, commented. “We look back at the path taken, whilst looking ahead to the future based on what we have learnt and what we continue to dream,” explains Ruffini.

As a Milan-based luxury house with French roots, Moncler will roll out various initiatives beyond Europe and engage global communities, including China. Since the brand entered China in 2009, it has established 62 offline boutiques and extensive digital presence in the region. With the grand kickoff of the ceremony, Jing Daily overviews its dynamic activities across international markets and its China strategy with a long-term vision.

Dive into Moncler’s 70 years of heritage

Founded in Monestier-de-Clermont, France in 1952, Moncler has gone through monumental shifts over the past seven decades. To celebrate its mountaineering history, the house launched a global campaign named Extraordinary Forever, which shares photographs of significant moments from its archive. Among the milestones featured were the brand’s sponsorship of the French downhill ski team for the Grenoble Winter Olympics in 1968 and the Moncler jacket becoming an iconic product of Paninari youth culture in the 1980s.

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Archive images from Moncler (swipe left). Photo: Courtesy of Moncler

By shedding light on Moncler’s sophisticated growth — from making equipment for adventurers to designing luxury outerwear — the heritage campaign cements the house’s alpine roots and its speciality in ski-performance. More importantly, it elevates consumers’ understanding of the brand culture and DNA and helps them envision Moncler’s future potential.

Celebrate the anniversary with engaging activations worldwide

A staple of both sportswear and street style, Moncler’s Maya jacket has become a symbol of the brand’s modern era and one of the most prominent puffer pieces in the luxury sector. The timeless allure of the garment made it a significant part of the 70th anniversary celebrations. Named Moncler New Maya 70, the cult jacket collection will feature 13 special-edition colors inspired by life outdoors. In particular, the flax yellow version will be exclusively available on Tmall, which is expected to add to the product’s appeal with Chinese digital natives.

Along with the limited-edition Maya 70 series, the puffer disruptor will also progressively unveil its collaboration with seven world-famous designers from mid-October to November. These include Francesco Ragazzi, Thom Brown, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Rick Owens, Giambattista Valli, Pierpaolo Piccioli, and Pharrell Williams. Joining hands with these creative talents aligns with the powerhouse’s commitment to breaking boundaries and facilitating cultural inclusivity.

In addition to product-driven projects, a multisensory journey — the “Extraordinary Expedition” world touring exhibition — will be brought to global visitors. Featuring interactive experiences and limited-edition NFT drops, these events will kick off in New York on October 5, and later arrive in London, Seoul, and Tokyo. In late October, the tour will be virtually presented in China via WeChat, where users can explore multisensory film and narrative design in a more intimate setting.

Enrich the Moncler story with a China-focused mission

Moncler has showcased its strong commitment to China with localized marketing campaigns and product releases in the past years. And these initiatives have paid off in the market, according to the group’s financial numbers. The Moncler brand recorded impressive financial numbers in H1 2022, reaching 724.3 million euros in revenues and growth of 27 percent compared to the same period of 2021. Though the brand’s performance was negatively impacted by the lockdowns in the Chinese mainland due to the closure of around one-third of stores in April and May, June showed a strong improvement with the reopening of all the stores.

In the third quarter of 2022, Moncler continued to expand its product portfolios in China, with the introduction of its first fragrances for men and women, named The Moncler Pour Femme and Pour Homme, and the launch of new footwear line called Trailgrip. In addition to implementing a broader segmentation strategy, the house has been proactively engaging new audiences outside the fashion and luxury sectors and branching out into arts, lifestyle, design, and sports.

Unveiled in 2021, the Moncler fragrance line was officially introduced to Chinese consumers this August. Photo: Courtesy of Moncler

As Ruffini stated in the H1 2022 earnings call, “There is no future without a past, and that the past alone is not enough to ensure a bright future.” With the global campaign spotlighting the various initiatives that helped Moncler achieve success over 70 years, the luxury mainstay further consolidates its innovative brand image as a full-fledged house rooted in a community-centric and digital-driven culture.

Chinese KOLs Milan Fashion Week

Chinese KOLs Return To Milan Fashion Week

What Happened: After a two-and-a-half-year absence under stringent COVID travel restrictions, a handful of China’s biggest fashion bloggers and KOLs have finally made it back to the front rows of Milan Fashion Week. They were seen at the likes of Prada, Gucci, Ferragamo, Fendi, and Versace shows. One of the most successful homegrown personalities, Tao Liang, better known as “Mr. Bags,” is thoroughly enjoying being back in action: “I feel so excited to come back to the fashion weeks! To see all the latest designs and creations in person is very different from seeing them via the internet,” he tells Jing Daily.

With over 6.7 million Weibo followers, a reputation for being able to convert fandom into serious sales, and collaborations with the likes of Givenchy, Fendi, and Tod’s under his belt, Mr. Bags’ return has been welcomed by the Italian lines — especially in light of recent Chinese luxury retail slumps amidst COVID lockdowns. Other mainland names made an appearance too, veteran singer Na Ying flying in for Moncler’s 70th-anniversary event.

 

The Jing Take: But it’s a trickle rather than a flood. Although we’ve seen the likes of Mr. Bags, Yuyu Zhangzou, and Cici Xiang making waves on the Milan circuit, the Chinese KOL contingent is noticeably much smaller than it was in pre-pandemic days. And you wonder if most of the country’s celebrities are still trying to keep a low profile for now.

“For me, you need to be in fashion week, to feel that vibe from the people, in real life, not just on a livestream or from your phone or laptop,” says Yuyu, known for her fun, eclectic style and 3.5 million Weibo followers. “Fashion week gives this really strong feeling of passion — of how people around inspire you. It’s a big festival and I was so happy to be back.” 

Yuyu, a fashion blogger with 3.5 million Weibo followers, was spotted at Milan Fashion Week. Photo: Courtesy of Yuyu

Beijing’s strict regulations still insist that citizens are not allowed to travel overseas purely for leisure purposes. Usually an official work visa must be obtained, or you must present an official letter of invitation from a company to go abroad (for professional reasons). Upon return, most destinations institute the 7+3 rule: seven days in government hotel quarantine and three days restricted movement at home. These barriers are making it difficult for most KOLs, PR, and media to attend international schedules — even if it is for work. So to generate some buzz in the domestic market, houses like Gucci and Etro have been holding almost simultaneous screening parties of their Milan shows within China, though the impact of these (versus the real thing) may be limited.  

Recommended ReadingWho’s Courting China at Milan Fashion Week?By Jing Daily
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For high fashion influencers, attendance at these global spectacles represents a major competitive angle; not just commercially (when businesses pay them to attend or post) but also for fan clout, expertise, and credibility. “As a blogger who writes about handbags, I definitely have a much deeper impression and memory of the pieces I saw during the fashion shows,” explains Mr. Bags. “With the music, the model’s walk, the runway atmosphere, the bags become more alive. And the designer’s point of view on how they want them to be portrayed is also clearer. Later when I really write about my recommendations and thoughts, it’s so much easier for me to remember those bags I saw at an event.”

Mr. Bags and Yuyu sit front row at the Fendi show together with Caroline Daur and Chriselle Lim. Photo: Courtesy of Mr. Bags

The China market is of course still a big priority for major European groups. Some smaller labels might have pulled out, but most of the larger ones are still banking on Chinese growth in the wake of European economic woes such as war and inflation. When it comes to someone who can generate sales like Mr. Bags does — his previous Givenchy Valentine’s collaboration sold out in 12 minutes, netting a total of $170,000 (1.2 million RMB), while his Tod’s partnership raked in $500,000 (3 million RMB) in just seven minutes — his presence at Milan is a soothing reminder for brands of that still massive China potential.  

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.

brand messaging luxury pricing

Why Failing At Messaging Can Have Fatal Results

Brand audits are always fascinating. In a recent project we analyzed the messaging of a well-known luxury house, and the result revealed an issue that most face. When we asked the top leadership team, around 10 people, for their one-sentence description of the brand, it resulted in about 30 different aspects; instead of one sentence, on average there were three. On top of that, practically no two brand messages were the same. 

When there are even just a few inconsistencies in messaging at the top of any organization, these automatically multiply the further you go down the hierarchy. Hence, 30 messages can easily become 100, 1,000, or more different ways of how to describe the same brand. And these are not the exception — they are typical brand audit findings across countries, industries, and sectors. Very few companies manage to have one message, hence one brand story, across the organization. Brand stories today are, in most cases, a sea of sameness. 

This gets even more compounded if the employees, say in the sales department, feel that the brand message is more a “marketing message,” rather than a relevant one for them. The result: on an operational level people typically use their own way of describing the brand, like “this shoe company is from Italy and their quality is fantastic,” or “this French skincare brand gives you great results.” While these descriptions are positive, they are rather what I call a “category story” and not a “brand story.” In other words, they describe vaguely what the brand is doing and where it’s from. The problem is that any brand in the category could match these descriptions.

Recommended ReadingWhy Messaging Is Luxury’s SuperpowerBy Daniel Langer
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As a result, the message around the brand gets ambiguous and undifferentiated. But more importantly, it creates practically no client-related value. In other words, for any client or audience that is being targeted, most brands resemble each other. They lack any specific cue about who they really are, with no purpose and little emotion. It’s not surprising that the service experience — based on a generic brand script — very seldomly stands out. 

This has fatal results: undifferentiated brands cannot realize any significant price premium so their profitability will be far below their potential, in some cases dramatically below. Advertising costs on increasingly complex and noisy digital and social platforms, whether in Web2 or Web3, skyrocket because the breakthrough of these blurry messages will be minimal. Thus, brands that are confusing in their messaging don’t reach their audience. Given that up to 95 percent of today’s luxury purchase decisions are influenced through digital audience interactions, the competitive disadvantage can endanger an entire brand. 

The consequences are even worse in luxury. ALV, short for Added Luxury Value, the main component of the perceived value of a luxury brand, is by far the most significant part of the total brand value. And it is dependent on the brand story. In other words: if there is ambiguity in the story, the brand suffers. Take Gucci for example: before Alessandro Michele took over the creative direction of the Kering label from Frieda Giannini, it significantly underperformed. The reason? Gucci’s story is traditionally about liberation, about being unapologetic in the way you dress and show up. It taps into a critical insight: that many people are — at least at times — either insecure or they feel that they must follow certain rules and conventions.

When Tom Ford was the creative helm of Gucci, his interpretation of the story was very provocative, often overly sexual, and the brand was one of the hottest. When he left, the consistency in storytelling was lost, and the brand declined significantly. Gucci felt more like other luxury brands and became much less distinctive. There was insufficient ALV, hence less perceived value despite many wonderful collections. 

Tom Ford, who served as creative director of Gucci from 1994 to 2004, was known for his provocative storytelling. Photo: Gucci

Then, when Michele took over the helm, his interpretation of unapologetic liberation was poetic, theatric, and often inspired by the 1970s. While very different to the vision of Tom Ford, both told the same story, both had the same fundamental message. Back on story, Gucci soared from one all-time high to another and prices increased steadily and significantly.

Another fascinating example is the collaboration between Nike’s Air Force 1 franchise, Louis Vuitton, and Virgil Abloh. Virgil was an outspoken fan of the Air Force 1 and he led Louis Vuitton’s first collaboration with Nike. Before the collection, limited to 200, was auctioned by Sotheby’s, Abloh sadly passed away. This made the “story” much more unique and non-repeatable. As a result, the highest bid in the auction exceeded $350,000. And we’re talking about a leather sneaker, not about a sports car! 

This is how much the clarity and uniqueness of a story and its message can boost ALV. Without the story, a pair of Air Force 1 retails around $180 dollars; add the story the price tag is multiplied almost 2,000 times, even accommodating for the higher quality leather and the craftsmanship of Louis Vuitton. Compared to around $1,800 for a pair of “standard” Louis Vuitton sneakers, the story-related value multiplier is almost 200.

Without a unique and intriguing story, these multipliers would collapse almost entirely. It teaches us that in luxury, story and message carry the value, not the product. The product is an expression of the story but not the story itself. And the value is intangible, which means it can collapse immediately when clarity is missing. This happens when what should be one message becomes many.

It’s a huge missed opportunity for many luxury names in terms of impact, clarity, and pricing potential. Therefore, messaging is luxury’s superpower and too many messages is its kryptonite. How many messages does your brand have?

This is an op-ed article that reflects the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Jing Daily.

Named one of the “Global Top Five Luxury Key Opinion Leaders to Watch,” Daniel Langer is the CEO of the luxury, lifestyle and consumer brand strategy firm Équité, and the executive professor of luxury strategy and pricing at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He consults many of the leading luxury brands in the world, is the author of several best-selling luxury management books, a global keynote speaker, and holds luxury masterclasses on the future of luxury, disruption, and the luxury metaverse in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Follow @drlanger

Fil Xiaobai fashion KOL

An Inside Look At China’s Influencer Economy With Fashion KOL Fil Xiaobai

Fashion influencer and stylist Fil Xiaobai is next to be welcomed into the Jing Daily community of individuals shaping China’s booming luxury industry. These profiles highlight industry leaders who contribute to the national and global fashion communities, from creatives and influencers to business executives and entrepreneurs.

“There are many fashion KOLs, but none of them are Fil.” From anyone else, that self-description may come across as haughty. But for Fil Xiaobai, a Chinese millennial influencer with a decade’s worth of experience, it is one borne out of confidence. 

Fil Xiaobai boasts over 7 million followers across major social media platforms. Photo: Weibo

In 2011, Fil was just a student majoring in English Translation at Chengdu Foreign Language School. She could not have imagined that her love of fashion and participation in a street style photography contest held by Hainan TV’s Top Fashion would propel her towards becoming one of the country’s top KOLs. 

“I was very serious about this [referring to the contest]. I didn’t want to wear those recognizable luxury brands in the competition. Instead, I preferred to find niche brands to express my fashion ideas. That was probably the main reason why I won the championship. I always know what to wear,” Fil recalls.

With her bold, decisive style choices, Fil won the competition and was invited to travel overseas for Fashion Week. And she was initially thrilled to attend — until she looked online. As netizens questioned her qualifications and the negative comments piled up, she quickly came to terms with the business of fashion: one must earn the public’s recognition to secure a place in the industry.

So the Chengdu native worked hard to establish her name and soon rose to fame by working as a stylist on the fashion reality program I, Supermodel. This, along with her role in the idol competition program Produce 101, laid the groundwork for her career as a celebrity stylist.

But now, Fil considers herself more of a fashion KOL than anything else. Since starting her Weibo account in 2011, she has branched out to livestreaming to better engage with her followers, sharing her product suggestions and purchases from overseas boutiques. She has also grown an impressive portfolio of luxury clients, shooting with brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci.

Fil Xiaobai appeared at a Chanel event earlier this month. Photo: Xiaohongshu

Labeled a “first-generation KOL,” Fil has hustled to stay on top. When many other renowned content creators were suffering from burnout or hesitating to join emerging platforms, Fil buckled down and embraced the new trends. She grew her profile on various platforms including Douyin, Xiaohongshu, and Bilibili with consistent high-quality content, amassing over 7 million followers.

As fashion influencers continue to play a key role in shaping trends and promoting luxury brands, Jing Daily talked to Fil to better understand the opportunities and obstacles in the industry.

How would you describe a stylist as a profession? What distinguishes it from a fashion KOL?

High emotional intelligence, good taste, and the capacity to work hard. The barriers to becoming a stylist are high: it takes a lot of experience, especially for those types of stylists who lead trends, as well as talent. In contrast, the threshold for fashion KOLs is relatively low. Many individuals, even VIPs of numerous luxury labels, now share their outfits on social media channels which look no different from those of fashion bloggers. 

To excel in being a fashion KOL, you need to be recognizable and have additional vocations and skills. For example, I’m both a stylist and a fashion KOL. The two complement each other.

Fil Xiaobai is known for her street style. Photo: Xiaohongshu

What are the obstacles faced by today’s stylists?

Although stylists are invited to participate in many programs nowadays, many do not offer them enough creative freedom. For example, on a show, practically anyone can comment on a stylist’s look. This may make the work extremely difficult, and too many opinions can stifle the talent’s ideas.

In recent years, I’ve seen that online comments aren’t always kind to stylists. Many fans of a celebrities are not objective enough to comment on their outfits so we see a lot of extreme compliments or criticism. Without a thorough grasp of the underlying background or narrative behind a set of clothing, some people just want big-name brands and haute couture, which I think is a bad trend. Although the industry is expanding swiftly, the challenge is to figure out how to keep moving forward.

What do you think of China’s KOL industry?

I think the time this business developed the best was between 2016 and 2021, when the entire industry was flourishing. As more individuals flock to the KOL track to seize this opportunity, standing out becomes more challenging. I recommend that young people who want to become influencers first secure a job with a stable income and then give it a try as a hobby. This way, they don’t have to compete for the public’s attention and can instead focus on producing high-quality content that increases their market value.

Recommended ReadingWhen China’s KOLs Become BrandsBy Gemma A. Williams
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What do you think of livestreaming e-commerce? Would you consider joining?

Actually, few fashion KOLs want to sell products via livestreaming since we find it difficult to explicitly ask viewers to place orders like other sellers in the livestreaming room. I think this activity isn’t really in line with our identity. Instead, I may use my expertise to assist sellers by offering some helpful styling suggestions. Though I understand that livestreaming e-commerce is currently one of the most profitable industries and that many people will jump on this trend, I believe it is still necessary for KOLs to think clearly about their own direction instead of being swept by the current — it’s easy to lose yourself.

Were there any drastic changes in China’s fashion KOL industry after COVID-19?

After the pandemic, many KOLs focused on the domestic market. I must say that the home market is really large and that today’s youth were born at a good time; as long as you work hard on content, you can become a star.

Speaking with many foreign bloggers, I realized that the Chinese market is much better than the global market. Foreign KOLs must compete with KOLs from all over the world and update very frequently, which necessitates a greater degree of ability. If they’re a little careless, they can be eliminated from this fierce competition. However, I feel that many people in China are not taking advantage of this environment which is a shame.

What kind of KOLs are brands looking to work with?

First, KOLs should be free of any scandals, which is a major concern for many brands since they want the collaboration to receive positive feedback. The KOL’s ability to sell is also an important criterion. This depends on whether they can produce content that captivates the audience and persuades them to pay for their recommended products. 

Now, as fashion brands collaborate more widely, influencers from every field have the opportunity to work with luxury names, including athletes and artists. Ultimately, it’s all about the quality of your content.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Gucci Tencent Super QQ Show

Gucci Secures Chinese Fans At Milan Fashion Week

Overview

On September 23, Gucci presented its Spring 2023 collection in Milan and livestreamed its show called “Gucci Twinsburg” across China’s social media platforms. In addition to sharing the show’s preludes with local audiences, the Kering label collaborated with brand ambassador Xiao Zhan and Chinese actresses Cecilia Song and Venda Li to send out video invitations on Weibo. Along with the livestreaming, the house hosted a physical screening event in Beijing, inviting local media and fashion KOLs. Guests were seated back-to-back in a mirror effect while watching the screened show, aligning with this season’s concept of “identical twins.”

Meanwhile, the digital-savvy brand kicked off a new approach to livestreaming by tapping Tencent’s Super QQ Show — the tech giant’s latest push into the metaverse. QQ users could opt to tune into the show from their private rooms or at a coastal music plaza on the virtual platform.

The Gucci Twinsburg show on Tencent’s Super QQ Show app. Photo: Super QQ Show Screenshot

Netizens’ Reaction

The show’s Weibo hashtags #GucciFW2023Show and #GucciTwinsburg racked up over 200 million and 100 million views, respectively, before the show’s livestreaming ⁠— a huge number for a warm-up campaign. The video invitation starring Xiao Zhan drove significant traffic, receiving 12.2 million views within one day. The livestream attracted over 26 million views on Weibo within an hour. In particular, traditional Chinese elements such as frog buttons and slanted plackets featured on several looks impressed Chinese audiences.

Gucci turned to Chinese celebrities Xiao Zhan and Cecilia Song to promote its Gucci Twinsburg show. Photo: Gucci

Verdict 

In the second quarter of 2022, Kering’s mega-brand recorded a 4 percent revenue growth on a comparable basis, which was a slowdown from the prior quarter’s 13 percent. Despite the impact of lockdowns in China during this fiscal period, Gucci has been actively engaging its local customers via online activities. In June, the house announced its collaboration with local media powerhouse Huasheng Media Group to launch a cultural artwork project called “Blooming Shanghai.” 

On the heels of the well-received cultural initiative, Gucci expanded its localization strategy to revamp the distribution of its shows. As livestreaming on social media becomes a normalized tactic among luxury players in post-pandemic China, the veteran is exploring new platforms to expand its reach. Similar to Nintendo’s hit video game series Animal Crossing, Super QQ Show allows users to dress themselves up in virtual fashion pieces and socialize in various scenarios with digital currency gained by topping up cash or completing designated tasks. This program functions as another space for brands to tap into China’s metaverse and lure in the younger generation.

Susan Fang London Fashion Week

Susan Fang, The Chinese Designer Making A Splash At London Fashion Week

Susan Fang looks delighted. It’s hardly surprising — we’re meeting the day after her London Fashion Week debut. “This feels like a dream,” she gushes while ordering coffee. “I didn’t even believe it had happened until I saw the footage afterwards.” 

Her show was, by all accounts, a standout on the schedule. Staged at a 1930s leisure center in Soho, the set (which she art-directed herself) featured giant bespoke inflatables, what she calls her “peace bubbles,” in signature marble prints which floated atop the covered pool. Lifeguards patrolled in logoed tees making sure guests were safe as they navigated the perimeter to find their seats. It made the perfect setting to see models in gauze-dresses so light they bounced and rippled like water. 

Susan Fang showcases her skilful use of gauze in her Spring/Summer 2023 collection “Air Light.” Photo: Courtesy

In Fang’s skillful hands, fabrics do new things. Through the simple acts of tacking, weaving or beading, she creates movement and volume on the runway. She gives these techniques names like “air flowers” and “nuance silks.” Alongside such aesthetic concerns lies a dedicated business strategy. In our conversation, she regularly darts between the passion of an artist and the realpolitik of an entrepreneur. 

Her career-defining bubble bag, for instance, is contextualized within a change in material conditions. “In China, everyone uses WeChat pay, so this means they carry less in the handbags and can use them more like jewelry.” This astute observation resulted in the production of a childlike accessory that is now synonymous with her label, and helped her secure a list of stockists that once included London’s Browns and Selfridges. 

Of course, this is not her first rodeo in the city. Back when, in her words, “the world was a different place” (i.e. four years ago), she was featured on Fashion Scout’s One to Watch platform. A graduate of Central Saint Martins, Fang was eager to return to London once  COVID-19 permitted and has been here since July in preparation for the event. This involved waking up at the grueling time of 3 a.m. daily to catch up with the mainland — and most importantly of all, her mum.

It’s Fang senior who does everything from managing production to creating the marbled prints on water. “I feel like I’m living my childhood again,” she laughs as I imagine her painting on water and hand-beading accessories. If it sounds twee, well, that’s because it is. But what’s so special about Susan is the wide-eyed authenticity she brings to her craft. Where else would you see, let alone hear of, a giant plastic ball called a “peace bubble full with good wishes”?

Susan Fang’s LFW set featured giant bespoke inflatable balls. Photo: Courtesy

According to influencer platform Lefty, her quirky inflatables produced results. Bolstered by the support of influencers and KOLs, the London outing bumped her up to a top 10 brand ranking on Weibo with an EMV of $145,000 (1.2 million RMB). Chinese influencer Youjin Cui, who was at the show, explained that despite Fang’s early days in the industry, anticipation was quite high for this season. “After a few showcases at Shanghai Fashion Week and the collaboration with Zara, Susan now has a big name in the Chinese fashion industry.” 

Expectations have been fueled by these collaborations, which have been key to her (and many of her contemporaries’) successes and have helped to commercialize her zero-waste brand (“they pay very well,” she discloses). These have run from local ones such as with Chinese fashion label Peacebird and phone brand Oppo to Fujifilm. Crocs sponsored her runway footwear and she has more in the offing too, including Uggs; more are currently in discussion including one with a luxury name. 

Still, from talking to Fang, it feels like her whimsical designs are a deflection of her personal anxieties — everything from loss to the post-pandemic environment to a looming world war. In fact, despite her positivity, she is by her admission a pessimist. “Because I’ve moved so much, I’m constantly having a fear of saying goodbye to people, but all that time it was my mum who supported me. For me that strength is the light.” (Her collection is called Air Light.)

Given that Fang has moved so much, she’s acutely aware of being an outsider. But it’s precisely this kaleidoscope blend of cultures and ideas that allows her to be, as influencer and creative director of Møy Atelier Betty Bachz says, “such a breath of fresh air as a designer.” 

So Fang is resolutely upbeat post-show and confident about re-energizing her stocklist, some of which fell away during the pandemic era because of complications from COVID-19 or the “difficulties of doing orders over Zoom.” More importantly, she is confident that she’s in this on her own terms. 

“For me it’s not about selling or being commercial, it’s longer. I want to build a business step by step. Perfume, even furniture. My mum says, Susan, do things that are fun.” And for now anyway, it sure seems like she’s doing just that. 

ENG Concept

Vintage, Collaboration and Emerging Labels: China’s Retail Innovators Talk Gen Z

China’s consumers born before 1997 are an increasingly powerful cohort of luxury spenders. It’s a demographic that views brands as lifestyle platforms, providing experiences, activations, and collaborations beyond their primary product offering. For retail, it’s crucial to understand what makes Chinese Gen Z tick.

The upsurge of concept stores breaking boundaries in China’s retail landscape – such as ENG Concept, CanalStreet坚尼街, Das Lab, and CLAP — proves that classic multi-brand stores with indulgent architectural interiors are just not enough to grab attention.

With two physical stores in Shanghai and a third in Hangzhou’s IN77, ENG Concept is one name spearheading disruptive retail in the mainland. Stocking indie fashion favorites such as Aries, Casablanca, Misbhv, Rui and Martine Rose, alongside esteemed tastemakers Helmut Lang, Eckhaus Latta and Mugler, it serves a selection that encapsulates the taste of fashion-forward Gen Z. 

Spring 2021 saw ENG promote Mugler’s Spring 2021 collection, throwing a preview party for the brand’s Chinese consumers. The innovative retail space also hosted an art exhibition at the store’s official opening in 2019, unveiling it with an in-store party featuring a live performance by British rapper Lancey Foux.

A.Society

The co-founders of A.Society say collaboration is key for a Gen Z-led brand. Photo: A.Society

From pop-up exhibitions to star-studded parties, Gen Z wants more from retail than just photogenic settings and good customer service. It’s all about tapping into the subcultures that derive from fashion and contributing to their growth. 

To figure out how to drive China’s youth to stores, Jing Daily spoke to ENG Concept founder Sherry Huang, and co-founders of artistically alternative Chinese sunglasses brand A.Society, Kenny Kowk, Victor Chu, and Dee Lam.

1. Independent labels 

There’s currently a lack of retailers snapping up independent labels in China, but they’re the Instagram generation’s trendsetters. At London Fashion Week 2023, independent designers such as Dilara Findikoglu and Richard Quinn were the best at capturing the attention of Chinese netizens, despite neither even being stocked in the mainland.

Kwok, the co-founder of A.Society, said that it’s small, independent labels which truly entice China’s young shoppers. “The new generation appreciates storytelling reinforced by craftsmanship and strong brand values,” he said.

For ENG Concept, that has been one of its major unique selling points. As Huang explained, “Considering the amount of retail businesses opening in China and their fast development, I think proposing something exclusive or different from the regular offer existing on the market is more than crucial.

“Chinese consumers get bored really fast so we have to constantly propose something that is attractive and yet different, that’s how we have accumulated such a big crowd since our opening.”

2. Vintage

According to A.Society’s team, young Chinese consumers are developing a bigger interest in pre-loved garments. “Chinese consumers are expanding their knowledge of streetwear, including the growing popularity of vintage clothing that is actively shared through Xiaohongshu,” said Kowk.

The co-founder noted that China is seeing a revival of classic and retro styles which reinforces nostalgic aesthetics and Chinese heritage. Kowk added that the decline of the sneaker market is potentially even down to “major fashion brands constantly introducing new drops to bring freshness to everyone’s wardrobes” — according to him, that’s not necessarily of Gen Z taste. In with the old, out with the new.

3. Collaboration

Stores releasing collaborative collections isn’t revolutionary, yet it’s the expansion of artistic collaboration and experiential offerings that is making retailers stand out right now. For A.Society, collaboration is a crucial part of its youth-focused strategy. As Lam told Jing Daily, “From art and fashion to music, we would like to tap into the minds of like-minded visionaries to create designs that reflect what the new generation desires.”

Partnering with artists for exhibitions or C-pop stars for events is a way of presenting the subculture identity of a store. As ENG’s Huang said, “It’s not just about proposing something different but also to educate our audience on the products that we propose in the store. We’re not just selling garments, but also the image that goes with it.”

Damon agrees that collaboration should not be limited to capsules and other clothing lines. Instead, it’s about working with talent that can attract art or fashion fanbases in order to gain the attention of a desired target consumer. 

ENG Concept

A shot from inside ENG Concept’s artistically avant-garde retail space. Photo: ENG Concept

national day holiday week

Chinese Netizens Express Frustration Over National Day Holiday Schedule

What Happened: China recently released its official October 1 National Day schedule. Commonly referred to as the “seven-day long break” 七天长假, this year’s holiday will start on Saturday, October 1 and last until Friday, October 7. However, many netizens are taking issue with the fact that the ensuing weekend, October 8 and 9, are workdays, meaning that the holiday is immediately followed by a seven-day work week. 

On Weibo, the hashtag “can we do without the rescheduling” 可不可以不调休, referring to the cancelation of the weekend of October 8, has garnered 430 million views, placing it at the top of the platform’s trending topic list on September 21. The prevailing complaint is that the supposedly seven-day break only has three actual extra days off, with the other four being de facto weekends. The other major concern is that the unusually long work week will bring excessive stress, shadowing the public’s excitement for the holiday.  

The Jing Take: The frustration of Chinese netizens reflects the substantial sense of fatigue accumulated through the demanding modern urban lifestyle, exacerbated by mobility restrictions and unpredictable lockdowns this year. Online comments show that the Chinese public is very sensitive toward any perceived additional burden: previous National Day holiday weeks were also rescheduled, with two extra work days added from the weekends. The difference is that this year, the two days are lumped together, whereas in the past they were spread out across two to three weeks. 

The psychological impact that this seemingly-minor change has is notable. The rescheduling, together with urges from multiple locations to avoid traveling and large gatherings, is causing many to lose interest in making plans. A comment that received 2,300 likes asks what is the point of the break when people are asked to stay put and work seven days afterward, while a trending post that received over 50,000 likes calls the authorities to focus more on curbing China’s toxic “996” work culture instead of tampering with the holiday schedule. 

Luxury brands can learn two things from the rescheduling saga. The first is that they should not have high expectations of travel retail performance during the upcoming holiday. On the verge of the pivotal 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the government has zero tolerance for potential COVID outbreaks caused by rebounding travels. The second is that Chinese urban dwellers yearn for stress relief more than ever. Going forward, luxury houses should explore what new products and events can offer needed respite from their daily hustle and bustle.

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

Sheep A Sheep

‘It’s An Addiction’: Over 60 Million Chinese Netizens Are Playing Sheep A Sheep

What Happened: Recently, the addictive tile matching mini-game Sheep A Sheep (羊了个羊) has become an overnight sensation in China, boasting over 60 million players daily. In fact, the excessive amount of users has caused startup Jianyou Technology’s viral passthrough game to crash several times already. 

The hit game has only three levels, however, it has become well known for its “hard fun.” The seemingly intuitive gameplay — which demands users find three identical tiles and eliminate them until all are cleared — has an extremely testing second level. Data shows that only 0.1 percent of its millions of players have scraped through. The high difficulty has lured many to the challenge, resulting in the upstart’s meteoric success.

The seemingly intuitive gameplay — which demands users find three identical tiles and eliminate them until all are cleared — has an extremely testing second level. Photo: Screenshot

The Jing Take: Such programs are rapidly gaining popularity in the mainland market. According to Tencent’s data, WeChat mini-games achieved more than 30 percent of commercial growth in 2021. Given the popularity, there are so far more than 100,000 developers in the country — making this a highly competitive sector. 

Yet the virality of Sheep A Sheep is no coincidence. Many young netizens have expressed how the “hard fun” of the game is highly addictive, with some of them staying up all night to (try to) pass the second level. When asked what made them so eager to win, the shared answer was “regional pride.” 

The new app shrewdly categorizes players by region, creating a strong sense of belonging and competition. Photo: Screenshot

The new app shrewdly categorizes players by region, creating a strong sense of belonging and competition. Currently, Guangdong team claims the top spot, followed by Sichuan. The success of this indicates the importance of a localized strategy. Alongside this, the game capitalizes on organic private traffic. It offers in-game aids to users in exchange for shares on the messaging app WeChat.

As luxury houses venture into the mini-game sector to entertain existing and potential young consumers, Sheep A Sheep presents a textbook success story from which to learn. The name of the game? Think local, maximize reach. 

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.

Angel Chen chinese designers collaboration

Chinese Designer Collaborations Are A Must For Global Brands

Jing Daily’s latest market report, Big in China: Brand Collaboration, is an essential guide for brands to plan, execute, and promote successful, revenue-generating collaborations in the China market. Download your copy today on our Reports page.

Recent years have seen a number of fashion brands tapping emerging and established Chinese designers for special collections or products. For brands, the benefits of leveraging these individuals are twofold. First, the ability to entice new consumer bases, for some popular designers, can equate to millions of social media followers. Second, established global brands can tap young and fashion-savvy audiences while domestic Chinese brands can instantly burnish their design and quality credentials.

In many cases, international brands are partnering with Chinese designers that are educated and/or based in western countries, who offer (and often heavily promote) an “East Meets West” design aesthetic. One Chinese designer who is one of the most prolific brand collaborators is Shenzhen-born, Central Saint Martins-educated Angel Chen, who after founding her eponymous designer brand in 2014 has collaborated with names such as H&M, Adidas Originals, M.A.C, Urban Outfitters, and Canada Goose.

In January 2022, Chen teamed up with Japanese beauty powerhouse Shiseido to launch special-edition packaging of the brand’s Ultimune, Vital Perfection, and Future Solution serums. As Juliette Duveau, founder of marketing consultancy the Chinese Pulse, noted of the collaboration, Shiseido aimed “to connect to Chinese contemporary creativity, and position itself to be more ‘fashionably trendy’” by working with Chen, adding that the brand was “looking to get closer to China’s Gen Z and the local creative communities.”

Despite a relatively low-key marketing rollout that consisted of just eight organic posts on Weibo, the campaign reached an estimated 3 million users, with two items selling out in rapid succession and the others low in stock within days of the launch.

One reason major brands are turning to Chinese designers is for their ability to influence younger Chinese millennial and Gen Z consumers, two demographics that have proven interested in global luxury as well as local Guochao (“national trend”) products and brands. Incorporating traditional design and cultural cues, guochao exemplifies the nationalist streak that motivates Chinese consumer purchases – and brands have taken note.

Working with (often, but not always, internationally trained) Chinese designers is also a way to bridge global markets, infusing a design sensibility that often proves as attractive to Chinese consumers as it does to consumers in North America and Europe.

In April and November 2021, American footwear brand UGG tapped another London-based Chinese brand, Feng Chen Wang, to put its spin on two collections reimagining UGG’s Classic Boot and Fluff Sandal silhouettes. As UGG President Andrea O’Donnell said of the collaboration, “Fengchen Wang is known for her thought-provoking take on deconstruction,” adding that Wang “reinterpreted [UGG’s] iconic Classic boot so that it can be worn throughout the year on the streets of Shanghai and the beaches in California.”

UGG x Feng Chen Wang. Photo: UGG

UGG’s collaboration with the brand was a social media success in China, driving 271,855 total engagements across Weibo, WeChat, and Xiaohongshu across 149 days — a relative eternity for a brand campaign in China — according to ReHub data. For reference, ReHub found that the Gucci x Marsper campaign of December 2021 saw engagement dry up after just nine days.

Wang has proven arguably the most popular Chinese designer for brand collaborations, racking up a number of high-profile partnerships with the likes of Converse, Levi’s, Nike Lab, Air Jordan, the Beijing Olympics, and Italian vehicle manufacturer Piaggio. But what exactly is it about this particular designer that has made her such a popular collaborator?

The e-scooter by Piaggio and Feng Chen Wang takes inspiration from China’s natural landscapes and traditional brushstroke technique. Photo: Piaggio x Feng Chen Wang

Her diverse array of collaborations points to her multidisciplinary design focus, which includes — but is not limited to — fashion. As Wang points out, “I’ve never thought of myself as solely a fashion designer, and I think in the future that Feng Chen Wang won’t just be a clothing brand, [either]. That’s one of the reasons why I collaborate with so many interesting and different brands, including some which are more lifestyle. In my design philosophy, design should be diversified and should be a part of art.”

The label’s design DNA — which typically includes Chinese design references but with clear international appeal — also reflects the type of sensibility preferred by global brands when launching a collaboration that may have one eye towards China but another towards other major global markets. Wang’s collaboration with Piaggio on the manufacturer’s first e-scooter, for example, featured a Chinese painting-inspired colorway that would be instantly recognized by Chinese consumers but could simply appear as an abstract pattern elsewhere.

Get your copy of Big in China: Brand Collaboration on our Reports page.

Gen Z Wedding china

How Gen Z Is Reshaping China’s Half-A-Trillion Wedding Market

Many Chinese women dream about their perfect wedding day from a young age. Hannah Yang, who is based in Shenzhen, says that “ever since I was a teenager, I had an inexplicable longing: I must wear a Vera Wang wedding dress, Jimmy Choo’s crystal shoes, and hold my wedding ceremony in a castle.” This year, the dream came true for the 26-year-old, who under a sky of fireworks said “I do” to her other half. 

There are many more like Yang. On the Chinese web, a catchphrase has been trending — “Marrying to true love wearing Vera Wang” (穿着Vera Wang, 嫁给爱情). As one of life’s most celebrated occasions, this translates into a significant expenditure, which is increasing for the Chinese market year on year. In 2020, the wedding sector topped around $201 billion (1.4 trillion RMB) in the country, and estimates have that figure almost tripled this year, reaching $575 billion (4 trillion RMB).

Vera Wang is one of the go-to designer labels for Chinese brides. Photo: Xiaohongshu

As Gen Zers get older and become the main growth engine of the bridal sector, brands are required to adapt and reinvent their strategies to cater to this young demographic. They present distinctly different mentalities, preferences, and demands from the previous generations. Here, Jing Daily dives into the bridal fashion segment to explore how luxury and designer labels can capitalize on this half-trillion-dollar market.

How much are Gen Zers willing to spend on weddings?

Driven by the desire for a unique and customized wedding, the average expense has grown at lightning speed in recent years. According to Tencent’s White Paper on Marriage Industry Insights in 2021, despite the pandemic, China’s average spending per couple on weddings reached $25,000 (174,000 RMB) in 2020 — 2.7 times higher than in 2015. 

“This is just an average ratio,” noted Anaïs Bournonville, head of the luxury division at Gentlemen Marketing Agency. “It is important to look into different target groups. Some HNWIs in China will spend millions of dollars on their wedding, favoring ultra-exclusive and extravagant locations, luxury designers’ dresses, and awesome animations.”

Although the current number of marriages is falling at a dramatically low rate — the bulletin released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs shows that 7.6 million were registered in 2021, down 6.1 percent from the previous year — the wedding market value has not been shrinking but almost tripling, signaling a tremendous opportunity for businesses.

West-East fusion 

In the past decade, under the influence of the West, local women have shown greater preferences for white gowns rather than the traditional lucky red as a predominant color for the wedding. However, rising Chinese cultural pride has made Gen Z revisit and appreciate their roots. Now, many young couples will opt for wedding decorations and bridal dresses and outfits that fuse the two aesthetics. 

Besides big names like Vera Wang, local designers are receiving great recognition in mainland China thanks to this. “The interest is particularly strong when local designers give a new interpretation of the qipao 旗袍 or cheongsam,” continued Bournonville. For instance, Jusere 绝设, Farmory 名瑞, Daniel Wang, and Qipology are quickly garnering awareness. 

Chinese bridal wear designers like Jusere have become popular for incorporating traditional Chinese elements. Photo: Courtesy of Jusere

“The combination of Chinese and Western elements is actually a fusion of multiculturalism, and we foresee it as the main trend of the future. The new generation of young people is no longer obsessed with traditional etiquettes, but give greater importance to self-expression,” commented Xu Chuanhai, founder of the Suzhou-based bridal brand Jusere, which has grown from a small atelier into a leading player in the market in the past 20 years.

In light of these trends, homegrown labels are generally better positioned than their international rivals to capitalize on this shift, thanks to their deep understanding of Chinese culture, traditions, and even the native silhouettes. 

Customization is king

Wealthier young couples are showcasing their status by customizing their wedding outfits. Shuyi Han, management project leader at Daxue consulting, explained that as many as 25 percent of the Shanghai brides and grooms spend $4300-$8600 (30,000-60,000 RMB) per dress just for bespoke extras.

The opportunity for made-to-order gowns is huge in the country. Huishan Zhang, founder and designer of the eponymous pret-à-couture house based in London, agreed: “We have seen our sales in China for bespoke dresses increase season on season from young women wanting something special for their wedding. They are not looking for something traditional, they want unique pieces.” 

Bridal pieces from London-based luxury designer Huishan Zhang. Photo: Huishan Zhang

Newness-oriented Chinese Gen Zers are willing to foot the bill for a unique and unforgettable experience on their big day. “The average cost of a wedding in China is 8.8 times Chinese couples’ average monthly income, and 42 percent exceed their budget,” said Han. 

“Young shoppers’ consumption habits have much shifted from their previous generation. They have independent and personalized tastes. They want to take part in the production, and they always keep a close eye on the market trends,” concluded Jusere’s Xu.

Clearly, luxury brands should not be alarmed by the drop in marriage. Rather, they should concentrate their efforts on communicating and delivering made-to-measure products, quality services, and memories to conquer the hearts and wallets of young to-be-wed couples and capitalize on this half-trillion-dollar market.

Spring Summer 2023 London Fashion Week

China’s Top 5 London Fashion Week Shows

Due to the sudden passing of Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, London Fashion Week’s (LFW) Spring 2023 offering was slightly reduced, with some of the headline designers such as Burberry and Raf Simons rescheduling their shows for October instead. Partly as a result of that, the four-day event had a lack of viral moments making their way over to China’s social platforms.

There were a few meme fashion moments, though. Chinese label Pronounce had models carry plastic dolls down the runway, JW Anderson presented keyboard-warrior clothes for our internet-obsessed world, and Asian-American designer Chet Lo’s collection featured gigantic balloon accessories that definitely couldn’t squeeze onto the subway.

Viral fashion (or lack thereof) aside, #london fashion week# on Weibo was read by 2.5 million people and discussed in 315 posts on the day of writing alone. The main conversation was about how the Queen’s death impacted this season’s LFW schedule, though many also marveled at their favorite shows. According to netizens, here are the best LFW collections of Spring 2023:

Simone Rocha

Photos of the Simone Rocha Spring 2023 collection by Daniel Sims. Photo: Simone Rocha

Photos of the Simone Rocha Spring 2023 collection by Daniel Sims.

Despite Irish designer Simone Rocha getting caught up in H&M’s cotton controversy in April 2021 due to a collaborative collection happening at the same time, her latest London show was a hit on Weibo.

The label’s popularity which saw H&M China’s sales channels crash when that collaboration launched in March 2021 has still managed to maintain a steady pace. 

One of the most popular posts discussing Rocha’s collection was by fashion commentator Nikki-Min (4.7 million fans). She wrote, “Simone Rocha will never disappoint.[..] The design of the 2023 Spring collection is so innocent! The fluffy tulle skirt and sweet-lace butterfly structure evokes a complex yet gorgeous feeling, just like walking out of an oil painting.”

Newly popular in China, the ribbons, pearls, and tulle romance of the designer’s aesthetic is proving solid among young consumers. Online statistics strongly suggest that the brand needs to expand beyond its single Hong Kong store. Watch this space.

Dilara Findikoglu 

Chinese netizens compared Dilara Findikoglu’s gothic looks to those of Alexander McQueen. Photo: Dilara Findikoglu

Fashion blogger Dipsy Dipsy (almost 8 million fans) labeled Dilara Findikoglu as their favorite on schedule, comparing it to the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen due to the “goth punk and bloody aesthetics.” 

Many other Weibo users admired the fishbone corset sculpting and the “gloomy” medieval beauty of the Spring 2023 collection. One blogger wrote that it was the event’s “most tasteful show.”

As the brand is yet to have a presence on Weibo or WeChat, all content discussing the show came as a result of either consumer-interest or fashion blogger posts. Considering the evident popularity of the brand online, it’s surprising that no local retailer has snapped up the opportunity to stock it. 

Judging by the popularity, perhaps this collection will be the first to make it to a fashion-forward store, such as the disruptive, Shanghai-based concept store ENG Concept.

Richard Quinn

Unsurprisingly, one of the most-talked about shows of the season was Richard Quinn, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in 2018. Many netizens discussed the opening section of the show which was an ode to the late Queen Elizabeth II, presenting 22 all-black outfits.

Across the many conversations being had in China, one blogger said the statement humped designs of the collection resembled the famous “Lumps and Bumps” series by Rei Kawakubo. Another said the opening funeral looks were similar to Lady Gaga’s funeral outfit in American Horror Story.

Overall, the main consensus on Weibo was how impressed users were that the Irish-British designer managed to pull off the black looks in the space of just 10 days. Despite being one of the leading LFW topics of discussions, Quinn is another designer without social media presence or a standalone store in China.

Halpern

Halpern Spring 2023. Photo: Halpern

Halpern’s Spring 2023 looks featured bold makeup and even bolder prints. Photo: Halpern

London-based Michael Halpern’s eponymous label presented a collection labeled “wild yet elegant” by Chinese blogger FashionAmberR (5.5 million followers). Though opinions on the leopard print were divided, the general consensus was that the show was a “glamorous hit.”

The dramatized makeup engaged viewers, the bold prints got people talking, and users seemed genuinely intrigued by the embellished designs. Presenting such high-octane opulence made each runway shot an ultimate shareable image for netizens.

Although it’s not yet available in mainland China, Halpern is currently stocked across Asia, in Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Hong Kong, and India. 

JW Anderson

Last on the list, but certainly not the least spoken about, is JW Anderson  one of the only major labels to stay on schedule as planned. Chinese fans discussed the rumors of the creative director heading to Louis Vuitton men’s line, while complimenting the collection as an ode to today’s digital natives.

One blogger recognized how the lineup incorporated Anderson’s signature DIY elements, noting, “I don’t think Anderson is trying to use design as a spear to declare war on an invisible (or visible) enemy [such as the internet], he’s more of a self-centered playboy: free and unfocused.”

When searching for the label across China’s socials, Fall 2022’s Pigeon Bag collection is one of the most viral pieces, proving the power of meme fashion. But the fact that London It-girl Alexa Chung attended the show sparked some views and conversation for this particular collection.

The brand launched its first pop-up store in China back in 2019 as well as a local D2C site, and has since catered more and more to its fanbase there. 

Li Jiaqi lipstick king comeback

China’s Lipstick King Returns After Tank Cake Controversy

What happened: After an exile of 103 days, China’s most famous livestream host Austin Li returned to the airwaves on September 20. Affectionately dubbed the “Lipstick King,” Li’s session gathered 3 million views in 10 minutes (over 60 million in total) and received more than 120 million likes. Across the two hours, upwards of 63 million viewers tuned in to see the host’s lowkey, unannounced comeback. The broadcast included well-known names such as Anta, Neiwei, L’Oréal, and Nivea and, despite his calls for audiences to “shop rationally,” many of the products — which ranged from shoes and socks to air fryers and eyebrow pencils — quickly sold out. According to local media, sales were in excess of $17 million (120 million RMB).

After an exile of 103 days, China’s most famous livestream host Austin Li returned to the airwaves on September 20. Photo: Weibo Screenshot

The Jing Take: An incident on June 3 saw Li’s livestream abruptly interrupted following the appearance of a tank-shaped cake on camera. His team cited this as a “technical error” but it drew widespread attention and speculation. Now, over three months later, and without any explanation or fanfare, he’s back. Fans have eagerly awaited his return (the last post on his Weibo account has nearly half a million likes and comments). During the session they gushed, “you finally came back” and “no matter what you sell, I will buy everything.” 

Recommended ReadingEverybody Wants To Be The Next Li JiaqiBy Gemma A. Williams
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The enterprizing Li failed to acknowledge either his absence or the reason for his return. In fact, the mainland’s livestreaming sector as well as its top host are both under ongoing scrutiny. Many presenters have disappeared for a variety of reasons: controversy, tax scandals, and more. However, this puts him firmly back in play in the run-up to the country’s biggest retail festival, Double 11. As Li offers a valuable lifeline to companies looking to reach consumers, this is very good news for brands, especially beauty ones. Perhaps even more than the fans — who fueled the Weibo hashtag “Li Jiaqi Livestream” with a not inconsiderable 72 million views — they will be relieved that the lipstick king has returned to take his throne. 

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.

Temu US expansion Amazon

Pinduoduo Versus Amazon: Can China’s E-commerce Giant Win On US Turf?

One Chinese tech company has become an unexpected winner of COVID-19: Pinduoduo. Over the past month, the mobile-only marketplace has emerged as the top performer in the Nasdaq Golden Dragon China Index, with shares soaring 43 percent and outpacing larger e-commerce rivals Alibaba and JD.com.

With the mainland’s economy cooling, Pinduoduo is looking abroad to continue expanding. On September 1, the Shanghai-based platform launched an online shopping site in the US called Temu, offering fashion, jewelry, health, home supplies, and other categories. According to a press release, “Temu was created with the goal of empowering consumers by giving them access to a broad range of carefully curated products at ultra-competitive prices.”

Temu describes itself as an “online marketplace featuring unique merchandise at hard-to-beat prices.” Photo: Temu

Known for offering discounts on agricultural produce, Pinduoduo’s success points to the growing price sensitivity of Chinese consumers. Two-plus years of the pandemic have worn down revenge shopping urges; battered by lockdowns, travel restrictions, and high youth unemployment, locals have cut down on discretionary spending. Even the luxury resale market is seeing prices for Rolex watches and Hermès bags tumble as cash-strapped business owners offload their goods, underscoring weak consumer confidence.

Although Pinduoduo’s Chinese app also offers apparel, beauty, and even iPhones, it is best known for connecting farmers directly to consumers. Can it now find success outside of its farm-to-table business? And will the new Temu platform’s low prices be enough to ride high in the saturated North American market?

Pinduoduo’s pandemic success

In 2020’s fiscal year, Pinduoduo’s revenues had surged 97 percent year-on-year to $9.1 billion (59 billion RMB) and the number of active users increased by 57 million to reach 788 million.

Established in 2015 — much later than other domestic e-commerce players — Pinduoduo has quickly developed into one of the country’s largest marketplaces. With JD and Alibaba dominating first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the e-tailer differentiated itself by catering to underserved shoppers in lower-tier cities. It also made the online shopping experience more interactive by introducing “group buying,” allowing customers to buy products in bulk with their friends and family members to receive steep discounts.

Recommended ReadingMeet Pinduoduo, Alibaba’s Newest CompetitionBy Adina-Laura Achim
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These features helped Pinduoduo post strong results even during lockdowns. In Q2 2022, after setting up a special section in the app to deliver food to trapped Shanghai residents, Pinduoduo was the only Chinese internet company to report a surge in profits (up 36 percent to $4.6 billion or 31.4 billion RMB), tripling its net income, while Alibaba and JD.com posted their slowest quarterly growth on record.

Pinduoduo’s success also comes down to its heavy investment in agriculture, one of its key priorities. “Agriculture products are great for user retention,” said Queenie Yao, a marketing and communication manager at China e-commerce enabler Azoya. “Fruits and vegetables are a daily necessity for almost all users —  this is even more so as many of Pinduoduo’s customers live in rural areas.” Going a step further, “throughout last year, Pinduoduo initiated agriculture-focused shopping festivals with different regions to promote thousands of local specialties,” she added. 

Entering the Amazon-dominated US market

While Pinduoduo has found its niche in China, the US is a totally different playing field. Here, the social commerce platform must go up against the formidable Amazon for market share, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of all US retail e-commerce sales. A household name, Amazon draws 126 million mobile visitors in the US to its digital stores each month. Pinduoduo will have a huge ways to go to build up name recognition and site traffic.

“Chinese brands and platforms have notoriously been bad at branding, so much so they focus too much on sales volume over any longer-term benefits,” said Arnold Ma, founder and CEO of Chinese digital agency Qumin. “Quality should be the number one priority of the marketing team, focus on trust over recognition —  [the latter] will come on its own in time.”

When it comes to quality of goods and services, Amazon currently has the upper hand. In 2020, the platform rolled out a “Luxury Stores” section in the US, offering established and emerging high-end names such as Elie Saab, Rodarte, and Oscar De La Renta. This summer, it launched an innovative shopping feature called Virtual Try-On for Shoes, where shoppers can test thousands of sneaker styles on their phones. 

In June 2022, Amazon launched a “Virtual Try-On for Shoes” feature in the US and Canada. Photo: Amazon

“Amazon focuses on providing brands and designers with innovative resources including motion graphics and enhanced autoplay imagery, to further share their stories and connect to a fashion-engaged customer base,” stated Vice President of Amazon Seller Services, Xavier Flamand in a press release about Luxury Stores’ recent expansion to Europe.

In contrast, Temu lacks these elite renowned labels, advanced features, and sheer volume of goods. However, Ma notes that it could be more appealing to some given the lower barriers to entry: “On the business side the platform is to provide ‘zero entry and commission fee’ policies for merchants. This sharply contrasts with the high service fees charged by Amazon, which can be as much as 30 percent of total sales income, so it might naturally add to Pinduoduo’s appeal to business users.”

Learning from Shein

In that vein, another way Temu could compete with Amazon is on price. Scrolling through the website — where there is currently a 30 percent site-wide sale to celebrate its opening — prices are dirt cheap: $2 bucket hats, $0.99 cargo print boyfriend jeans, $4.22 running shoes. But banking on “ultra-competitive prices” also draws comparisons to another e-tail titan: fellow Chinese company Shein

The fast-fashion apparel maker has already conquered the US market; in fact, in May 2022, Shein became the most-downloaded app in the US, surpassing TikTok, Instagram, and Amazon. 

“Shein disrupted the fast fashion industry with a bottom-up model (led by insights and data collected from what consumers prefer), compared to the traditional top-down model (led by high fashion and designers),” explains Ma. “They also had a huge focus on creator led social media over the traditional super-polished and over-produced branded accounts. Two things that Temu would do well to take notes from.”

Temu’s Facebook account currently has just 2,727 followers. Photo: Temu

But Temu is not completely at a disadvantage. Despite being one of the newest online marketplaces in the world, “Temu has access to one of the most sophisticated supply chain networks in the world right from the start,” the platform stated. Like Shein, Temu can leverage Pinduoduo’s global network of suppliers and fulfillment partners, which managed to handle a whopping 61 billion orders in 2021 alone.

But being able to handle orders is one thing; and attracting them is another. Pinduoduo made its name in China by providing fresh products and popularizing group buying, giving customers what it calls the “Costco + Disney” experience (i.e. more savings, more fun). Without these distinguishing features, Temu will need to carve a new niche in North America and learn from its predecessors if it wants to succeed long-term.

Metaverse Alibaba retail

Alibaba’s Latest Web3 Project Proves A New Era Of Retail Is Officially Here

What Happened: Interactive shopping is making waves across the Chinaverse once again. On September 14, Alibaba Group revealed that its marketing technology platform Alimama has plans to launch an immersive meta space called “Metaverse” (曼塔沃斯) for this year’s Double 11 festival. Within the digital establishment, consumers will be able to browse virtual shops and engage in exclusive entertainment experiences. As of now, the project is said to have resonated with a number of brands across the country, whose names are yet to be disclosed, suggesting many are gearing up to show their cooperation and involvement with the campaign. 

The Jing Take: Virtual shopping spaces are being adopted on a large scale across China. Alibaba has continuously demonstrated that it wants in, and the group has long been a leader in tapping the country’s shopping power through smart innovation and accessible experiences. 

Tmall Luxury Pavilion offers 3D shopping and virtual reality try-ons for products and digital collectibles. Photo: Alibaba Group

For example, Alibaba’s luxury platform, Tmall Luxury Pavilion, recently announced that it will host an augmented reality fashion show and introduce a Meta Pass, which grants priority access to brands’ product, later this month. And earlier this year, the company released its Taobao Metaverse Mall in time for the annual 618 shopping festival. There, visitors could guide avatars through 3D stores and engage in a number of interactive activities, while Alibaba got to test the Web3 waters and explore new ways of responding to changing consumer demand. These initiatives set the precedent for the company and its Chinaverse expansion. 

While the mainland’s restrictions regarding Web3 remain, many companies are grasping at whatever they can in order to cultivate a digital presence while staying in line with limitations. The Hangzhou-based conglomerate is revered for its forward-thinking approach, but as more businesses — such as Tencent and Baidu — invest heavily in the digital space, the pressure to stay ahead is ever-present. Across the globe, the metaverse still awaits its mainstream retail takeover. But for China, the future of shopping is already here. 

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.

niche fragrance China

Niche Fragrances Are Booming In China, And Global Brands Are Taking Note

With China’s economic outlook remaining cloudy due to the country’s zero-COVID policy and its unpredictable lockdowns, a deepening real estate crisis and weakening yuan, and sagging consumer confidence, the year ahead could be difficult for luxury brands in one of their more important markets. Yet even as questions arise about the health of Chinese consumer demand, recent investments indicate the country’s personal fragrance market could remain a bright spot even in the event of a marked luxury slowdown.

Owing to more affordable price points and relative subtlety compared to logo-festooned accessories, fragrances are in the midst of a growth spurt in mainland China. As previously noted in our market report, How Niche Fragrances Are Winning Over Young Chinese Consumers, only 2.5 percent of China’s massive population of 1.4 billion currently uses personal fragrances, compared to nearly 52 percent of Americans. In France, 42 percent of consumers use personal scents on a daily basis, while another 42 percent use perfume products somewhat less often, according to a 2017 survey.

Even in a crowded beauty space, the growth potential of fragrances stands out. One survey by the Chinese market research firm iResearch noted that fragrance ranked as a top category in fashion and beauty (excluding cosmetics and skincare) for Gen Z female consumers, coming out ahead of clothing and accessories.

Powered by these young consumers, China’s fragrance market is expected to maintain double-digit growth in the years ahead, with Mintel projecting sales to double between 2020 and 2025 from 6.9 billion yuan ($1.1 billion) to 15.4 billion yuan ($2.4 billion). Euromonitor International, meanwhile, expects fragrance sales to reach 30 billion yuan ($4.7 billion) by 2025. Growing fragrance demand and usage isn’t just benefiting the biggest names with the longest history in mainland China — among them Chanel N°5 and Dior J’Adore. In recent years, the evolution of consumer tastes has brought a greater willingness to experiment with lesser-known brands from both overseas and domestic producers.

Rising interest in niche fragrances among Chinese consumers is closely linked to a bigger “niche” trend that has penetrated the fashion and beauty industries, one that sees millennial and Gen Z consumers seeking out products that can serve as vehicles of self-expression. And because individuals can easily become identified with their scents, fragrance has emerged as a key signifier that can be used to stand out from the crowd.

This particular appeal has been leveraged by influencers and celebrities on social media, where niche fragrance products have become a favorite topic for recommendations. On Xiaohongshu, influencer Doudou_Babe (3.5 million followers) selected fragrances from Diptyque, Penhaligon’s, Kilian, and Replica; actress Jiang Shuying (3.3 million) favored fragrant candles and diffusers from Jo Malone and Cire Trudon; and actress Li Xiaolu (3.4 million) noted that L’Oréal-owned Atelier Cologne was her top choice for going to afternoon tea with her friends.

A candy-scented fragrance collaboration between White Rabbit and Scent Library tapped into consumer nostalgia, national pride, and the growing interest in perfumes. Photo: Scent Library

However, this trend hasn’t only benefited foreign fragrance brands. A number of local startups have entered the scene over the past half-decade, building their reputations via savvy nostalgia marketing and brand collaborations. Among the most high-profile of these domestic niche fragrance brands include Scent Library, Cosmic Speculation, and Scentooze — all of which have raked in millions in funding rounds in recent years and successfully tapped millennial and Gen Z demand both on- and offline.

Even tech giants with no previous experience in the space have entered the market, with TikTok parent company Bytedance announcing the launch of its perfume subsidiary, Emotif, earlier this year.

Global incumbents are also taking note of the rise of domestic Chinese fragrance brands. Recently, L’Oréal China purchased a minority stake in two-year-old brand Documents via its new China-focused investment fund Shanghai Meicifang Investment (backed by L’Oréal’s private equity fund Bold, which is aimed at acquiring minority stakes in innovative beauty startups).

Launched in 2021, Documents has attracted the attention of Chinese millennials and Gen Zers through its focus on using raw materials produced in or originating from China, with prices ranging from 450 yuan ($64) to 2,250 yuan ($320) per bottle. Eschewing e-commerce in favor of brand-owned WeChat mini-programs and offline stockists, Documents opened its first physical store in Shanghai in July 2021. Over the following six months, the brand claimed an average purchase value of 1,500 yuan ($236). In terms of core consumer demographics, post-90s shoppers accounted for more than half of Documents sales. The brand has also shown itself an adept brand partner, launching a well-received collaboration with Chinese accessory brand Yvmin ahead of this year’s Qixi Festival.

If a slowing economy continues to hit consumer enthusiasm for making big-ticket purchases in the year ahead, it is very likely that more accessible (not to mention personal and private) high-end purchases like fragrances, skincare, and beauty could see some of the strongest growth in the luxury sector. Does this mean we could see L’Oréal and other leading global groups invest in China’s fast-growing local startups?

metaverse idols Asia

How Asia’s Idols Became A Gateway To The Metaverse

Asia’s idol economy has long been a market fueled by toxicity and hysteria, yet its explosive purchasing power remains unparalleled. With the metaverse rapidly settling into its title as a billion-dollar industry, the two have, unsurprisingly, become a match made in revenue-generating heaven. Now, the continent’s most prominent entertainment stars want in on the growing landscape. 

Despite its turbulent reputation, celebrities across the landmass are beginning to recognize how Web3 could become a driving force behind the bolstering of their digital presence and leverage idol-to-fan dynamics. It’s a burgeoning affair, but one that delivers a lot of potential to expand to new heights — only recently did girl group Blackpink take the win for Best Metaverse Performance at the MTV Music awards after their “The Virtual” concert via PUBG Mobile, with BTS’ Minecraft production coming up a close second.  

With numerous big names investing heavily in their own virtual futures, many are turning to marketing campaigns such as digital collectibles and cross-dimensional experiences to tap into the growing Web3 market, as well as elevating their online communities by inviting fans along with them in the process.

According to a report published by iResearch Consulting Group in 2020, the market value related to the fan economy in China was estimated to be more than $619.2 billion (4 trillion RMB) in 2019, and was projected to surpass $861.7 billion (6 trillion RMB) in 2023. Meanwhile, South Korea’s K-pop industry has seen fans spending more on concerts, merchandise, and products related to their musical icons. 

K-pop girl group Blackpink took home the prize of “Best Metaverse Performance” at this year’s VMA Awards. Photo: PUBG Mobile

But Operation Qinglang, a program launched by the Cyberspace Administration of China last year which saw the tightening of policies within the entertainment industry, dealt a huge blow to the idol market. The crackdown prevented fan pages that had proliferated millions of followers, as well as limiting the number of times a celebrity or their associated products could appear on web pages. While many netizens demonstrated support for the decision, it also meant that many VIPs across the nation could no longer capitalize on their online fan groups to the same degree.

Which is where Web3 comes in. Although still somewhat in its infancy, the newfound digital space could aid in leveraging China’s idol economy. The transition to virtual could also see a surge of Gen-Z audiences following these stars and onboarding onto the space, sending the mainland’s online market value on a promising upwards trajectory, despite ongoing legislations regarding the metaverse across the country. 

Across Asia, Web3 also opens up a new world of prospects. The landscape acts as a melting pot of possibilities in which idols can take on celebrity ambassadorships, global-scale concerts, meet-and-greets, and more. Cyrus Lu, co-founder of NFT-native luxury brand Luxeto, believes that the metaverse is a way for personalities to cut through the noise of the oversaturated entertainment industry: “It’s novel and exciting and gets the attention of the fan bases among today’s overstimulating environment.”

Mandopop star Jay Chou was one of the early adopters in the idol industry. The Tawainese music icon shot into the spotlight after releasing digitally-rendered versions of his “Phanta Bears” that he sold as NFTs. The launch set a new precedent for the global crypto art market, after amassing over $10 million (69 million RMB) and breaking the record for the fastest-selling NFT in the world in terms of quantity and price. 

Following this success, Chou recently demonstrated his ambitions to expand his metaversal presence by turning five of his songs’ demos into digital collectibles via platform Bohe. The collectibles can be used as keys that unlock access to an exclusive virtual space, where fans can navigate as avatars and listen to the demos. While the release gained a lot of traction on Chinese social media, fans seemed hesitant to invest, with the 10,000 keys failing to sell out. 

Lu speculates that the mainland’s wavering response to collectibles could be due to its non-existent resale sector for such assets. “The feedback from the market [China] has been somewhat lukewarm, partially because there’s no established secondary market for trading like OpenSea.” Beijing’s stringent bans on such platforms make it difficult for these products to increase in value or be sold on, causing them to ultimately lose appeal from the get-go.

Jay Chou’s “Phantabear” NFT drop made history after selling out in 40 minutes, bringing in $53 million (371.6 million RMB). Photo: OpenSea

Meanwhile, South Korean girl group Lightsum has also tapped the space after collaborating with French designer Victor Weinsanto and Web3-first agency Brand New Vision on digital clothing collection M3TALOVE. The NFT series consists of eight exclusive wearables, each designed to represent the individuality of the group’s members. Whether the collectibles prove successful remains uncertain, but the project demonstrates how Asia’s idols are striving for more exposure in the metaverse through creative endeavors like this. 

Richard Hobbs, CEO of Brand New Vision, believes that K-culture in the metaverse is not only expediting, but it’s here to stay. “There have always been youth-driven trends at the intersection of fashion, music, and sport,” he observes. “In the last 10 years these have been joined by social media and other Web2 digital experiences. Now we are ready for Web3, real-time virtual events, and completely new ways of dressing and displaying identity.”

Developments across the landscape are signaling this sentiment to be true. Over the past year, an increasing number of K-pop acts have used the metaverse to create a virtual hub where they can build stronger connections with their fans. Girl group Billlie turned to SK Telecom’s Web3 service Ifland to host a meet and greet event with their fans, as part of their “K-Pop Guest House Land” after the band announced that it would be expanding its presence in the virtual space. 

Parisian fashion designer Victor Weinsanto’s latest project involves a series of NFT wearables in collaboration with girl group Lightsum and Brand New Vision. Photo: Weinsanto

“Korea, in particular in Asia, is very pro-metaverse, so we see a lot of interest in how that can manifest itself in multiple ways that lead to wider engagement of both existing fans and taking K-culture to a wider global audience,” Hobbs notes. Similarly, South Korean girl group NMIXX also created a fandom space earlier this month on Zepeto, where visitors can practice dance moves and take selfies with the members using their own avatars. In the first six days, around 1 million users visited the virtual space and created more than 600,000 pieces of content on the platform.

Moreover, earlier this year, Gusto Collective and One Cool Group brought Asia’s first blockbuster piece of crypto art to life as an extension of movie star Louis Koo’s “Warriors of Future” release. Ten thousand unique avatar NFTs were launched via OneCoolGroup’s dedicated website, which have now sold out.

“Through owning an NFT from the film project, fans are directly supporting the artists or IPs they believe in. They can directly interact with the actor Louis Koo and the production team and of course, with other members of the community,” Aaron Lau, founder and CEO of Gusto Collective, explains. “Through NFT blockchain ledger technologies, creators will continue to receive royalty fees from subsequent transactions. Web3 technology is a game-changer in generating greater value through content and experiences for all stakeholders.” Not only can tokens open up new pathways for audiences to immerse themselves in, but there’s also the rewards for the artists themselves — it’s a two-way advantage for everyone involved.

To celebrate the release of blockbuster “Warriors of Future,” film star Louis Koo released a series of NFTs in partnership with Gusto Collective and One Cool Group. Photo: Gusto Collective

In short, there’s huge scope for VIPs to engage with their communities in meaningful ways online, and evidence suggests that the appetite from fans is already there. KLKTN, a curated NFT platform which aims to elevate fandom experiences through Web3, is witnessing this reshaping of fan culture in real time. The platform’s popularity boils down to the level of added value it offers to fanbases, which can’t be replicated in the offline space. While musicians and artists are able to share their behind-the-scenes content and creative processes, they’re also able to enrich engagement with their fans by allowing them to select, purchase, and own authentic virtual “Special Edition” collectibles and digitally tokenized “Moments.” 

But the metaverse remains an exceedingly challenging space to get to grips with. The mass proliferation of the online terrain opens up new corners of the internet that have yet to be regulated. This increased possibility of scams and frauds poses risks to both audiences and celebs. Moreover, a rise in virtual idols across the space means personalities risk losing their cultural relevance to these new competitors who are, as a result of their widespread popularity, being swept up by labels across Asia for brand deals, ambassadorships, and promotional campaigns. 

The tight grip on the Chinese celebrity community these days has to some extent contributed to the rise of virtual idols, think Ayayi or Ling,” Lu says. “The virtual idol by nature does not come with the personal risks an IRL celebrity imposes. This might mitigate the risk brands might face when signing celebrities or brand ambassadors.” For companies, the malleability of these makes them much easier to mold to their image, and they won’t lose their appeal to scandals and the like. 

Challenges may remain but for now, stars across Asia seem to be willing to take the risk. For fans and celebrities alike, the metaverse can be more than just another money-making avenue. It’s a place for fans to meet their heroes, talk with them, and feel a personal connection — something that isn’t so easily achieved in the real world.

Li-Ning Hong Kong Store

Li-Ning Returns To Hong Kong After A Decade

China’s sportswear giant Li-Ning is making an ambitious second try for the Hong Kong market by leasing a 7,000-square-foot duplex store on the prestigious Canton Road, once populated by mainland tourists. This will be Li-Ning’s only flagship in Hong Kong and is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2022. According to local media, the rent is $254,806 (HK$ 2 million) — 70 percent lower than the previous tenant’s lease.

Back in 2009, Li-Ning opened its first boutique in the city but announced its closure only three years later in 2012. At that time, the company’s spokesperson stated that the firm’s business in Hong Kong was still in an exploratory phase and was intended to be carried out in a risk- and cost-controlled manner. In 2012, the pains of rapid expansion at home and abroad became evident — in mainland China alone, it closed a total of 952 branches in the first half of the year, stating that “now the focus is on the development of the mainland market.” 

A decade later, the group is returning to the region in an attempt to claim market share. Li-Ning in recent years has undergone a total makeover: from a homegrown sports label to a powerful household name. In 2018, Li-Ning debuted at New York Fashion Week and proudly showcased its “中国李宁” (China Li-Ning) logo on the runway collection. Since then, the brand has largely benefitted from the rising guochao trend, beating many international rivals in the mainland.

In 2018, Li-Ning debuted at New York Fashion Week and proudly showcased its “中国李宁” (China Li-Ning) logo on the runway collection. Photo: Weibo

The outfit has certainly amassed a cult following in the domestic market thanks to patriotic shoppers and ever more sophisticated offerings. Yet, being a native mainlander will not necessarily play in favor of the Chinese sportswear concern in the eyes of Hong Kongers, who traditionally show a greater preference for western (and even Japanese or Korean) names. 

Li-Ning seems determined to cement its reputation in the city with such a statement location, offering an in-store experience aimed at transmitting its brand philosophy, products, and services to the consumer. Perhaps the line is hoping to capture the future influx of mainland Chinese tourists once the borders become easier to cross, but that’s not the only goal, says Hong Kong retail and fashion expert Jimmy K. W. Chan, founder of Semeiotics Ltd. “With the new direction of the Chinese central government cultivating ‘new patriotism,’ especially targeting consumerism, the move by Li-Ning makes perfect sense. Partially a showcase to the world, partially maybe to show support to this new directive.” 

“I think they’re not just targeting mainland shoppers. I think and hope it is a branding/marketing exercise as well,” Chan adds. “It’s a mix I’m sure. I believe Li-Ning is and will be the first super brand to come from China, if it isn’t already.”

Recommended ReadingLi Ning Leads the Charge of Chinese Luxury BrandsBy Ollie A. Williams
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The name isn’t the only one to invest in Hong Kong retail after the city had suffered over several years. Luxury maisons Dior, Lanvin, Miu Miu, and Patek Philippe have all flocked to open new stores. And Harbour City — Hong Kong’s largest shopping center, located on Canton Road — is set to open 100 new boutiques in the next two years. 

All eyes are on the reopening of Hong Kong’s borders, and many have an optimistic forecast of the revenge shopping that will follow when tourists return. Now, the race is on to occupy the best landmark spots on Canton Road at a drastically reduced rent, and Li-Ning is definitely not letting the opportunity slip away.

Additional reporting by Jing Zhang 

Louis Vuitton Aranya

Louis Vuitton’s Cultural Strategy Behind Its Spin-Off Show In Aranya

What Happened: On September 16, Louis Vuitton created one of the biggest social media moments this year with the physical presentation of its Men’s Spring 2023 spin-off show. A 320-meter catwalk was unfurled in a sandscape on a beach in Aranya, a coastal city in Qinghuangdao. Alongside the collection shown in Paris this June, the house bought 10 new looks specifically designed for local audiences.

The opening looks of Louis Vuitton’s Men’s Spring 2023 spin-off show. Photo: Louis Vuitton

The show’s livestream was accessible on eight local platforms, including the brand’s official site, Weibo, WeChat, Douyin, Kuaishou, Smart TV open page, Tencent, and Dewu. The Aranya community as well as its partners such as Manner Coffee and local universities also recruited audience members for the broadcast. For the first time, the house livestreamed on Gen Z’s go-to social media and e-commerce platform Dewu. The online viewership across all channels amounted to record 329 million worldwide as of September 18 — a monumental moment for not only the house but also the wider luxury industry.

The Jing Take: Accessing Dewu (also known as Poizon) marked a smart digital move for Louis Vuitton, the first luxury brand to livestream on the platform. Founded in 2015 as a content-sharing community with an emphasis on streetwear, Dewu is now a fully-fledged social commerce and trend indicator app, with Gen Zers accounting for nearly 90 percent of its users. KOLs who are vocal on the platform were invited to attend the show, which organically engaged a demographic of young men.

A 320-meter catwalk was unfurled in a sandscape on a beach in Aranya. Photo: Louis Vuitton

In addition, a cinematic prelude titled “Mirage” co-created by Chinese directors Jia Zhangke and Wei Shujun was released on Weibo. The film portrayed themes of childhood, discovery and community, all of which were highlighted in Louis Vuitton’s final celebration of Virgil Abloh.

Meanwhile, the house also presented Librairies Éphémères in Aranya, two book kiosks in high-visibility locations that are stocked with the complete collection of Louis Vuitton Travel Editions and the newly launched publication, “Louis Vuitton: Virgil Abloh.” Key landmarks of the community are painted with creative visuals from the house. From collaborating with Chinese creative talents to rolling out pop-up projects and takeovers, this ongoing dialogue between Louis Vuitton and local communities has cemented the maison’s cultural integrity among domestic consumers.

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Louis Vuitton’s takeovers of key landmarks in Aranya (swipe left). Photo: Louis Vuitton

Launching a physical spin-off show in China is a challenging, yet encouraging initiative in 2022. The Aranya spectacular not only consolidated Louis Vuitton’s commitment to China but also showcased the powerhouse’s pioneering vision through influencing a broader audience and underlining its inclusivity.

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.

metaverse pricing

Answering Luxury’s Most Pressing Questions On Pricing

In the second edition of our Jing Daily x Équité webinar series about the luxury metaverse, the focus was on extreme value creation and pricing. Attendance from brands including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Vacheron Constantin underscored the importance of the topic. 

Digital value creation in luxury is one of the most critical aspects, because pricing is complex and not well understood. Importantly, the psychological effects of paying for NFTs with crypto plus using auction mechanisms may feel like an advantage at first, since it increases the willingness to pay, but the long-term risks of a value decline are significant.

The conclusion of the webinar was that brand storytelling was never more critical than today and that to sustain pricing, each metaverse project needs a unique, intriguing, and desire-creating story. Here, many luxury houses have significant gaps that impact their ability to price and to retain the value of their digital products over time. Given the ample number of questions during the Q&A, I decided to dedicate this column to answering the most pressing questions. 

In a nutshell, getting the pricing right means to create value first and then price for it. Unfortunately, the reality for most metaverse initiatives is different. Not enough emphasis is put on structuring projects in a way that they create extreme value and pricing is often just determined arbitrarily. This can lead to catastrophic results. We break this concept down below.

What are your thoughts on factors of scarcity in the metaverse and how these relate to physical products?

Scarcity alone does not create value. Scarcity needs to be connected to a unique story that resonates with the audience. Similar to physical products, the combination of a desire-creating story and scarcity will drive up the value of an initiative, hence the willingness to pay.

Do you think the concept of “loss of virtual ownership” during auctions can be amplified if you virtually show the object moving from bidder to bidder in a metaverse?

The effects of virtual ownership and its loss are felt on an individual level. If I bid for an NFT and the highest bid then exceeds my offer, I will feel that I “virtually” lost the item and experience the psychological pain associated with it. I would not expect it to increase by showing how the object moves from one person to the other as I will feel the pain of losing my virtual ownership instantly once I know someone else placed the higher bid. 

The visualization should not have a significant additional effect. It’s more critical for brands to be aware that the particularities of the pricing mechanism may lead to a measurable increase of the willingness to pay. In a short-term scenario, this may sound like a great option. However, in the long-term there is a significant risk of alienating clients if the (too high) prices can’t be sustained over time and the value collapses. 

If I set my NFT price lower than my competitors, is my brand at risk of being perceived as less valuable? 

Your aim should be to first strategize about the value that each individual initiative provides. This includes creating a powerful narrative that is unique to your brand. The price should reflect this individual value, not what your competitors do. If the story of your competitors creates a value that is 100x higher, then their ability to price will be significantly higher than yours, and vice versa. So instead of worrying about the signal of the pricing, my recommendation is to be obsessed with the value and then afterwards define the pricing in line with the value. There are tools like the Luxury Index (LI), which is detailed in my book “Luxury Marketing & Management,” that allow you to estimate the value of the brand and initiative storytelling.

How can luxury brands create a customer experience in these virtual worlds? We all know that one of the biggest advantages of luxury brands is the customer experience in stores.

Even in stores, the customer experience often differs significantly. I recently visited the Paris flagship store of one of the most iconic luxury brands in the world and the service experience was so miserable that I have not bought anything from the brand ever since. In a digital reality, there is more opportunity to control the environment and use real-time data about the client, such as his or her preferences, to ensure consistency. 

There are also disadvantages like, in most cases, the lack of human interaction. This means that there are pros and cons. It is critical for brands to be aware of both and maximally leverage the opportunities while minimizing the shortcomings. The customer experience needs to be mapped and designed in a holistic way combining the physical and the digital.

Recommended ReadingLuxury Experiences Are Redefined in the MetaverseBy Daniel Langer
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How does a brand audit work?

Every brand we work with has a different starting point and different objectives. It is critical to approach a brand audit holistically and ensure that we analyze the internal perspective and a client-specific external view. This includes a comprehensive customer sentiment analysis, experience audits that focus less on the obvious (great service is not a differentiator, it’s expected), and benchmarking of the stories that are typical for the competitive set.

It’s a structured process that can take several weeks and leads to actionable recommendations, which in most cases result in a significant sharpening of the brand story (90 percent of audited brands have significant deficits), an overhaul of the client experience, and a redefinition of digital messaging and touchpoints. In a world that is getting dramatically more complex, these audits are critical for the survival of brands. 

Named one of the “Global Top Five Luxury Key Opinion Leaders to Watch,” Daniel Langer is the CEO of the luxury, lifestyle and consumer brand strategy firm Équité, and the executive professor of luxury strategy and pricing at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He consults many of the leading luxury brands in the world, is the author of several best-selling luxury management books, a global keynote speaker, and holds luxury masterclasses on the future of luxury, disruption, and the luxury metaverse in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Follow @drlanger

NYFW metaverse Tommy Hilfiger Afterpay

Brands Explore Their Heritage In The Metaverse At NYFW

Tommy Hilfiger made great strides into Web3 this season with its KOL-stacked Fall 2023 “Tommy Factory” show featuring a crossover with Richard Quinn and a phygital runway with Roblox. More than just a step into the metaverse, the collaborations were a means of diversifying the brand and entering markets outside of its heritage.

Tommy hosted a livestream of its NYFW show on Roblox. Photo: Roblox

Luxury players are not just preserving their provenance by using blockchain technologies; they are leveraging Web3 to collaborate, build, and gamify with a global community. In this ever-evolving tech landscape, it is key for brands to genuinely engage with their audiences, show transparency, champion consistency, and teach their narrative. 

Vivienne Tam is another label that brought her global heritage to the metaverse at New York Fashion Week, partnering with NFT names like Gemini’s Awkward Astronauts, CyberKongz, and Bored Ape Yacht Club. When asked about the PFP (profile picture) NFTs in her latest collection, Tam stated, “The future isn’t a faraway destination. It’s here today. At a time of global rebirth I wanted to incorporate some of my friends and brands that were shaping the metaverse, NFTs, and finance technology.”

Outside of NYFW, Tam is also creating NFTs for the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) 60th anniversary, where she has been a member for over 20 years. “They are always breaking boundaries and bringing in more and more diverse perspectives. My thought is to bring harmony in a Mandala pattern that helps center the NFTs in a new spirit and way,” she added.

Genuine collaborations like these that bring heritage and history into the digital landscape are essential in educating and inspiring a wider online audience. This is why the CFDA’s anniversary project is a perfect opportunity for creatives: the virtual exhibition, titled “Fashioning the Shades of American Design,” will include 60 curated looks from CFDAs member roster, which includes more than 450 designers. Among those chosen are Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Anna Sui, Thom Browne, and The Row. 

The ability to innovate is at the core of what makes NYFW an important staple on the fashion calendar. In these early days of molding and forming what our digital identity looks like, brands are adding real-life applications to NFTs to enhance the luxury experience for their customers. For example, The Blonds, ALTU by Joseph Altuzarra, Kim Shui, AnOnlyChild, and Jonathan Simkhai teamed up with Afterpay to create NFT keys that grant access to runway shows, afterparties, and opportunities to meet the designers.

Afterpay partnered with five notable designers to offer NFT keys that unlock IRL access to New York Fashion Week. Photo: Afterpay

To gain customer loyalty, brands must create immersive experiences and build communities around them. However, follow-through is key: in the case of Afterpay’s NFT keys, some buyers did not receive the experience they were promised. As one Afterpay NFT key holder, Janey Park, a Web3 content creator and strategy consultant, communicated: “I attended the Kim Shui show where holders were asked to RSVP twice, given standing room (no seat assignments), waited in line for 45 minutes, and found out the show ended when others in line came back to tell us.”

“The opportunity here was missed,” she continued. “For NYFW, Afterpay, and Kim Shui as well as the other designers, this was a customer acquisition opportunity to usher in the new wave of Web3 and be the first to onboard or even build a relationship with Web3 enthusiasts for the years to come.”

The Web3 community is still very cautious of who enters the space and how they will treat users at large. Brands that promise one thing and deliver another will have a very short shelf life with the speed of information online. This is not saying there is no room for error, but that transparency and consistency are the real keys to digital success. 

While NYFW goes through growing pains, its outlook is brighter than ever. On top of showcasing collaboration, inclusion, and diversity, it has laid the foundation for brands entering a phygital world. Luxury houses are looking to the future with learned lessons from the past, and are embracing this new global experiment where anything is possible.

Helena Rubinstein Sets The Bar For Nostalgia Marketing

Overview

L’Oréal-owned luxury beauty and skincare brand Helena Rubinstein rolled out a series of campaigns in September in celebration of its 120th anniversary. In addition to telling the story of how it was founded in 1902 and the revolution of its signature face cream, the label released a short video starring global ambassador Faye Wong that was produced by world-famous Chinese film director Wong Kar-wai. Alongside the digital initiatives, Helena Rubinstein kicked off a tour of pop-up exhibitions across China, with the first taking place in Hangzhou from September 15 to 21.

Netizens’ Reaction

The casting of the brand campaign has excited Chinese audiences, especially millennials who grew up with Hong Kong films. Films Chungking Express and 2046 featuring the Cantopop queen and directed by Wong were blockbusters in the 1990s and 2000s, respectively. The campaign video for Helena Rubinstein marks their first collaboration in 18 years. 

Named “Beauty Beyond Time,” the one-minute film spotlights the brand’s iconic Re-plasty Age Recovery Cream. The teaser posted on Weibo on September 5 attracted 11.4 million views, with comments expressing expectations of a comeback from the elusive star who rarely engages in brand partnerships.

Since the appointment of Faye Wong as global ambassador in 2019, the Polish beauty brand has steadily built its awareness in the Chinese market. Photo: Helena Rubinstein

Verdict

Nostalgia can be not only about childhood memory but also recreation. In Helena Rubinstein’s anniversary celebration, the label marries nostalgia marketing and celebrity endorsement to maximize its social buzz, which has paid off. The classic music and film works of the 53-year-old singer and actress have been branded in the memories of many Chinese millennials.

Since the appointment of Faye Wong as global ambassador in 2019, the Polish beauty brand has steadily built its awareness in the Chinese market. Unlike other players scrambling for young faces who can fuel immediate social traffic, Helena Rubinstein instead focuses on celebrities that can represent the brand’s values and best convey the story its classic products, which ensures the retention of its core customers who have demands for anti-aging. 

However, a conservative celebrity partnership approach does not mean overlooking the younger demographics. In June, the beauty veteran joined hands with local coffee chain brand Manner Coffee to launch a campaign that celebrates youth, drawing inspiration from its hero skincare product, Powercell Skinmunity Serum. Though the collaboration did not feature any celebrity endorsements, it drove substantial organic traffic on social media, thanks to the popularity of Manner Coffee among young consumers. 

Patagonia company shares climate change China reaction

Patagonia Owner Gives Company Away, Elevating Credibility In China

What Happened: Since it was announced on September 14, the Patagonia family’s move to give all company shares away to fight climate change and protect unspoilt lands has sparked a wave of positive feedback in China. The hashtag #PatagoniaFounderGaveAwayTheCompany has over 1.8 million views on Weibo and media outlets such as The Paper, YiMagazine, and Jiemian News have covered the news. The 83-year-old billionaire Yvon Chouinard, the founder of the California-based outdoor clothing brand, has created two new entities to hold its stock valued at around $3 billion: the Patagonia Purpose Trust and the Holdfast Collective. The former will ensure the company’s actions are aligned with its stated commitments on environmental and social impact while the latter will funnel profits raised for biodiversity protection and restoration.

Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard and his family members gave away their non-voting stock, worth close to $3 billion. Photo: Patagonia

The Jing Take: According to a consumer intelligence report released in August by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, Chinese consumers have shown a growing awareness of environmental, social, and corporate governance, and presented a stronger preference in brand values aligned with themselves. This can be seen in the goodwill generated for the company (which hits about $100 million a year in revenue) since the news. In addition to media coverage, multiple netizens shared personal stories about their Patagonia products and praised the decision. 

Patagonia has often been known for an insightful if sometimes seemingly paradoxical brand strategy, such as the counterintuitive advert: “Don’t buy this jacket.” In recent years, its anti-consumerism stand has been also visible in the local Chinese market, especially when it comes to the country’s exploding shopping carnivals.

In 2020, Patagonia’s Worn Wear 2.0 promoting the recycling of used clothes was launched as an exhibition in Shanghai’s K11; it educated audiences on the value chains behind their consumption. In 2021 and 2022, the pioneer opted out of the 618 Mid-Year Shopping Festival, urging consumers instead to “Buy Less, Demand More” while continuing to promote its trade-in program.

Activities like these look counterintuitive to driving sales. But perhaps this is exactly the sort of disruptive moment the fashion industry (and the world) needs? In the long term, this authentic commitment to environmental protection, social responsibility, and sustainability will earn Patagonia credibility and an ever loyal community among domestic shoppers. 

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.

Nike collaboration

Is Nike Losing Its Collab Dominance?

As an all-American household name, Nike has landed its fair share of collaborative triumphs. Just look at the debut 2017 Off-White Jordan sneakers that are currently sat on StockX at a 2,611 percent price premium or July 2022’s Jacquemus x Nike collection that went viral as the French label’s first-ever sportswear collaboration. 

jorja smith jacquemus nike

Jorja Smith starred in the viral Jacquemus x Nike campaign. Photo: Nike

That being said, this year, consumer attention is more hooked on the collaborations coming from its competitors. The Adidas x Gucci partnership has held the social media spotlight for months now, and Adidas has become well-known in China for incorporating local design talent such as Nanjing-born Melting Sadness.

Then there’s New Balance, which has attained superstar status in streetwear for its ongoing partnerships with the likes of New York City brand Aime Leon Doré and footwear designer Salehe Bembury. This week, Bembury said in an interview that he even turned down working with Nike, opting to stick with New Balance instead — citing a change in perspective since his days of idolizing the sportswear giant.

There’s a reason that the It-footwear maverick of the moment is turning away from Nike. As other footwear names have Chinese hypebeasts in a chokehold with frequent tie-ups that inject the scene with excitement, Nike seems to be struggling to land as many design crossovers in the China market.

Furthermore, it appears to be taking a more label-heavy route over independent talent which is not necessarily benefitting its reputation, despite popular collections with emerging London talent Martine Rose, Jacquemus, and the digital label RTFKT (which it acquired).

But it’s not all been doom and gloom for the global giant in the mainland. June 2022 did see the Labelhood x Nike exhibition At The Moment, Just Go Ahead present collaborative collections from China’s new generation of designers: Donsee10, Linlin Chasse, Nan Knits, Oude Waag, Private Policy and Shushu/Tong. And before that, Nike’s London-based Chinese designer Mr Lee designed a Year of the Tiger hoodie for Chinese New Year in January.

labelhood x nike

A shot from the Labelhood x Nike collaboration championing Chinese design talent earlier this year. Photo: Labelhood Weibo

Despite these, there is still a lack of artist or designer-led collaborations, which comes as no surprise following China’s Xinjiang cotton crisis of March 2021. Nike came under fire for joining the Better Cotton Initiative and was consequently boycotted by Chinese netizens. In the sports brand’s Q4 2022 results ended May 31, China was announced as the geographic market that declined the most out of all regions as a result. 

The sportswear conglomerate’s struggle — due to the controversy, combined with China’s rising patriotism and loyalty to homegrown brands — has led local names such as Li-Ning and Anta to thrive. Fiscal 2021 saw Anta’s revenue rise by 39 percent while Li-Ning’s revenue more than doubled to a total of $3.5 billion (22.6 billion RMB).

Whether Nike is seeing a decline in collaborative requests due to the Xinjiang cotton crisis is unconfirmed. However, it might need to invest in releases with more domestic names, or implement a fresh, fan-oriented partnership that is ongoing in order to keep up with the zeitgeist. After all, it is a collab-heavy world out there, and the algorithm doesn’t wait.

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