Report Library

discounting Pricing growth trap luxury

How Luxury Brands Can Avoid The Discounting Growth Trap

LVMH once again posted record financial results, in part driven by the group’s ability to create substantial desirability and thus increase prices. Similarly, Rolex, Chanel, Hermès, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, and Ferrari have been able to substantially increase prices, and not discount at all. 

The result is strong growth fueled by clients’ trust in the brands — particularly in their products’ investability. By contrast, Tesla and Peloton are among many brands that have been cutting prices, spooking consumers and investors alike. 

Decreasing prices and engaging in frequent promotions is one of the fastest ways to destroy brand equity. Discounting in the premium and luxury sector is a growth trap. It may stimulate sales, but the effect is often short-lived and significantly dents trust in a brand. 

Brands’ ability to raise prices in the luxury sector is a critical factor for expansion. The success of LVMH’s top brands is the result of a focus on brand equity building, brand storytelling and the precise execution of brand experiences.

Costs a fortune

Behind the scenes, top managers of luxury brands say pricing is one of their main headaches.

That’s because traditional branding doesn’t work as effectively as it once did. The focus of branding and storytelling at the point of sales is still in many cases too focused on claiming superiority. But as most brands position themselves as the best, convincing clients on quality is not as successful as it once was.

Very often, brand storytelling is inwardly focused on quality markers. Instead of communicating what a specific brand does, brands should rather communicate what their role is in consumers’ lives. Only when clients understand how they will feel differently through the ethos of the brand will they be willing to consider it and, importantly, pay a premium. 

Without changing their story, without being able to give their clients clarity on what their specific value creation model is, brands will not be able to increase prices. 

Take beauty brands, for example. In today’s world, it’s not enough to have beautiful packaging and a great formula. That’s expected. It’s priced in. It’s nothing special. 

This is what many brands forget. They overestimate their influence on clients’ decisions and believe that consumers spend a lot of time analyzing purchase options.

With algorithms dictating which brands consumers see in their social media feed, the only way brands can reach people and boost their desirability is to create content that resonates with the target audience. To do that, brand storytelling must clarify the emotion the brand intends to elicit in potential clients. This approach better enables brands to differentiate themselves.

Luxury brands create their value through their stories. In other words, the story — not the product — is the point. When a story is indistinguishable from other brand narratives, there’s no opportunity to price differently. 

Yet, many brands make the mistake of conflating high prices with the perception of luxury. Extreme value creation must precede price, not vice versa.

The world’s most successful luxury brands are able to extend their lead versus their peers. They focus on excellent storytelling and how they convey their narrative. They explain their desirability, their cultural influence, and their success. 

Brands that focus their storytelling on traditional values will have little chance of engaging digitally with their audiences. Given that 95 percent of purchase decisions for premium and luxury brands are determined during consumers’ digital journeys, according to Équité Research, these brands are in danger of falling behind.

Brands that have an emotional story to tell and clarify their roles in their clients’ lives have more options to increase prices because they create extreme value. Brands that focus too much on what clients expect, don’t have as many options, and endanger their future.

This is an opinion piece where all views expressed belong to the author.

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 him: LinkedIn:, Instagram: @equitebrands /@thedaniellanger

WeChat Channels

A Luxury Brand Guide To Using Weixin Channels

Tencent is betting big on its short video platform, Channels. In an internal speech last year, CEO Pony Ma went so far as to call Channels “the hope of the whole company.”

There are good reasons to be excited about the service, which is available on Weixin, China’s local version of WeChat. In the fourth quarter of 2022, Channels’ in-feed ads generated $145 million (1 billion RMB) in sales, becoming a key revenue driver for the company. In December that same year, the total time users spent on Channels exceeded that of Moments by 80 percent, signaling the former’s growing popularity. 

Since its beta launch in 2020, Channels has flown relatively under the radar compared to established short video platforms like Kuaishou and Bilibili. But with an estimated 813 million monthly active users, according to QuestMobile, the page connects brands and creators to Weixin’s larger ecosystem — including its 1.3 billion users — and should not be overlooked.

The platform will become even more pertinent as Tencent pushes out new measures to bolster Channels’ competitiveness. To attract and support content creators, the tech and gaming giant announced in late March plans to launch a paid subscription service for videos, in addition to offering copyright protection and priority recommendations for original content.

Below, we break down Channels and how brands can use the feature to their advantage. 

How it works

Think TikTok or Instagram Reels. Simply put, Channels enables users to record and share photos and videos publicly, unlike on Moments, where users can only see content posted by their friendship circle. The page can be found by clicking the “Channels” button within the “Discover” tab, which takes users to an algorithm-driven social media feed.

Videos are sorted into three categories: following (posts by accounts that the user follows on Channels); friends (posts liked by friends); and hot (popular posts recommended by Weixin). Users can look for specific content by using the search bar, hashtags, or trending topics list, much like Weibo or Xiaohongshu.

Channels is page where users can share pictures and videos publicly. Photo: Weixin

Setting up an account is as easy as using an existing Weixin account to register for a Channels profile. Brands can undergo a verification process to link their Channels account to their Official Account and enjoy features like livestreaming and ecommerce.

Advantages for brands

Channels might seem like a competitor to Douyin and other short video platforms, but Miriam Dabrowa, China Head of Strategy at The WeChat Agency, doesn’t see it that way. “While short videos are the very core of Douyin’s existence, Channels is just one of many elements of the whole Weixin ecosystem, an element that is definitely enriching the system and adding an additional dimension.”

It’s this integration that makes Channels stand out. As a Tencent spokesperson explains: “Many brands already have Official Accounts on Weixin, which they can seamlessly link to their Channels account, allowing for videos to be embedded in Official Account articles and even linked to Mini Programs. We also have an AI recommendation engine that can present brands’ products and services to entirely new consumers.”

These features open up a number of creative avenues that can help brands deepen relationships with existing consumers, or introduce themselves to new ones. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what about video? Go figure,” Dabrowa says. “Channels is becoming a discovery touchpoint with amazing potential — just last month, one-third of new official account followers of one of our fashion clients came from Channels.” 

The livestreaming opportunity 

Within Channels, livestreaming has become a particularly popular — and lucrative — medium for brands. In 2022, the number of users watching livestreams on Channels tripled, while the time spent watching livestreams grew by 156 percent. Likewise, gross merchandise value, a measure of the total value of goods sold on the platform, skyrocketed 800 percent year on year.

Not only can brands interact directly with their audience (through live chat or adding a link to WeCom customer service), but they can also seamlessly incorporate ecommerce. Luxury brands have embraced these services: Dior, for example, has livestreamed fashion shows and pushed promotions to its VIP customers immediately after the events. Others, like Louis Vuitton, have even put together one-to-one livestreaming sessions with their most important customers to recreate the white-glove experience.

Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Blancpain post campaign videos on Channels. Photo: Weixin

Whether it’s a private client session, a KOL-led livestream, a round table or simply live footage of an in-person event, brands have various methods at their disposal to use livestreaming to raise brand awareness. And “with the array of tools like the ‘reservation’  button, information about upcoming livestreams on Weixin Channels’ brand page, and boost options, brands really have quite an interesting arsenal at their disposal and it’s up to them how they are going to maximize it,” says Dabrowa.

The future of Channels 

That said, Channels has room to grow. As Tencent President Martin Lau mentioned on the company’s Q4 earnings call, “the time spent per person [on short video] is actually way below industry standards.” 

However, Channels has become a powerful in-app feature that supplements Weixin’s broader social media and e-commerce structure and supports the brands that use it. And with Tencent’s ambitious plans for the page, it is forecast by Zheshang Securities to generate $3.4 billion (24 billion RMB) in advertising revenue by 2024. Brands that aren’t using the feature may want to consider it.

Optimistic about the space, Dabrowa tells Jing Daily, “Channels’ development might seem a bit sluggish, but on the other hand Mini Programs also didn’t kick off overnight. Now, we can’t imagine Weixin without them.” 

Can A New Creative Director Help Dunhill Establish Newfound Relevancy?

What Happened: Dunhill announced on April 12 that Simon Holloway has taken over as its new creative director. He fills the shoes of Mark Weston, who exited the brand this January after five years at the helm, during which time he gave the British label a sporty but tailored feel. Holloway joins the brand from James Purdey and Sons, which like Dunhill is owned by Swiss conglomerate Richemont. Holloway’s successor at Purdey has yet to be announced.

Holloway has also spent time at Ralph Lauren and Agnona designing across luxury, accessories, and home decor. At Dunhill, he will work under Laurent Malecaze, who joined the business as CEO last year.

The Jing Take: The British label was founded in 1893 by Alfred Dunhill and produced automotive accessories before moving into luxury goods. But the brand has not been able to establish the same global hype as heritage brands like Burberry, founded in 1856, and Louis Vuitton, founded in 1854. Holloway is tasked with translating Dunhill’s British heritage into the contemporary era dominated by social media.

Dunhill entered the Chinese market early, opening its first boutique in Shanghai in the early 1990s, and quickly became one of the most recognizable foreign luxury brands for a certain generation of male Chinese consumers. But the brand was accused of overinvesting in China. A few years ago, it pivoted to the US.

Then in 2020, Dunhill unveiled Chinese actor Yang Yang as ambassador for the brand. The move led to increased engagement for Dunhill on Chinese social media platforms like Weibo and Douyin and signaled renewed investment in the Chinese market. But in recent years, the brand has not captured interest on a global scale. It also faces the task of reengaging in a fresh way with the China market, which still comprises a big share of its revenue.

Brand ambassador Yang Yang promotes Dunhill’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection. Photo: Dunhill

In his five years at the brand, Weston managed to translate Dunhill’s history of sleek automotive elements into tailored menswear pieces, offering up trench coats, knits, and modern takes on suiting.

In an era characterized by logomania and major collaborations, however, the brand failed to crack the crowded menswear sphere. Dunhill does not have recognizable branding, like Prada’s triangle or Louis Vuitton’s monogram, nor has it capitalized on deploying the pulling power of collaboration, like Kim Jones did at Dior with partnerships with streetwear-friendly artists Kaws and Hajime Sorayama.

But with the resurgence of the quiet luxury trend this past season and a renewed focus on heritage at brands like Ferragamo and Burberry, Holloway and Dunhill have an opportunity to stoke renewed interest in the under-the-radar but established brand. The house faces several new post-pandemic challenges, and all eyes will be on Dunhill to see if fresh blood can help it overcome them while generating excitement about the esteemed menswear label.

Recommended ReadingHow Timeless Quiet Luxury Is Conquering ChinaBy Lisa Nan

The appointment of Maximilian Davis at Ferragamo shows that an emerging designer can bring a fresh point of view and spark interest in a heritage label. Davis, however, had cultivated connections with celebrities like Dua Lipa and Rihanna prior to joining Ferragamo, while Holloway is somewhat unknown. Holloway must create pieces that establish a brand identity that translates from season to season, while also maintaining relevance against a backdrop of quickly shifting social media trends.

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.

Why Are Luxury Brands Rushing En Masse To Appoint Chinese Ambassadors?

If 2022 was the year of K-pop — Gucci, Cartier, Fendi and other houses added at least one South Korean idol to their roster of ambassadors — 2023 marks the return of Chinese celebrities as representatives of luxury.

When China ended Covid-19 restrictions at the beginning of 2023, brands rushed to dust off their budgets for Chinese spokespersons. 

Following Milan Fashion Week, Versace announced homegrown singer Li Yuchun as its global brand ambassador, and Italian jewelry house Bulgari appointed renowned Chinese actress Liu Yifei as its international spokesperson. Most recently, Michael Kors appointed Shu Qi as its global face, and Louis Vuitton announced dancer and actress Song Qian as its latest brand ambassador. The appointments showcase luxury brands’ recovered confidence in the mainland market. 

Italian jewelry house Bulgari appointed renowned Chinese actress Liu Yifei as its international spokesperson. Image: Bulagri

To be sure, China’s lengthy Covid-19 lockdowns and crackdown on celebrities made 2022 a tumultuous year for businesses. According to Aiman Data, the number of brand ambassador appointments in China nearly halved in 2022 compared to 2021. During the second quarter of 2022, the platform recorded 600 new spokesperson appointments, down from 385 in the corresponding period in 2021.

As China is on track to become the largest luxury market by 2025, brands’ investment in the market is a shrewd move. Here, Jing Daily talks to industry experts to provide a playbook for choosing the right ambassadors and navigating celebrity scandals, and forecast whether C-pop will take over from K-pop.

How to choose the right Chinese ambassador

Gone are the days when a luxury house chose only one ambassador to embody its brand spirit. According to Aiman Data, in 2021, each tracked brand retained an average of 2.13 spokespersons. Having a diversified cast of spokespersons is one way to mitigate the risk of celebrity scandal.

Michael Kors appointed Shu Qi as its global face. Image: Michael Kors

“The most successful partnerships happen when the brand leverages a voice that embodies the unique brand ethos and is also able to bring in some cultural relevance that connects with the local consumer,” says Kim Leitzes, managing director, Asia-Pacific, at Launchmetrics. “Consequently, we see several brands experimenting with unconventional voices such as models, sports stars, or even niche KOLs, which often generate unique outcomes.”

Brands must strike the right balance in their cast of ambassadors. For instance, a mix of enduring relationships with stars that endorse main lines and demonstrate consistency and memorability, and emerging personalities who can boost visibility and sales via seasonal collaborations.

For many brands, finding celebrities who align with their image and values is the most crucial component. This may include considering the celebrity’s personality, artistry, reputation, and potential conflicts of interest and risks to ensure that they embody the brand’s identity. 

Louis Vuitton announced dancer and actress Song Qian as its latest brand ambassador. Image: Louis Vuitton

Adrian Peh, general manager of fashion and beauty at Gusto Collective Shanghai, says brands should also consider the celebrity’s X factor, which means assessing potential ambassadors’ enduring popularity, influence, and engagement with the target audience to ensure that they would appeal to the target Chinese consumers. “The X factor can often lead to greater sales and brand exposure,” says Peh.

How to navigate Chinese celebrities’ scandals?

“It may appear counterintuitive that luxury firms are increasing their celebrity engagement in the face of China’s ongoing celebrity crackdown. However, there’s no reward without risk. While the impact of this crackdown on luxury brands remains to be seen, firms should be prepared to maneuver through this type of situation,” says Peh.

China’s idol economy is expected to generate revenue of over $195 billion (1.34 trillion RMB) in 2026, expanding at a CAGR of 17.7 percent from 2021 to 2026. Luxury brands understand the power of influence and have doubled down on this strategy in China. But they are also becoming more prudent, as there is no absolutely safe choice. 

Zhang Jike scandal

Brands have terminated their partnership with the table tennis star after rumors spread that he had shared intimate footage of his ex-girlfriend to pay off debts. Photo: Shutterstock

Even Olympic athletes aren’t immune to scandal. Recently table tennis player and gold medallist Zhang Jike, ambassador of Chinese sportswear brand Anta, was brought to public attention for gambling debts and distributing intimate videos. 

In light of potential backlashes against spokespersons, some brands have rewritten their contracts. In particular, they are adding a clause mandating full compensation reimbursement in the case of a scandal during the contract period in a bid to avoid a financial loss when terminating contracts with local stars.

Finally, will C-pop supplant K-pop?

China’s celebrity crackdown precipitated the fall of many names, including Deng Lun, Yuan Bingyan, Jing Tian, and Li Yifeng in 2022. Given this heightened risk, brands have eyed alternatives to boost their visibility. South Korean idols are believed to be a safer and more attractive alternative. Their influence is not confined to the peninsula; they boast fans worldwide.

In 2022, Gucci added Hanni from the K-pop group NewJeans to its roster of ambassadors; Cartier added Blackpink member Jisoo to its Panthére community; and Fendi appointed actor Lee Min-Ho as its spokesperson.

In 2022, Gucci added Hanni from the K-pop group NewJeans to its roster of ambassadors. Image: Gucci

However, with China’s borders reopening, brands are urged to connect with local consumers. “The appointment of Chinese celebrities as global or brand ambassadors is a strategic move by luxury brands to reinvigorate excitement during this important reopening phase. This marketing tactic is expected to help brands accelerate their recovery, widen their audience and community, and deepen relationships with Chinese consumers,” says Peh.

Although Chinese stars are handed global spokesperson titles, they are mainly part of localization strategies targeting domestic shoppers. As such, brands will not necessarily ditch K-pop for C-pop. 

“C-pop and K-pop stars have unique strengths and appeal to different audiences. Luxury brands will likely continue to leverage both K-pop celebrities for their established following and C-Pop stars for fast-growing reach,” says Peh. 


Patou’s Digital IDs, Ralph Lauren x Poolsuite NFTs & More: Web3 Drops Of The Week

With NFT.NYC in full swing, this week featured a host of high-profile activations from the likes of Gmoney’s 9dcc and denim mogul Wrangler, which teamed up with artist Jeremy Booth. The event, which ran from April 12-14, saw some of the biggest leading players in Web3 take over the Big Apple and amp up their visibility in the meta-space. 

In other news, Patou has teamed up with metaverse tech platform The Ordre Group to add digital verification IDs to its products. Will more brands adopt blockchain technology to fight against the counterfeit and “dupe” industries? 

Finally, Ralph Lauren’s new Miami store has partnered with Web3 service Bitpay to officially allow crypto as a payment tender. To celebrate, the label teamed up with exclusive digital members club Poolsuite on an NFT giveaway. The asset can be used later this month as a pass into the partnership’s token-gated event. The project is part of the brand’s wider ambitions to build its new Miami boutique into a Web3-centric experience for customers, as more competitors begin to shift their focus to how they can elevate their brick-and-mortar hubs using the metaverse.

To receive these weekly updates straight to your inbox, subscribe to our Jing Meta newsletter here.

The French fashion house has introduced new digital IDs to its products to bolster authenticity benefits. Photo: Patou

Patou Turns To Digital IDs And Metaverse Technology For Product Verification

What Happened: Following news of Kering’s deeper dive into Web3, LVMH is getting onboard too. Luxury label Patou, owned by the luxury giant, announced on Tuesday that it will implement a new digital verification technology into its product line. Working in partnership with The Ordre Group — a technology-first platform that aims to power the fashion metaverse — the brand unveiled its Authentique Verify initiative, which will see the label introduce unique digital IDs for its products that, upon presentation of proof of purchase, will be transferred to their owners’ smartphone to validate digital ownership.

The IDs will also enable customers to access information such as product specifications, sustainability pledges, styling videos, and warranties. To mark the move, Patou has released two new bag styles in collaboration with stylist Sita Abellán that use deadstock leathers and organic cotton to mimic the effect of denim, both featuring the Authentique Verify tech. 

The Verdict: Patou is following in the footsteps of Chanel and other major luxury labels, which are integrating digital IDs into their products to tackle rising counterfeiting challenges. With forged goods becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish, plus the recent rise of “dupes” — a trend that has accelerated over the past year thanks to social platforms like TikTok — labels are turning to Web3 and blockchain-based technologies to push back. 

With this in mind, it’s likely that more luxury brands will incorporate assets, such as near-field communication (NFC) chips, into their products to help guarantee authenticity.

Ralph Lauren’s latest collaboration taps exclusive Web3 community Poolsuite, starting with a free NFT giveaway. Photo: Poolsuite

Ralph Lauren Celebrates Miami Store Opening With NFT Collaboration Alongside Exclusive Virtual Club Poolsuite

What Happened: Ralph Lauren’s new Miami District store will be accepting crypto payments as an official tender, marking the first time the label has offered the option to consumers. Using crypto payment platform Bitpay, the store is allowing purchases using Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and Polygon (MATIC), which can all be refunded in the cryptocurrency that was originally used. The service also ensures that refunds are equal to the total amount that was paid, avoiding turbulent crypto fluctuations. In addition to its online currency expansion, the boutique has also partnered with Web3 startup Poolsuite. To celebrate the launch, a Ralph Lauren x Poolsuite NFT was gifted to around 3,000 Poolsuite community members, with each token unlocking access to a private party that takes place later this month.

The Verdict: The drop is another example of how luxury brands are pressing ahead with projects that target Web3 native audiences, as the sector continues to crack the digital divide. As shown by Gucci, which recent plunged into the metaverse in partnership with Yuga Labs, this year could potentially see the industry invest more attention into niche online communities like Otherside and Poolsuite. With luxury’s conventional consumer market still weighing up the value of Web3, it’s a clever move that could see brands maintain their virtual charm and uncover new, profitable opportunities. 

The phygital denim jacket features an NFC chip to verify authenticity and ownership. Photo: POAP

Wrangler Teams Up With Artist Jeremy Booth On Limited-Edition Phygital Jacket Collection

What Happened: Wrangler, which has maintained its iconic cultural status since its launch in 1947, and artist Jeremy Booth have dropped an NFT wearable collaboration as part of their new multi-tiered partnership. Developed alongside and Proof Of Attendance Protocol, the duo’s phygital “Western Art Dept” denim jacket features an NFC tag connected to an NFT artwork. The artist’s fanbase was invited to meet up with Booth at NFT.NYC; the first 300 collectors to do so could claim an exclusive cowboy boot NFT designed by Booth.

The Verdict: The collaboration is a match made in American heaven, thanks to Wrangler’s Western roots and Booth’s stylized illustrations that are heavily-inspired by the region. Keeping in line with their old-school American cues, the physical jacket was crafted using some of the last selvedge denim fabric in the US.

The artist teased the collab on his Instagram account in February, receiving positive responses from his followers. Since then, the collaboration has generated a notable amount of hype from Booth’s community (who the drop seems to be more positioned towards rather than Wrangler’s consumers), which has since been recognized. As a result, the duo have announced that a limited edition drop of the jackets will be made available to the public soon.

Lululemon Chengdu

Lululemon Turns Up The Music For Tmall Super Brand Day


On April 7, Lululemon partnered with Tmall for a fifth consecutive year to celebrate its Super Brand Day, a one-day brand-specific sales event that offers special promotions and exclusive perks. Spotlighting its iconic Align collection, the athletic apparel brand presented a pop-up space named “Align Movement Theater” in Chengdu

Featuring brand ambassadors Cici Wang and Amber Liu, as well as three Gen Z musicians from music label 88rising, the event delivered a vibrant and immersive theatrical experience for guests, including lifestyle KOLs and media. The event was also livestreamed on the brand’s Tmall flagship store. 

Gen Z singers Veegee and Cacien performed at Lululemon’s Chengdu event. Photo: Lululemon

Netizens’ Reaction

The event video received over 524,000 views on Weibo within five days thanks to the two brand ambassadors, who have over 12.8 million followers in total. The campaign hashtag “Get into it” — the slogan for the Align collection — racked up over 38.5 million views within a week, and generated a large number of organic posts and comments on Weibo. In particular, the interactive stage setting and the performances by three Gen Z singers earned positive feedback from online viewers. 


Lululemon recorded strong financial results in the fourth quarter of 2022, with the company’s net revenue increasing 30 percent to $2.8 billion. Under its Power of Three x2 growth plan, the company aims to double 2021’s net revenue of $6.25 billion to $12.5 billion by 2026. The key pillars of the plan are product innovation, guest experience, and market expansion. In China, the sportswear disruptor also follows the guidance of this plan.

Lululemon has amassed a solid following among Chinese fitness lovers through digital penetration on Tmall and offline footprints across top-tier cities. Though leggings are its hero products, the brand has been putting effort into building its credibility across various categories, leading to the launch of its first footwear collection last year.

Lululemon is considered one of the three must-have brands for middle-aged women in China (known as “中年妇女三宝”), signaling that its key demographic is mature women with solid financial power. However, with the successful launch of its Tmall Super Brand Day, the Canadian retailer also shows its increasing focus on courting the mainland’s younger generation of consumers. From the party vibe of the event to the strong lineup of musicians, the label knows how to steal the show.

grace chow x nba

NBA China Is Loving Collabs, But Who’s Wearing Them?

Over the years, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has proven its chameleon-like grasp on developing and honing its intellectual property (IP). The famous basketball league logo can be spotted embossed across mainstream products from the likes of Samsung, Taco Bell, Hello Kitty, and Reddit, as well as in elevated streetwear collections by Louis Vuitton, Canada Goose, KidSuper and Drake’s OVO label. 

In China, the NBA brand-licensing team has also been busy, with the organization’s IP frequently starring in clothing collections and product lines. Thanks to this collab frenzy, consumers who do not watch the game still don the merchandise.

The brand has evolved to become a household name in China. An estimated 300 million people play basketball in the mainland, with the NBA being the most-followed sports league on local social media platforms; it boasts 42.95 million fans on Weibo, where the #NBA hashtag has generated engagement of 56 billion views and 770,000 original posts.

For Spring 2022, Starter joined NBA China on a collection dedicated to the local streetball community. Photo: NBA China

For Spring 2022, Starter joined NBA China on a collection dedicated to the local streetball community. Photo: NBA China

First mover

The NBA became the first American professional sports league to play official games in China back in 2004 and now operates in the country as a local company, Beijing-headquartered NBA China, which was set up in 2008. Five investors Bank of China Group Investment, Legend Holdings Ltd, Li Ka Shing Foundation, China Merchants Investments and ESPN, a division of The Walt Disney Company  collectively hold 11 percent of the company.

The NBA remains the only international sports league with a legal team located in China. Therefore, brand-licensing processes run exceptionally smoothly.

This was discussed in a 2015 interview with Ella Betsy Wong, NBA China’s Senior VP and General Counsel, who emphasized the importance of attracting more fans to the game. And, judging by the business’ activities over recent years, brand collaborations have become one of the main routes for it to do just that.

From Starter Black label to influencer Grace Chow’s eponymous high-street brand, domestic names have wheeled out NBA-stamped capsules that often have little association with the sport.

Symbol of American style

Much like other American IPs in China — including the infamous Playboy bunny, NBA logos are plucked from the world of basketball and utilized as a symbol to emulate American style in China.

The popularity of the ABG (Asian baby girl) look that riffs on the “California girl” aesthetic, with winged eyeliner and tanned, fit physiques, is linked to the rise of NBA collaborations, according to Gen Z consumers Jing Daily spoke with.

It’s the American retro, Brandy Melville and Bella Hadid-led trends that are thriving right now among China’s youth — think varsity jackets and vintage tees. 

Of the recent collaborations featuring the official IP, Grace Chow’s gained the most traction due to her fanbase; her namesake store is number one under Taobao’s “European and American style women’s streetwear” category, with 4.1 million subscribers at present.

Grace Chow's accessible streetwear brand is one of the latest to incorporate the NBA's IP into a collection. Photo: Grace Chow Weibo

Grace Chow’s accessible streetwear brand is one of the latest to incorporate the NBA’s IP into a collection. Photo: Grace Chow Weibo

This year even saw Chinese tattoo artist Jax play on the popularity of NBA IP collaborations when he released a collection in February under the acronym ABA, short for Anarchy Basketball Association.

Although brands recognize the utility of the NBA IP, their collaborations have not whipped up the same level of hype that would be expected from a sports league with millions of fans. For context, the #NBAcollab hashtag only has 8,458 views and six original posts on Weibo. On Xiaohongshu, where #NBA has 1.767 billion views, #NBAcollab has just 479,800.

That low engagement rate illustrates how NBA fashion does not resonate with fans of the game. Furthermore, these collections are not aimed at hypebeasts, either — when discussing the reputation of NBA clothing, some young consumers refer to it as a mainstream, high-street fashion trend that does not appeal to style-conscious consumers. 

The NBA logo is deemed to be on the outskirts of what’s fashionable in China. Though, Chinese consumer interest in the all-American sports aesthetic is rising — take the Gorpcore and CleanFit trends, for instance. That, in addition to the growing adoption of streetball culture in China, suggests that the NBA IP has further to run in the mainland.

When considering collaborating with the IP, brands should be aware of the connotations the NBA logo conveys locally. Yes, NBA tie-ups bring exposure to independent talent and high street retailers, but they are unlikely to win over the dedicated streetwear set.

For more on brand collaboration, check out Jing Daily’s weekly Collabs and Drops newsletter — a weekly analytical lowdown on the latest news. Sign up here.
Alibaba Loreal Beauty sustainability

L’Oréal And Alibaba To Tackle Beauty’s Environmental Problem In China

What Happened: The world’s largest cosmetics company is teaming up with Alibaba Group in a bid to make China’s beauty industry greener. On April 6, L’Oréal signed a three-year deal with the Chinese ecommerce giant to establish low-carbon standards, develop new products, and create measurable circular economy solutions, according to Alibaba’s news site Alizila.

Additionally, the two industry leaders will work together to clean up the beauty sector’s supply chain — which covers warehousing, packaging, distribution and recycling — and to increase consumer education on sustainable lifestyles. The agreement comes after L’Oréal signed a deal with Alibaba in 2018 to use environmentally friendly packaging for all its products sold in China.

The Jing Take: Both L’Oréal and Alibaba have taken steps over the years to reduce their carbon footprint. In 2019, L’Oréal achieved carbon-neutrality across its operation sites in China and has since launched a number of localized campaigns to raise awareness around sustainable consumption. Meanwhile, Alibaba has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2030 and facilitate 1.5 gigatons of decarbonization by 2035, supported by initiatives like its carbon ledger whereby consumers can earn points for making low-carbon choices.

While these steps are commendable, it’ll take a lot more to address beauty’s glaring sustainability problem. The global beauty industry produces an estimated 120 billion units of packaging annually — most of which is not recyclable — and this packaging accounts for 70 percent of the industry’s waste. This has a ripple effect on our oceans, forests, and even our bodies as microplastics end up in the food we consume.

But tackling the issue is not just a matter of ethics; it’s also a promising business opportunity. As awareness around climate change grows, so too does the demand for green products. According to a 2022 PWC survey, 50 percent of Chinese respondents said they are willing to pay a higher than average price for a product that has a traceable and transparent origin, while 45 percent are willing to do so for products made from recycled or eco-friendly materials.

“In general, the willingness of Chinese consumers to pay more for ESG-friendly products is driven by the search for ‘better-for-me’ products — whether they are produced from a better source or made from materials that contain less ‘harmful’ materials to human,” states the report.

Ultimately, zero waste measures can only be accomplished when a product is eliminated entirely, which is an unrealistic expectation as companies vie for China’s $88 billion beauty and personal care market. Perhaps making products more sustainably and strengthening public education around the concept, like what L’Oréal and Alibaba hope to do, is the next best step.

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.

Why Bytedance’s Virtual Fashion Community Pheagee Failed To Take Off In China

Pheagee, a virtual fashion community targeting China’s luxury consumers, is the latest Web3-focused company in the mainland to shut down.

The platform, which was developed by ByteDance (the parent company of Douyin) and affiliated with Shanghai Boiling Silence Technology Co., Ltd., recently announced that it will cease operations and services on April 19 “due to the company’s business needs.”

Users were advised to save all information such as wearables, try-on pictures, and videos as soon as possible before the cutoff date. Since the announcement, new users have not been able to register on the site and existing users are no longer able to purchase items. The platform will provide a channel for full refunds.

Launched on June 6, 2022, Pheagee has released digital fashion pieces from several top Chinese designer brands, like eyewear label Percy Lau, as well as individual creators. On the app, members were able save their virtual clothes in a “closet” and “wear” them by uploading photos. The platform also encouraged users to share their virtual looks and fashion opinions, with the aim of creating an active online community of fashion enthusiasts.

The digital fashion community launched a Valentines Day edit, featuring a number of its spotlighted designers, in February. Photo: @pheagee_official

The application arrived at a time when a number of Chinese companies were creating their own meta-spaces to showcase digital fashion offerings, including Xiaohongshu’s popular digital collectibles platform R-Space. Despite high hopes for Pheagee, it ultimately failed to resonate with China’s domestic consumers and achieve mainstream success.

With waning speculation in the metaverse and no solid profit model having been developed, platforms like Pheagee that lack diverse application scenarios and practical benefits have inevitably lost their charm. 

Like Tencent’s Magic Core, which was retired by the tech giant in July 2022, Pheagee’s community relied on the delivery of high-quality digital assets. However, the ByteDance platform ended up in a dilemma whereby it had unsalable products, strict regulations to navigate, and poor customer turnover. 

Independent brands that participated in the platform included ChenPeng and eyewear label Percy Lau. Photo: @pheagee_official

Ultimately though, its failure came down to its launch during an untimely point in the Chinaverse’s development. Traditional consumers felt excluded as they weren’t familiar with the technological principles needed to work the app, while many experienced Web3 enthusiasts were simply not interested in the cultural aspects of digital fashion design (the allure of tech-first platforms is often the attractive benefits like discounts and exclusive access that digital assets can offer, something Pheagee did not extensively provide). 

Pheagee’s closure offers a lesson to those pushing into China’s virtual fashion and digital collectibles scene. As of now, most consumers in the mainland are still attracted to physical products. Those wishing to survive in the nascent sector need two pivotal factors to succeed: firstly, the delivery of something that is exclusive in an increasingly saturated market; and second, the development of a long-term program that can endure the market’s volatility, which is easier said than done. 

For more on Pheagee’s closure and the latest Web3 developments in China, sign up to our Jing Meta WeChat channel. 

LVMH Share price Paris protest

Pension Protestors Storm LVMH’s Paris Headquarters

French pension protestors stormed LVMH’s Paris headquarters Thursday morning, following news that the French luxury conglomerate’s share price had rose 4.6 percent in early trading to hit a record high of €875 ($965).

LVMH’s rocketing stock value, partly attributable to rising sales in China, came after President Emmanuel Macron rammed legislation raising the retirement age in France to 64 from 62 through parliament without a vote on March 16. The move galvanized opposition to the policy and enflamed ongoing protests against the change. Today, a French court will rule on the constitutionality of Macron’s move.

“If Macron wants to find money to finance the pension system, he should come here to find it,” union leader Fabien Villedieu told CNN, referring to the conglomerate’s head office. 

The conglomerate had begun 2023 on a strong note; the reopening of the Chinese economy following three years of strict lockdowns helped LVMH’s Q1 sales grow 17 percent, while in February the group announced that superstar Pharrell Williams would take the helm of Louis Vuitton menswear, one of its portfolio brands. In January, LVMH became the first European company to surpass €400 billion in market value.

LVMH’s climbing share price propelled CEO Bernard Arnault’s net worth past $200 billion earlier this week, making him the world’s wealthiest person by far. Second is Elon Musk with $188 billion. 

French citizens meanwhile have struggled with inflation and stagnant wages. In October 2022, protestors went on strike in response to the skyrocketing cost of living. In January, opponents of Macron’s pension reform ignited a series of protests and strikes. Garbage piled up on the streets of Paris in March as trash collectors went on strike in opposition to the retirement age policy. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has supported the protests, while Macron’s government says the reform is necessary to balance the pension budget. 

LVMH has raised its own age limit. Shareholders voted to raise the age limit for a serving CEO from 75 to 80, letting Arnault, now 74, remain at the helm for another few years.  



Vivienne Westwood Zippos, Stüssy x Martine Rose, And Pharrell’s LV Tee: Global Collabs Of The Week

When Salehe Bembury designed his first Pollex Clog silhouette back in 2021, he proved the possibilities of breathing new life into an established silhouette. His alienlike, dramatically textured, big buckled Crocs won the fashion industry over — the 2021 “Cucumber” color now sits on StockX at a 212 percent price premium. With these designs constantly selling out, it was unsurprising to hear last week that Bembury will be the creative director of Crocs x Pollex Pod in a first-of-its-kind two-year deal with the global footwear brand.

Other brand collaboration headlines this week? MSCHF dropped the backwards BWD shoe, which is now selling at a 269 percent price premium.

Hennessy and Kim Jones have opened a pop-up at the Flannels flagship in London, Ru Paul has a Build-a-Bear, Burberry is designing costumes for the Royal Ballet, and Stüssy is dropping a Martine Rose collection on Friday April 14.

For our verdict on some of this week’s biggest global brand collaborations, check out the below and subscribe here to receive these updates in the Collabs & Drops newsletter straight to your inbox every Tuesday.

Louis Vuitton x Cactus Plant Flea Market

louis vuitton x cactus plant flea market

The exclusive Louis Vuitton x Cactus Plant Flea Market t-shirt designed for guests at Pharrell’s birthday. Photo: Louis Vuitton x Cactus Plant Flea Market

Date: April 5

Verdict: In celebration of new Louis Vuitton Men’s creative director Pharrell Williams’ 50th birthday, the luxury house collaborated with Cactus Plant Flea Market on a special commemorative tee for guests. Whether or not this is a sneak peek of an upcoming collection isn’t yet clear. But the fact that LV Men’s first collaboration under Pharrell is limited to just friends and family in attendance of his birthday bash immediately associates the brand with exclusivity, as well as strengthens its affinity to streetwear. Cactus Plant Flea Market was launched by Pharrell and Cynthia Lu, who previously worked at Billionaire Girls Club. 

Stüssy x Martine Rose

stussy martine rose

The Stüssy and Martine Rose debut collaboration invites consumers to pimp their rides and their wardrobes. Photo: Stüssy x Martine Rose

Date: April 14

Verdict: Back in 2020, the pair joined forces for the first time for Stüssy’s 40th anniversary T-shirt collection, which also featured designs by Rick Owens, Virgil Abloh, Marc Jacobs and Takahiro Miyashita. On StockX, the Martine Rose tee is one of the lowest selling of the collection at approx. £65, whereas the Rick Owens and Virgil Abloh shirts are selling for £270 and £218, respectively. That might not foreshadow poor sales for this new collection, though.

Both the Martine Rose x Nike and Napapijri drops have performed well, helping put Martine Rose at the center of global streetwear — a great springboard for this Stüssy release. According to Google Trends, mentions of Martine Rose x Stüssy are up 300 percent since the announcement. 

Vivienne Westwood x Zippo

vivienne westwood x zippo

TikTok is going crazy for Vivienne Westwood zippo lighters. Photo: Vivienne Westwood

Date: April 14

Verdict: Continuing their partnership, Vivienne Westwood and Zippo are evidently responding to the internet hype around their lighters — for context, “How to refill the Vivienne Westwood lighter” is currently at 47.4 million views on TikTok. Returning with six new designs, the gold and silver colors are limited to just 300 pieces each, sold at VW stores and online. It’s one of the brand’s most popular accessories, especially in Japan, so the Spring 2023 return is expected to sell out quickly.

Zippo has collaborated with a plethora of brands like Supreme, Palace, Bape, Kith, and even Frank Ocean. Vivienne Westwood is using rarity to stand out among these names.

LVMH Louis Vuitton Q1 luxury

As LVMH Q1 Sales Rise 17%, China’s Rebound Seeds Stellar Expectations For Luxury

With LVMH being the first luxury company to post global sales growth this week since the Chinese economy started to recoup from the COVID-induced paralysis of late 2022, it is already clear that 2023 should be a stunning year.

Expect record sales and profits for the industry overall, as well as bold creative and retail initiatives that will put many of the dire scenarios to rest. When China’s luxury demand was hampered by lockdowns and a lack of consumer confidence last year, other nationalities saved the day. Now, as local consumption in the US and Europe could start to moderate in 2023, China’s rebound as well as strong consumer trends in Japan, Southeast Asia and the Middle East should more than compensate.

The good news for 2023? Margins are unlikely to fall despite meaningful reinvestments as operating leverage from strong global sales, greater growth in Asia, and FX (foreign exchange) will all be very supportive. The better news for the long term? Luxury used to be a play for Japanese wealth 20 years ago and Chinese wealth pre-COVID; now it’s just a play for global wealth, whatever the nationality. Caution not warranted. 

Luxury sales growth in 2023 is off to a strong start — and it’s not about to stop

Earlier this week, LVMH published record Q1 sales on the back of Louis Vuitton, Dior, DFS and its other portfolio brands shooting the lights out. In my book Future Luxe, published in the midst of the COVID-19 panic in September 2020, I made 21 predictions for 2021 and beyond, including one that, in hindsight, is pretty obvious: “Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, will consistently top the list of the richest individuals in the world, ahead of Amazon’s Bezos. His group will hold 90 to 100 brands, up from 77 at the time of writing.”

Arnault is indeed the world’s wealthiest individual, currently ahead of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Whether this will stand or not remains to be seen, but what is clear is that growth of the overall luxury industry and LVMH in particular should be very healthy in 2023.

What carries Louis Vuitton, the biggest brand in luxury by sales and the one generating half of LVMH’s profits? Bold collaborations such as the recent Yayoi Kusama project. Unexpected hires such as the appointment of “Happy” songwriter Pharrell Williams as the creative director of menswear, which both empowers diversity and reinforces the idea that luxury serves no purpose but to put a smile on one’s face.

After their first drop in January 2023, Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama returned in March to release part two of their polka-dotted collection.

And for just a few weeks now, having Pietro Beccari as CEO, a dreamer whose larger-than-life character will help scale the brand. Louis Vuitton was seen as ubiquitous when sales were €2bn, now it’s not seen that way anymore despite the brand being 10 times bigger, thanks to the great work of Beccari’s predecessor. Hitting €30 billion in sales is not that farfetched.

Margins are unlikely to soar in 2023 as most brands are family controlled and take the long-term view, meaning they will almost always choose to feed brand equity and top-line growth for the long haul over margins in the short term. However, there are three reasons to believe that despite hefty reinvestments from sector heavyweights such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Hermès, Cartier, Chanel, Gucci and Tiffany, margins will still be supported in the short term.

First, Asia should outperform this year and brands enjoy higher profit margins there. Second, if the luxury sector grows in line with what LVMH put out in Q1 – 17 percent top-line growth – or even a bit below, which is possible given that Q1 had the toughest basis of comparison this year, there is bound to be some operating leverage from such strong growth. Third, but importantly, as most companies are hedging their FX exposure on a 12-month rolling basis, the decline of the EUR/USD from last summer and fall will benefit margins starting now (companies mostly produce in EUR but sell products across the globe). 

Long term, the most powerful post-COVID reality is that luxury goods appeal to a global consumer. Although China’s luxury sales were muted in 2022 due to country’s strict pandemic policy, the year saw very solid growth as Americans and many local clienteles across the globe (French, Italian, Thai, South Korean, Japanese and many more) stepped up.

But in 2023, the luxury consumption of Americans, South Koreans and eventually Europeans will likely show signs of a slowdown. At the same time, most observers had underestimated the power of post-COVID rebounds in Europe and even more so in the US. China’s recovery will likely more than mitigate weakness elsewhere while other nationalities in Asia contribute greatly. It is becoming clear that the luxury sector is driven by global wealth, not a single nationality, and that seems to be a lot healthier.

As LVMH likes to put it, Louis Vuitton does not sell handbags, it sells culture. That premise implies that the sky is the limit!

Erwan Rambourg has been a top-ranked analyst covering the luxury and sporting goods sectors. After eight years as a Marketing Manager in the luxury industry, notably for LVMH and Richemont, he is now a Managing Director and Global Head of Consumer & Retail equity research. He is also the author of Future Luxe: What’s Ahead for the Business of Luxury (2020) and The Bling Dynasty: Why the Reign of Chinese Luxury Shoppers Has Only Just Begun (2014).

china middle class BCG

BCG Report: China’s Middle Class To Reach 40 Percent Of Population By 2030

What Happened: Boston Consulting Group (BCG) recently released its 2023 Chinese Future Consumers Report, which focuses on generational differences. The report predicts that, from 2022 to 2030, China’s middle and upper classes will increase by over 80 million to account for 40 percent of the country’s total population; 70 percent of this affluent demographic will be located in third or lower-tier cities. 

From about 9,000 survey responses, BCG found that the number of consumers who intend to spend less on luxury in the next 12 months is 3 percentage points higher than those who plan to spend more. By comparison, 13 percent and 27 percent of respondents indicated that they intend to purchase more sports and healthcare products in the same period, respectively. 

Another key finding is that Gen X and Gen Y, defined as those born between 1965 and 1994, are more willing than Gen Z consumers to acquire high-end items and services, such as luxury products, automobiles, premium dining, and tours. In this category, the older demographic groups each have a future consumption index of 117, compared to Gen Z’s 78.   

The Jing Take: The BCG report paints a nuanced profile of Chinese consumers. On the one hand, there’s still plenty of room for luxury houses to expand in China. With the majority of China’s new middle-class population coming from low-tier cities, brands have all the more reason to enter emerging urban areas that are yet to have a substantial luxury presence. This finding corroborates recent initiatives by China’s luxury malls to move into smaller cities.   

On the other hand, while China is expected to account for 25 percent of the global luxury market by 2025, its consumers are also increasingly frugal. Similar to BCG’s findings, an earlier survey by Deloitte shows that 57 percent of Chinese respondents claim that they will only purchase what they need. Therefore, luxury brands should not take Chinese consumers’ spending power for granted. 

Moreover, the report highlights the considerable spending power of middle-aged Chinese consumers. While Gen Z has deservedly become the focus of brands, Gen X and Gen Y are generally more financially established due to their steadier sources of income and larger stash of savings. Indeed, Hurun’s survey of China’s high-net-worth individuals this March found that their average age is 36.        

Of course, some preferences are shared by Chinese consumers across age groups. For instance, the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle is evident in rising demand for sports, and wellness products, a testament to China’s blossoming spiritual economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Luxury labels should not interpret the findings of the BCG study as a call for them to drastically alter their existing consumer engagement strategies in China. As time goes on, Gen Z consumers will gradually become the backbone of China’s workforce and accumulate more wealth. Establishing a presence in promising lower-tier cities early on could also enable brands to reap long term benefits. The key takeaway for luxury labels is to avoid viewing Chinese consumers as a monolithic whole, and to tailor their offerings to China’s rapidly diversifying customer groups as much as possible.  

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.

Valentino theater sleep no more

Valentino x Sleep No More Sets The Benchmark For Experiential Marketing

Last September, Valentino painted Qinhuangdao’s Aranya district fuchsia as part of its Pink PP Fall 2022-23 campaign. Just six months later, the Italian luxury brand presents a more restrained mood, but it’s no less showstopping. 

The Unboxing Valentino Spring/Summer 2023 collection taps the zeitgeist of the post-pandemic era. Its ethos is that “by removing the inessential, essence is revealed.” With minimal silhouettes and neutral tones interspersed with pops of color, the collection encourages a sense of pure freedom and individuality, feelings that vibe with young Chinese consumers. These same qualities are brought to life in a creative China campaign in partnership with Sleep No More, which sits at the cutting-edge of immersive theater and fashion.

A fashionable twist on Sleep No More’s immersive theater experience

Co-produced by Punchdrunk International and China’s SMG Live, Sleep No More is an off-shoot of the New York show that opened in Shanghai in December 2016. Maison Valentino first partnered with the Shanghai-based theatrical team in September 2021, for an immersive experience inspired by the Valentino Act Collection. This time, Valentino is deepening its collaboration by becoming the exclusive fashion partner of Sleep No More Shanghai and co-creating its first full-length immersive theater production, titled The Box.


Cast members of Sleep No More performed in new-season Valentino looks (swipe left). Photo: Valentino

Sleep No More scriptwriters and artists created an original script, sets and choreography inspired by Unboxing Valentino concepts and dedicated to the collection. The show’s cast of actors, dancers and musicians performed in new-season Valentino looks across five stories of the purpose-built McKinnon Hotel. The one-night only performance premiered on April 11, 2023.

At a time when immersive experiences and personal connections are vital in establishing brand loyalty, Valentino is hoping to respond to the desires of young Chinese consumers while also reflecting the Maison’s values of inclusivity and humanism.

Celebrity Wen Yongshan, Li Landi and Yi Lijing at the one-night only special edition of Sleep No More. Photo: Valentino

Sleep No More’s original theater model invites the audience to engage in the moment, on their own terms. The choice of an offline theatrical setting with human interaction feels even more personal and connected in an increasingly digitalized world, where immersive marketing often relates to virtual reality and other modern technologies. The intimacy of the experience, like the collection itself, reveals true luxury.     

An experimental intersection of theater and fashion

Described as “mind-bending and addictive,” the immersive theater production invites the audience to move freely through the performance, creating their own film noir journey. Driven by demand from young Chinese theatergoers who enjoy live performances as an expression of their urban lifestyle, it has become one of the longest-running shows in Shanghai theater history and sparked a nationwide fascination with immersive plays.

According to Mintel’s Global Consumer Trends 2023 report, which cited the “Me Mentality” as the top trend: “Consumers are eager to re-focus on themselves and brands can help them take center stage.” Valentino explores this quite literally by inviting guests to join them as protagonists on stage. Combining fashion with theatrical art forms such as dance and drama enables the audience to experience the collection come to life in fresh contexts. Importantly, it shines a spotlight on the brand’s VICs (very important clients) and KOLs themselves. As of publication, the hashtag “Valentino” on Xiaohongshu has racked up over 150 million searches and views.


Celebrity Cheng Duling and Zeng Li at the one-night only special edition of Sleep No More (swipe left). Photo: Valentino

Celebrating localization as part of a “Global Unboxing”

The total revenue of China’s performing arts market reached about 20 billion RMB ($2.82 billion) in 2019, an increase of 7.29 percent year on year. This was fueled by young Chinese showing a growing willingness to spend money on live performances as part of their lifestyle — a record 55 percent of audience members are born after 1990.

The market has already robustly recovered following the end of COVID-19 restrictions in 2023. More than 3.2 million people attended some 9,400 performances across China over the seven-day Spring Festival in 2023, an increase of 22.5 percent compared with 2019’s Spring Festival, according to the China Association of Performing Arts.

Valentino places a strong emphasis on its cultural localization strategy around the world. The collaboration with Sleep No More is an example of the Italian maison exploring local consumer insights in China and tapping young Chinese urbanites’ growing passion for the theater. Indulging this desire for vivid, interactive cultural experiences through a bespoke synopsis set in 1930s Shanghai, adds a deeper resonance to the interpretation of Unboxing Valentino for the local market. 

Localized immersion carries over into the shopping experience, too. The Maison commissioned Chinese celebrity stylist Mix Wei to curate the window front of Valentino’s Shanghai IFC boutique.

The window front of Valentino’s Shanghai IFC boutique as part of the “Global Unboxing” campaign. Photo: Valentino

Shanghai is one of eight global cities — along with Paris, New York, London, Milan, Tokyo, Seoul and Dubai — to unveil local stylist window activations as part of the “Global Unboxing” campaign. A ninth “destination” exists online, offering exclusive digital experiences with celebrity stylists and the ability for online customers to purchase looks directly through an interactive video.

China’s luxury sector is forecast to grow between 9-14 percent in 2023, according to McKinsey’s The State of Fashion 2023 report. Previously under-represented in the China market, Valentino has expanded rapidly in the country and re-positioned its image at the top end of the luxury fashion business since CEO Jacopo Venturini came on board in 2020.

The appointment of Janice Lam as CEO for Greater China in 2022 and store reopenings planned for this year signal its commitment to further push into the market. Whether making gregarious statements in hot-pink or theatrically unboxing concepts that define our times, Valentino has bold visions for the Chinese market and is proving that it is a brand to watch.

Eileen Gu Watches and Wonders

Skier Eileen Gu On Her Superstar Status, Ambassadorships And Secrets To Hyper Efficiency

Olympic gold medalist Eileen Gu has transfixed the sports, luxury and fashion worlds. Known as Gu Ailing in China, the California-born superstar has excelled in professional freestyle skiing, the half pipe, slope style and big air events, making controversial headlines when she competed for China instead of the US in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics — and earned two gold medals in the process. 

“I think I’m really blessed with the platform I have,” the 19-year-old tells Jing Daily at Watches & Wonders 2023 in Geneva, where she was a guest as a brand ambassador of IWC Schaffhausen. “And with that comes a lot of responsibility. I think that as a young person, the reach that you have is a new way to define your voice… And so what you do with that suddenly becomes a lot more meaningful because you have the opportunity to have a much broader reach nowadays than you could 10 years ago or in previous generations.” 

Besides being an Olympic champion, Gu is also a sought-after brand ambassador, working with top-tier luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. With model-esque looks, multicultural and multilingual Gu (who speaks fluent Mandarin with a Beijing accent) is a China marketer’s dream. China’s obsession with Gu in no small part drove a boom in the country’s snow sports scene, inspiring many young fans to take up skiing and snowboarding. 

Louis Vuitton tapped Eileen Gu to promote its latest Twist bags at the Messner Mountain Museum Corones. Photo: Louis Vuitton

With her fame, the Asian American athlete is “encouraging people to be unafraid to break their boundaries, to be unafraid of failure, to redefine what beauty is in the context of femininity and power,” says Gu. “And also to discover their own style. Go outside and be confident and make friends. I feel all these are things sport has brought to me… and a lot of people have not had the opportunity to experience it.” 

Flying around the world, staying in competitive form and pursuing commercial endeavors — Gu’s life might seem hectic to others. But she’s a pro at multitasking: “I think that when you do a bunch of different things, you maintain the passion and you maintain the efficiency within each one of them individually.”

Her talent and competitive streak has taken her to the X Games, World Championships and, of course, the Olympics. These achievements are all the more impressive considering she’s balancing student life at Stanfordwhere she has taken classes in quantum physics and political science, and being a normal teen.

Managing time is a huge thing to me, honestly. It’s my secret weapon,” the athlete adds. “And what I mean by that is it’s not really about the volume you put into something. It’s about the optimization and the efficiency that you put into it. And what I mean by that is people always ask me how I’m able to do so many seemingly completely disparate things and in the sense of, why are you an extreme sports athlete, a model, and a full-time student? Like, where is all of this time coming from?”

So just how does she manage such hyper-efficiency? She prefers to study in 90-minute intervals, taking breaks in between to go work out or do something else.

“Even if I’m only spending three hours, I’m probably getting the efficiency and the work done and the productivity that’s equivalent to six. Because if you’re actually just sitting there for six hours, you’re spacing out for three of them on your phone, you’re distracted,” Gu explains.

“Everything that I’m doing, I’m a hundred percent in it, you know. Like right now I’m in this conversation, I’m thinking about your questions, I’m doing it. Here, I’m at Watches and Wonders. I’m learning, I’m absorbing.” She’s not thinking about the assignment that’s due in two days or her friends back home. Part of her skill is to stay focused in the moment. 

On her ambassadorship with IWC, Gu remarks that they share similar values. There’s a respect for history and tradition, for class and elegance, and for precision in all the things they do. At the same time, Gu says, “we’re also not afraid to innovate and break boundaries.”

Eileen Gu visited the IWC manufacture on March 30, 2023 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Photo: IWC/Getty Images

Gu laughs, admitting that she is “a huge nerd” and is fascinated by aspects like the special Ceratanium material created by IWC for its watches. She waxes lyrical about these scientific innovations “on a microscopic scale…and the process of testing, and how you make something light, functional, and combine those elements in a way that won’t scratch ceramic, that you can’t scratch with anything other than diamond. That’s crazy.”

Gu’s fascination with science and innovation is perhaps not so surprising given that she studies in Palo Alto. “I’m in the center of it,” she quips. “It’s really the future.” 

As for her own personal style, Gu admits that she’s a fan of “all things sparkly.” In Geneva that day, she’s wearing an IWC Portofino watch. “I like the complication. I like the day and night and I like diamonds,” she adds. When it comes to sportier watches, it’s the Tahoe that’s currently her favorite. “These two models are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, but they also represent me, right? Fashion and sports.” 

Gu is no doubt collecting a few lucrative luxury deals on the back of her sports superstardom. With her popularity in China and global appeal, brands and media have been lining up to be associated with the star. But for Gu, there’s a cognizance of her “responsibility to the greater good.”

The last time she was on snow, right before the X Games, she was teaching small kids at the Aspen Valley Ski Club on a trip organized by IWC. “And at the end of the day, everybody was doing 360s! I’m not like necessarily implying, but maybe subtly implying that I’m a very good coach,” Gu laughs. “I think seeing the excitement of these kids skiing outdoors and learning new tricks was really inspiring and very meaningful to me.” 

silver economy older women

Gray Is The New Black: Is Fashion Finally Embracing Older Women?

Vogue Philippines made headlines when it revealed 106-year-old tattoo artist Apo Whang-Od as the cover star of its April 2023 Issue. Whang-Od set a new record for the oldest model to appear on a Vogue cover, beating out Judi Dench who appeared on British Vogue at the age of 85.

But she is not alone. More women with silver hair and — dare we say it — wrinkles are appearing in exalted fashion images.   

In 2022, Sports Illustrated featured silver-haired Maye Musk on the cover of its swimsuit edition. At the start of 2023, Burberry tapped 86-year-old Vanessa Redgrave for its latest campaign, while New York City-based Asian American art collective CFGNY scouted retired real estate agent Helen Chan to be a model in its fashion show.

And after winning the Best Actress Academy Award this year, Michelle Yeoh, 60, became the new face of La Mer and will receive the Women in Motion Award from Kering at the Cannes Film Festival, which takes place May 16 to 27, 2023. 

Left: English actress Vanessa Redgrave in Daniel Lee’s debut campaign for Burberry. Right: Michelle Yeoh stars in a La Mer campaign. Photo: Burberry, La Mer

The growing prominence of mature faces in fashion is, on the one hand, long overdue recognition that it’s mostly middle-aged consumers who have the money to purchase luxury goods. But even with the increased visibility of faces like Musk or Whang-Od, older models are still very much an outlier in a fashion culture where teenage models and cosmetic procedures to remain youthful remain the norm. 

“We have this really bizarre situation, where typically the group of women and indeed men who have the money to buy luxury to any degree are older, and yet the industry obsesses about the young,” says Anna Murphy, fashion director of The Times and author of newly released book Destination Fabulous: Finding Your Way to the Best You Yet

Women of more advanced ages have been celebrated as fashion icons for years, Murphy says, from Joan Didion in her famed Celine ads to Linda Rodin and Iris Apfel, who still regularly launch new products and collaborations at age 74 and 101, respectively. And those faces and names can add a certain value to a fashion campaign or magazine cover no matter the intended audience. 

In 2022, 101-year-old businesswoman and style icon Iris Apfel launched a capsule collection with beauty brand Ciaté London. Photo: Ciaté London

“Someone like Vanessa Redgrave, or indeed Maye Musk or [Apo Whang-Od] on the cover of Vogue Philippines, they’ve got a backstory in a way that an 18-year-old just doesn’t have,” says Murphy. “They exude intelligence, the intelligence of a lived life, and I think brands are wanting to add extra dimensions into their own brand narrative.”

The rise of older models also appeals to Gen Z’s values of inclusivity. 

Brands are playing into youth’s values and one of Gen Z’s top priorities is diversity and inclusion (D&I). This cohort of consumers is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation to date. The demand for D&I extends to tackling ageism in advertising and marketing,” says Elizabeth Tan, insight strategist at WGSN. “TikTok also has a role to play here as the platform has become a space for intergenerational creators and users. What was once a platform dominated by Gen Z has since expanded to become a hub for creators of all ages.”

But while the glamorization of older women is notable in a culture where young models are the default, Murphy adds that the very concept of youth culture is still a relatively new phenomenon. 

“It’s easy to forget that that’s a fairly recent invention that comes out of the post-war era, the 50s and the 60s and the 70s, this invention and use of youth as a source of power. And that was, in many ways, an important correction to a hierarchical society that put old people at the top and younger people at the bottom. But we’ve overcorrected,” she says.

At the same time that youth culture became the epicenter of pop culture, technological advances made the pursuit of youth more attainable for consumers — and more profitable for the cosmetics industry. Botox was first approved for cosmetics use only in 1989, and more anti-wrinkle injections like Xeomin have arrived on the market since then. Commercial hair dyes have become safer and more normalized in recent decades, while skincare technologies developed in Asia have spread across the globe. 

But while surgery and skincare routines in the pursuit of youth have become more accessible, the burden of maintaining a youthful appearance, particularly for women, has also become more apparent, and, for some consumers, distasteful. Last year, Kim Kardashian faced criticism for admitting she would “eat poop” if it meant she would look younger, while Linda Evangelista admitted to disfigurement as a result of CoolSculpting procedures gone awry.

In such an environment, fashion’s predominant fantasy of impossible thinness and youthfulness began to appear “decades old,” Vanessa Friedman wrote in the New York Times in response to Evangelista’s return to the cover of British Vogue. “A generation of designers are increasingly building their names, businesses and communities on just such a message, filling their runways not simply with traditional models, but with friends and family of all shapes, sizes, ages and gender identities — with wrinkles and bulges and the signs of life lived.” 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by AnnaGMurphy (@annagmurphy)

Anna Murphy, fashion director of The Times, and model Maye Musk in Paris.

At the start of 2023, subdued, mature styles, widely dubbed “quiet luxury” have become fashion’s buzziest styles, exemplified by Gwyneth Paltrow’s courtroom attire and Succession’s understated corporate attire. Tan notes that simple styles coded as #recessioncore have also trended on TikTok among Gen Z shoppers, but the move towards more grown-up dressing also makes mature models a more natural fit for campaigns and covers. 

The shift in product away from streetwear’s influence, which in the fashion industry is generally associated with youth, does create more opportunities for older models,” said Tan. “Naturally, the odds of seeing more mature models will increase as streetwear’s influence in campaigns wanes, as more brands will be using products that can be represented authentically by older women in a way that speaks to all consumers.”

Murphy is hopeful that fashion will continue to embrace and normalize maturer women rather than use them as a flash-in-the-pan trend. But she likens the handful of high-profile examples to the use of plus-size models in fashion, where a few plus-size models obscure the fact that the vast majority of models are still very thin. 

“The very fact that we’re talking about it is indicative of the degree to which it’s quite an outlier phenomenon,” she says. 


Chinese fashion luxury brands

Chinese Consumers Ditch Foreign Fashion And Luxury Brands For Local Options: McKinsey Report

What Happened: In China’s already hyper-competitive fashion, apparel and luxury market, doing business just got harder — especially if you are a foreign brand. According to McKinsey’s latest report, in 2021, the top 20 local Chinese brands made up 60 percent of total sales in the apparel market, up from 54 percent the year before; meanwhile, foreign brands’ sales shrank from 46 percent to 40 percent from the year before. 

The same report found that 52 percent of surveyed Chinese consumers prefer local fashion apparel brands to foreign ones. Similarly, 42 percent of Chinese respondents said they prefer local beauty brands compared to foreign skincare and cosmetics options. 

The Jing Take: Chinese fashion and luxury brands are now outpacing their global rivals thanks to strong localized strategies that include social media outreach to consumers via key opinion leaders (KOLs) and key opinion consumers (KOCs). 

With China’s urbanization rate expected to skyrocket from 50 percent in 2010, to 70 percent by 2030, global fashion and luxury brands will need to adapt to secure the nation’s rising middle class population as a key clientele demographic. According to McKinsey’s report, the middle class’ rising earnings means a larger segment of consumers will have disposable income. 

Foreign brands will need to find better ways to connect with consumers through China’s various multichannel e-commerce and social media platforms. For instance, by equipping themselves with better live-streaming capabilities and educating consumers along their purchase pathways, brands can look to better tailor their social media channels to authentically and efficiently connect with their target clientele. 

The report also notes that local Chinese brands have gained further advantages through adopting savvy and streamlined operating models, as well as smarter supply chain management. Foreign brands can look into this is by localizing product development and packaging to better “reflect local tastes and trends,” and accelerating their China-based product development and D2C capabilities. 

An example of this approach is L’Oréal’s newest smart operations hub in Suzhou, where the beauty giant expects to put its newest intelligent center into operation by Q4 of this year. The hub will handle warehousing and packaging to expedite the local supply chain process. 

In October 2022, L’Oréal started the construction of an intelligent operation center in Suzhou to improve logistics. Photo: Suzhou Industrial Park

Similarly, American lifestyle consumer goods retailer Procter & Gamble announced earlier this year that it would move its supply chain center from Europe to Guangdong. The move will further streamline the conglomerate’s operations in China, making the new facility its largest production base as well.

Amid China’s post-pandemic reopening, foreign brands will need to take note and pay closer attention to evolving consumer needs, tastes and buying power. 

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.


Kering KNXT AI

Kering Taps The Power Of AI, NFTs With New Tech-First Fashion Marketplace

Kering, the largest luxury goods group after LVMH, has launched its very own “cutting-edge fashion space” coined KNXT. Harnessing novel technologies, the online site is a place for the giant to test the curation of new innovative content and ideas through the integration of AI and NFTs. 

The platform introduces a new chatbot named “/madeline,” powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT, that acts as a personal shopper to help visitors browse luxury brands including Gucci, Balenciaga, and Bottega Veneta and avoid “endless scrolling.” As of now, users can connect their crypto wallets to the marketplace and buy items using the cryptocurrency ETH. 

To commemorate the launch, KNXT announced it will airdrop NFTs from its “La Première” collection to the first 100 people who make a purchase using a Web3 wallet. The token arrives in the form of an owl that sports the various luxury labels available to purchase on the site.

Although the platform states that Kering is behind its creation, the multinational is yet to issue an official statement on KNXT, suggesting that the group is keen to keep the project’s exposure to a minimum during its initial testing phase. 

What this means for luxury at large

Luxury has adopted AI with little hesitation, enabling the tech to quickly overtake Web3 and metaverse-related initiatives such as digital assets and virtual influencers. As a result, more brands are looking to AI to spearhead growth; not only does AI present a significantly lower risk than Web3-related tools, but it’s also a more palatable method of onboarding hesitant consumers.

With world-leaders like LVMH still working out where Web3 fits into their strategies, it’s interesting to see Kering keep its finger on the pulse of evolving consumer interests.  

Consumers’ appetite for AI-generated projects is also growing. Searches for “artificial intelligence” have skyrocketed this year, with programs such as ChatGPT (which now boasts over 100 million users) piquing mainstream interest. Brands that had shrugged off the chatbot as an ephemeral trend are already rethinking their position, as they realize its role in maintaining cultural relevance.

But scaling up on AI isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Consumers are becoming savvier than ever thanks to an uptick in accessibility, meaning they’re now shrewd enough to distinguish a poorly-executed strategy from a great one. For brands, it’s about going beyond the buzz and tapping into what makes target audiences tick, while keeping the consumer experience — and the business’ core values — at the heart of the process.


The Reebok x Deal Lifestyle x Staple Instapump Fury, launching this Sunday. Photo: Reebok

Ogawa Natsumi Coffee Merch, Sneakers And Doe Shanghai: China Collabs Of The Week

Spring has definitely sprung in the mainland. This week’s brand collaboration trends reflect a return to life outdoors, with brands making use of physical spaces such as cafés and stores that boast cult followings.

Multi-brand streetwear store Doe Shanghai’s latest project comes in the form of Vans Authentic LX and OG Sk8-Hi LX silhouettes. Another notable footwear launch this week is courtesy of domestic sneaker retailer Deal Lifestyle’s collaboration with Staple and Reebok. 

Also capitalizing on the resumption of leisurely pursuits across China is coffee shop Green House, which has joined forces with illustrator Ogawa Natsumi on an artsy merchandise line.

For our verdict on these brand collaborations, read below. Subscribe to the Collabs & Drops newsletter here to receive these updates straight to your inbox every Tuesday.

Vault by Vans x Doe Shanghai


Vans connects with Chinese consumers via national joys, with the help of Doe Shanghai. Photo: Vans x Doe

Date: April 4

Verdict: Global names continue to connect with the Chinese market via Doe Shanghai. Launching under the theme of “to play it fair and square” (玩亦有道), the campaign featured a traditional Chinese chess game that resonates with the older generation while stirring feelings of nostalgia among Gen Z consumers, too. 

At this time of year in China, people gather in parks to play chess, and as this is the first post-lockdown spring, it’s a great time to celebrate the national pastime. In promoting the shoes, the brands are championing wholesome outdoor activities like skateboarding and playing chess. The social campaign is fairly quiet, but the #Vansvault hashtag on Xiaohongshu does have 1.9 million posts, while #Doe is at 4.1 million. 

Green House x Ogawa Natsumi

Green House x Ogawa Natsumi

Bags featuring the illustrations of Ogawa Natsumi are part of the Green House collaboration. Photo: Green House x Ogawa Natsumi

Date: April 6

Verdict: Feeding into China’s booming coffee culture, popular Guangdong-based café and creative studio Green House has joined up with Japanese illustrator Ogawa Natsumi on a series called “Café Art” and “Happy Hearts,” comprising T-shirts, stickers, cup holders and bags. With competition intensifying, independent coffee shops can find they are struggling, prompting some to turn to collaborations. 

The initiative will enhance the public’s perception of Green House as a creative hub. Green House x Ohawa Natsumi has been named as #urbancore (18.5 million posts) on Xiaohongshu. Merchandise is really having a moment in China — the hashtag #greenhouse has generated 615,200 posts to date, and the published images are mainly of fans wearing the merch.

Reebok x Deal Lifestyle x Staple 

staple reebok

Popular local store Deal Lifestyle comes together on a second collection with Reebok and Staple. Photo: Reebok

Date: April 16

Verdict: Domestic sneaker store Deal Lifestyle owns three IPs in China: Lifestyle, Wzk, and Color. It operates 10 stores across key cities including Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing and Tianjin. This three-way collection follows a popular inaugural release from the trio in 2022, and enables Reebok and Staple to connect with like-minded consumers who are already sneaker fans.

There isn’t a hashtag to promote the collaboration on Weibo. Reebok is using its own branded one, likely because both Staple and Deal Lifestyle are inactive on the platform. Over on Xiaohongshu, there are just two organic posts about the new drop — it’s a quiet campaign, perhaps to keep crowds manageable at the brick-and-mortar stores.

CR Land luxury mall lower tier

Mixc Malls Unveils Ambitious Plan To Expand Into China’s Emerging Luxury Market

What Happened: On March 29, Chinese commercial real estate giant China Resources Land (CR Land) released its 2022 financial report. It generated revenue of $39.1 billion (206 billion RMB), a 2.4 percent year-on-year decline, ranking it fourth among Chinese developers. Despite the slowdown, CR Mixc Lifestyle Services Ltd, the Hong Kong-listed property management arm of CR Land, reported $610 million (4.21 billion RMB) in retail management revenue, an 18.2 percent annual increase. CR Land opened 16 new malls in China last year, taking the number of malls it owns in the country to 66. Its rental income increased by 4.2 percent year on year to $2.3 billion (15.8 billion RMB).   

Notably, CR Land also announced it will open 10 new shopping complexes in Chinese cities including Hangzhou, Chongqing, Kunming, Wuxi, and Wenzhou this year. Over the next four years, the company plans to launch eight new upscale Mixc malls, which host luxury houses such as Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Cartier, and Gucci. By 2027, CR Land expects to have 111 malls in China.    

The Jing Take: As a state-owned enterprise, CR Land’s ambitious retail expansion plan reflects China’s determination to boost domestic consumption. More importantly, the proposed locations of CR Land’s new malls suggest that China’s lower-tier cities will only play a more important role in luxury retail going forward. The majority of CR Land’s 10 planned complexes will be located in new first-tier or second-tier cities. 

Indeed, CR Land has been eyeing China’s emerging luxury market for some time. For instance, in June 2022, Haikou, the capital of Hainan Province and a third-tier city, welcomed its first Mixc mall. Louis Vuitton will reportedly set up in the Haikou complex soon. In December 2022, CR Land opened a Mixc mall in Fuzhou, a second-tier city in Fujian province. 

CR Land opened a Mixc mall in Haikou in 2022. Photo: Shutterstock

To be sure, CR Land is not alone in capturing retail market share in China’s lower-tier cities. Luxury mall brand SKP, which unveiled a large mall in Chengdu at the beginning of 2023, is set to launch its Wuhan mall by the middle of this year, and is planning to enter Hefei, Kunming, and Hohhot, a third-tier city in Inner Mongolia. Hong Kong-based Hang Lung Properties is currently developing retail projects in lower-tier cities such as Wuhan, Kunming, Wuxi, and Shenyang as well. Also, K11, which already operates malls in Wuhan and Shenyang, plans to enter Wuxi before the end of this year.

However, even though the race to reach lower-tier cities is intensifying, CR Land is in a good financial position to compete. Its $4.1 billion (28.1 billion RMB) profit attributable to shareholders in 2022 meant it was the most profitable real estate company in China that year. By comparison, Hang Lung Properties generated a profit of $540 million (HK$4.2 billion) in Financial Year 2022. With reputable malls like Mixc committed to exploring China’s emerging high-end retail markets, luxury brands have ample reasons to remain bullish on China’s expanding personal luxury market.  

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.


Gucci Brand storytelling

Gucci Is Now At A Critical Juncture. Here’s What Luxury Brands Can Learn.

During the tenures of Tom Ford and, most recently, Alessandro Michele, Gucci was among the best of the best in brand storytelling.

Everything the luxury house did pushed boundaries, with a bold and confident stance. And by doing so, Gucci embodied its brand story of freedom of self-expression. Both designers — albeit fundamentally different in their execution and creative vision — were uniquely able to energize the brand and make it relevant for their times while being incredibly precise on expressing the brand ethos in everything they did. 

During their tenures, Gucci managed to be one of the most innovative, disruptive, and — in a good way — controversial brands, one that defines the zeitgeist. And especially under Michele, Gucci became one of the most inclusive and value-driven brands that embraced topics important to Gen Z, such as sustainability and gender fluidity. It also became an ageless and non-stereotypical brand, featuring models and influencers of all age groups as well as many who did not follow preconceived notions of beauty. 

In 2018, the then-88-year-old Tippi Hedren became the new face of Gucci’s jewelry and timepieces. Photo: Gucci

Individual freedom of self-expression was expressed in every touchpoint, including in the revamped stores. Campaigns like #ofcourseahorse became wonderful executions of the brand vision and demonstrated how extreme value creation is in the story.

Luxury brands must be exceptional in entertaining and making their core values clear to create cultural capital in a digital cosmopolitan world, where algorithms of social media platforms become the new “moment of truth” between brands and clients. This does not deemphasize quality, but rather changes the hierarchy and critical moments of extreme value creation. The story leads, the quality follows.

Since the departure of Alessandro Michele, Gucci seems lost. The latest campaigns rely to an almost extreme extent on movie stars and celebrities, as if the brand is trying to cling to external validation. This is the opposite of the bold self-confidence that attracted so many to the brand before.

In March, Gucci unveiled its Gucci Horsebit 1955 collection with Julia Garner and Halle Bailey. Photo: Gucci

And after pioneering the gender-neutral MX collection, it silently disappeared from the website. Gucci was the first of the major luxury brands to give clients a choice between men, women, and gender-neutral, thus living up to its core value of self-expression. Gucci is now back to a binary definition of the world.  

The focus now feels predominantly product-focused with little organic storytelling. While change is a necessity, especially in the fashion world, brands should never compromise on their storytelling. Gucci did that mistake once, in the years following Tom Ford with Frieda Giannini, who after an initial success failed to keep the momentum going and was later ousted and replaced by Michele.

At that time, the conclusion was that Gucci had focused too much on product and craftsmanship and failed to connect adequately with millennials who became the driving force among luxury buyers. Importantly, the over-reliance on product did not allow the Kering label to bring its core values across; instead of being one-of-one, Gucci became one-of-many. And being in the sea of sameness — albeit at a high level — is deadly for any brand that aspires to be luxury. 

In luxury, storytelling is the most critical success factor. Although fashion brands often rely heavily on a creative director, clients connect with stories. Hence, if a creative director fails to embody the story, there will be no long-term success. And what today’s brands often underestimate is that the decision-making process of a luxury client towards the brand is not predominantly guided through product or in-store experiences; rather, up to 95 percent of purchase decisions are initiated somewhere on the digital journey. 

This is why the creation of cultural capital and extreme value through storytelling is so critical today. Quality and craftsmanship are expected from luxury houses and will often not be the decisive factor in the purchasing journey, especially in a reality where many brands compete at the highest level. 

While previous generations of luxury clients were easier to convince, Gen Zers are the toughest target group to reach. They trust people more than brands. They are very cognizant of their own personal values, and their purchase decisions are driven by the compatibility between the brand story and their personal brand. If they don’t understand the core values of a brand because they are either not communicated clearly or consistently, then there is no desirability. 

Marco Bizzarri, the CEO of Gucci, is one of the most experienced and successful luxury leaders and extremely brand-savvy. Therefore, I am hopeful that Gucci will be able to reinvent itself under its new creative direction while being crystal clear and consistent on its storytelling. Other luxury brands — independent of their category — should take notice. To create extreme value in today’s reality, it’s always the story first and then the product. If it’s done the other way around, the clients of the future will not be reached with enough desirability. 

This is an opinion piece where all views expressed belong to the author.

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 him: LinkedIn:, Instagram: @equitebrands /@thedaniellanger

True Religion denim China

Can True Religion Win Over China’s Denim Market?

What Happened: American denim and sportswear brand True Religion is finally entering the China market as part of its long-term global expansion strategy. The plan includes opening 65 freestanding and in-store shops by 2026, with hopes of operating a total of 108 offline locations by 2028. In an interview with WWD, the brand said the first stores will open in the first quarter of 2024, with Beijing and Shanghai at the top of the list. Additionally, it plans to launch on China’s leading e-commerce platforms, such as Tmall, JD, Douyin and Dewu.

This expansion will be done in partnership with Aurorae Group, owner of Japanese denim label Evisu, who will help True Religion sell existing products and design new items exclusively for the Chinese market. It is anticipated that by 2026, China will account for 10 percent of True Religion’s global brand volume.

Recommended ReadingUnzipping China’s Denim OpportunityBy Gemma A. Williams

The Jing Take: When it comes to China, True Religion has big ambitions. Although Levi’s and Guess have achieved some popularity in the country, the local denim market is not dominated by one name, making it fair game for any brand.

Currently, the American fashion house has gained some recognition through netizens sharing their purchases on social media. However, True Religion will need to appeal to a wider range of consumers to achieve its expansion goal. This is where Aurorae Group comes in.

The #truereligion hashtag has over 104,000 views on Xiaohongshu. Photo: Xiaohongshu

As a global fashion and lifestyle group based in Asia, Aurorae Group has a deep understanding of local consumers. In order to leverage this wealth of knowledge, True Religion has given the company autonomy in designing local products and managing both online and offline sales, facilitating a smooth entry into China’s competitive market.

“We’ll be able to learn so much about the market from Evisu’s experience, plus there will be great synergies between the brands,” said Michael Buckley, chief executive officer of True Religion, to WWD.

In addition to the Aurorae Group’s expertise, True Religion can also leverage fashion trends like Y2K or American Retro-core, which often incorporate denim pieces, as well as pop-up shops to attract young customers. For instance, Levi’s launched Levi’s Space on Shanghai’s Yuyuan Road to showcase the brand’s heritage and create an immersive experience for audiences to explore the world of denim. True Religion can consider similar strategies to capture the Chinese market.

In July 2022, Levi’s opened a six-month pop-up in Shanghai to host product launches, workshops and network-based gatherings. Photo: Levi’s

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.

Rolex Watch collectors China Geneva

Chinese Collectors Reveal Top Picks From Watches And Wonders 2023

The latest iteration of the luxury watch industry’s biggest trade event, Watches and Wonders, saw the mighty Patek Philippe, Rolex, LVMH, and Richemont watch brands launch a myriad of novelties in Geneva last week. With pandemic lockdowns lifted worldwide, the watch fair saw double the number of attendees compared to last year, along with celebrity brand ambassadors including Julia Roberts and Roger Federer descend on the Swiss city. 

While over 40 brands participated in the official watch fair hosted in Geneva’s large Palexpo grounds, few of the popular and independent brands, such as Bulgari and Jacob & Co., chose to host their pop-up exhibits at luxury hotels outside of Palexpo, making the watch week in Geneva busier than ever before. 

With hundreds of great watches launched, picking the best of the lot was no easy task. That’s why we sought out watch collectors and watch industry experts to ask them for their favorite models. Here are some of the top drops from Geneva according to collectors and market experts from mainland China and Hong Kong — two watch markets that make up the world’s largest importer of Swiss watches, according to Fondation de La Haute Horlogerie (FHH) 2022 figures.

Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 is inspired by a jigsaw puzzle. Photo: Rolex

Daniel Sum: Watch collector and Shanghai Watch Gang co-founder. Sum is also the China consultant for Phillips Watches auction house. 

“My top picks from Watches and Wonders fair are the Rolex Daytona collection, Rolex Day Date Jigsaw and Patek Philippe 5261R Aquanaut Luce. The Rolex Day Date Jigsaw is a completely new concept. Instantly recognizable and almost in a category of its own. I believe this watch is very forward-thinking in how we regard watches as an accessory. It is a lifestyle piece, artistic and completely within trend. Coming from one of the strongest brands within the whole industry and being a unique concept within one of its most popular lines, plus being instantly recognizable, make this piece a sure win for the brand.

“My own taste in watches doesn’t lie in modern watches, but I believe all three of these watches will prove most popular with Chinese collectors. The economy faces some tough times ahead and collectors will be drawn to the security of big brands and those watch models that retain a high value in the secondary market.”

The new IWC Ingenieur features the aesthetic codes of Gérald Genta’s iconic Ingenieur SL from the 1970s and the bracelet a 21st century sports watch. Photo: IWC

Johnathan Chan: Co-founder of Hong Kong-based watch club, The Horology Club.

“While other brands continue to produce good collectibles, I expect demand to be strong for all the Rolex and Patek Phillippe releases among Chinese collectors because right now these are still considered by many to be the two brands with the most prestigious brand equity. I believe that is one of the most important considerations for collectors in China.

“My top picks from Geneva will have to be Cartier Tank Normale, A Lange and Sohne Odysseus Chronograph and, of course, the IWC Ingenieur. 

“With the hype surrounding Gerald Genta sports watches, it would have been easy for IWC to just reissue the Ingenieur without too much effort. However, it’s clear they’ve taken their time with it to really nail the new edition. IWC has made detail-oriented improvements to make sure that the watch is a true evolution. From the checkered dial to the functional screws on the bezel; from redesigning the middle link of the bracelet to including a new modern case material — Titanium. IWC has done a smashing job with the reissue. It makes this offering one of the strongest releases this year.” 

The Cartier Tank Normale most closely resembles the original Tank design from 1917. Photo: Cartier

Yan Yin Lai: A woman watch collector from Hong Kong with a collection ranging from Rolex DateJusts, Cartier Santos to independent watch brands such as FP Journe and Ressence.

“There is a return of the sautoir (long-necklace) watches this year — Chanel, Piaget, and Jaeger-LeCoultre have all released beautiful new takes on their sautoirs. The trend for ladies watches seems to be a take on jewels to be worn with function and I’m sure they will be a big hit with the Chinese ladies.

“For me, the Cartier Tank Normale, Ressence Type 8 Sage Green and Chanel Premier Robot are the winners. I am loving the Interstellar theme for 2023 from Chanel. The robot on the Premier watch is cute and quirky at the same time. I love the velvet rubber strap, too. On the other hand, Cartier Tank Normale is a classic. I have been hunting for 1970s vintage Cartiers lately and it’s very refreshing to see such a classic reiteration of the Tank watch.”

The FP Journe FFP features a sculpted hand made of titanium. Photo: FP Journe

Andy Zhang, Shanghai-based CEO of The WatchBox, China. He is also an avid watch collector and the co-founder of Lange Nation, a social media community dedicated to A Lange and Sohne watches.

“My top watches are A Lange and Sohne Odysseus Chrono, Patek Philippe Grand Complication 5316/50P and the FP Journe FFP (Francis Ford Coppola). Lange Odysseus is the brand’s first automatic steel chronograph and very well executed in terms of the overall design. 

“As for the FP Journe, it is a brand that has become one of the few ‘chosen ones’ for collectors, globally. Also, in an auction market, every time there is a rare Journe up for sale, it always fetches a premium price. It is a brand with huge demand, yet it never stops innovating dials and movements. For me, FFP, I think along with Richard Mille 66, are the coolest hand-posture themed high-end timepieces on the planet. My top three would be in significantly high demand among high-end watch collectors in China. However, we all know that all of these pieces are only reserved for the VVIPs.”

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph draws inspiration from the first Reverso Chronograph of 1996. Photo: Jaeger-LeCoultre

Helbert Tsang: Watch collector from Hong Kong, whose collection includes products from independent brands such as MB&F and Urwerk, and revered classics such as Cartier Baignoire Allongee and Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso 1931.

“My top vote goes to the Rolex Oyster Perpetual ‘Celebration’ dial, Cartier Baignoire Allongee Metier d’Art and Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Chronograph. The Cartier Baignoire Allongee is one of my favorite models from Cartier so it was such a pleasant surprise to see them release a Metier d’Art version of the watch. One might assume Metier d’Art watches mainly target female collectors, but last year’s Metier d’Art Crash Tigrée demonstrated that these types of watches are popular among all collectors.”


Gucci Yuga Labs Web3 NFTs

Gucci x Yuga Labs’ NFT Pendant, Asprey x Bugatti’s Phygital Diamond Egg And More: Web3 Drops Of The Week

As the dust settles from the second iteration of Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week extravaganza, verdicts have rolled in from brands, media, and audiences alike. The stakes were high for this year’s event, and the organizers stepped up to the challenge by putting together an ambitious lineup.

But brands aren’t letting the widespread coverage of MVFW overshadow their own activations. Gmoney’s lifestyle platform 9dcc announced an upcoming treasure hunt brimming with rewards for participants, while Asprey and Bugatti unveiled a new Web3-focused collaboration following their partnership on a sculpture based on Bugatti’s La Voiture Noir model in 2022. 

Finally, the highly-anticipated Gucci x Yuga Labs collaboration was revealed following a wave of hype that took over socials last week when the duo teased the partnership. The joint project arrives in the form of a coveted silver “KodaPendant,” available physically and as an NFT. Enthusiasts scrambled to get their hands on one on Thursday evening, with demand rapidly outweighing supply. Read on to see Jing Meta’s full verdict on the drop. 

The phygital diamond egg marks the second instalment from Asprey and Bugatti’s partnership, which launched a successful sculpture and accompanying NFT drop last year. Photo: Asprey

Asprey x Bugatti’s Phygital Egg Bolsters Web3’s Luxury Offerings And Marks The Second Phase Of Long-Term Partnership 

What Happened: British luxury label Asprey has announced the second phase of its partnership with iconic automotive marque Bugatti. The latest collaborative endeavor arrives in the form of a jeweled egg, crafted from 1,500 pavé diamonds, sterling silver and carbon fiber.

Each limited-edition Objet Egg will be produced as both a physical piece and as an NFT generative artwork. It will be the first collection by two luxury brands to use a state-of-the-art technique to inscribe digital content on the Bitcoin blockchain, ensuring the artwork will last indefinitely. The mint will take place on May 4, when invited members can purchase their exclusive Asprey Bugatti egg.

The Verdict: The project succeeds Asprey x Bugatti’s first release last year, which featured handcrafted sterling silver collectible sculptures, NFTs of Bugatti’s storied La Voiture Noire, and a one-of-one 24k rose gold sculpture that generated $460,000 at auction in London.

The partnership between the two luxury labels is making a case for just how far brands can go with their offerings in the metaverse. Asprey and Bugatti are both focusing on creating collectible spectacles that embody luxury, while also helping to onboard affluent consumers to Web3 in a way that’s more aligned with their interests.

Although the sale of the Objet Eggs is yet to go live, if the duo’s previous drop is anything to go off, this latest project will likely be a hit among jewels and automobile enthusiasts.

Only available to current holders of Koda or Vessel NFTs, the drop was positioned more towards Yuga Labs’ audience than Gucci’s consumer base. Photo: Yuga Labs

Gucci’s Collaboration With Yuga Labs May Have Been Met With Mixed Responses, But Appetite For The Drop Outweighed Concerns 

What Happened: After teasing the collaboration on Twitter last month, Gucci and Yuga Labs (the $4 billion company behind NFT collective Bored Ape Yacht Club) unveiled their “Otherside: Relics by Gucci” project this week — a limited-edition series of physical Gucci products and NFTs inspired by Yuga’s ape-themed metaverse game. The first “relic” released was 3,333 KodaPendants, which were available for 24 hours on April 6. Each KodaPendant could only be bought with Apecoin, Yuga’s native cryptocurrency, and each cost 450 APE (around $1,917).

The Verdict: The collaboration hasn’t been short of media attention and social buzz, but not every conversation around the drop has been positive. Following the official launch, Web3 natives and Yuga Labs’ fanbase took to Twitter (where Yuga Labs was providing live updates on the drop) to express their disappointment. A number of users branded it as too expensive, while others complained that the website experience didn’t reflect the price that they had paid.

Despite several unsatisfactory responses, the drop sold over half of the pendants on offer only an hour into the 24 hours it was available, demonstrating that — even with evident pain points — the release wasn’t short of willing investors. 

The platform is bringing experience-led perks to its steadfast community for NFT.NYC. Photo: 9dcc

Gmoney’s 9dcc Brings Its Virtual Cohort Offline Through Gamified Treasure Hunt Across New York City

What Happened: Gmoney’s 9dcc luxury lifestyle platform will unveil a new treasure hunt concept at NFT.NYC this month. The hunt will kick off on April 12 at an undisclosed bodega, where participants can secure an “Iteration-03 Baseball Cap,” and will continue at various locations across New York City. Each stop will require participants to check-in at the location and receive a commemorative Proof of Attendance Protocol (POAP) and pin designed by multidisciplinary artist Snuffy.

The Verdict: Both Gmoney and 9dcc have found success in the digital terrain. Now, they’re extending their status into the physical one too. Taking the experience offline is a smart move to bring the community together IRL and deepen audience connections.

It’s also a savvy way of sparking curiosity among non-Web3 natives in the real world. Though they might not be familiar with 9dcc, seeing the brand’s cohort trek around New York City is bound to get people talking, ultimately leading to an uptick in interest in the label and its marketing efforts.  

Dries Van Noten

Dries Van Noten Taps Local Artists To Build Cultural Relevance In Chengdu


Dries Van Noten has launched the second chapter of its artist program in Chengdu, inviting four creatives to tell stories related to the southwestern Chinese city. The initiative features poet Zhai Yongming, photographer Feng Li, and musicians Li Dingding and AFLOU, who portray the city’s unique laid-back and inclusive culture for the fashion brand.

Alongside the creative project, the Belgian designer label has unveiled the “Shu Garden Blossoms” pop-up space at its store in Taikoo Li. Customers can experience Chengdu’s spring vibe through the lens of the four artists and have a chance to win a limited-edition flower gift from April 7 to 9.

Netizens’ Reactions

Given that Dries Van Noten is a niche name for Chinese shoppers, the hashtag “DriesVanNoten” has only 1.8 million views on Xiaohongshu. Its Spring 2023 collection drove significant online traffic, thanks to a campaign starring Chinese actress Dilraba published by Elle China. Though engagement on the campaign posts is relatively low compared to that of A-list luxury brands, Dries Van Noten enjoys high recognition among local fashion insiders.

ELLE China’s May cover features Chinese actress Dilraba wearing Dries Van Noten. Photo: Dries Van Noten


Dries Van Noten is a designer fashion brand that is known for its unique aesthetic and craftsmanship. With a strong focus on artistic collaborations, the label has been expanding its presence in China and opening stand-alone boutiques in major fashion hubs such as Shanghai, Chengdu, and Shenzhen.

Dries Van Noten’s artist program was launched in 2022 with a goal of connecting with young Chinese artists and helping them gain global recognition. The program kicked off with a collaboration with painter Su Yuxin, who created two sculptural paintings the size of a mobile phone. The artwork was presented at the brand’s Shenzhen boutique, refreshing the visual merchandising with creative elements.

Recommended ReadingTraversing Chengdu, China’s New Luxury CapitalBy Wenzhuo Wu

The project has been well-received, achieving a balance between maintaining Dries Van Noten’s unique design identity and localizing for new regional markets. For the latest iteration, the brand chose four Chengdu-based names who are recognized in their respective fields instead of the renowned celebrities, allowing it to build authentic connections with targeted underground communities.

For more on brand collaboration, check out Jing Daily’s weekly Collabs and Drops newsletter — a weekly analytical lowdown on the latest news. Sign up here.

digital nomads China Dali

From Bali To Dali: China’s Domestic Digital Nomads Have Arrived

This story is the second in our series on Chinese digital nomads. Read the first piece here

Brand designer Nian Liu took one of her first backpacking trips across Europe in 2015. The Chinese national spent her days “basking in the sun by the sea” and her evenings working on designs from different hostels, traveling with just a backpack, a laptop and a handful of personal items. 

It was late one night, in the common area of one such hostel, when someone asked her: “Are you a digital nomad?” 

“I didn’t know what the term meant,” says Liu. “No, I am a graphic designer,” she remembers replying at the time. “Yes, you are a digital nomad,” the person, a French national, explained to her. “He told me with this kind of lifestyle — traveling and working with a computer, being free to choose how I spend my time and where I am based — this is called being a digital nomad.” 

This was the first time Liu was introduced to the concept. Little did she know it would launch a whole new career path for her back home in China.

Over the years, Liu traveled to more than 150 cities around the world. But in 2020, when the pandemic began, she found herself back in the mainland as cities and regions slowly came under lockdown. 

In Dali City, a historic old town located in Yunnan province, a region famed for its lush hilly landscapes and rich tea traditions, Liu met Daniel Ng, a fellow digital nomad. The two remote workers were looking for a better sense of community both online and offline, but found that such a space did not exist. “We decided to create one ourselves,” she says. 

Today, as the co-founder of her own co-working and community space Dali Hub, Liu has become part of the rising domestic digital nomad movement in China. 

Pushing back against the “996” grind

According to the “2021 White Paper on Traveling and Vacationing in China” published by Mafengwo, 60 percent of young Chinese surveyed said they would like to work remotely and be based in any location of their choice. That year, millennial and Gen Z consumers made up more than 70 percent of travelers.

Beyond the wanderlust, scenic countryside, and potential to earn an income on par with that of first-tier cities, young Chinese view the digital nomadism as a way to counter the intense “996” (9am to 9pm, 6 days a week) lifestyle that many feel defines the existence of office workers nowadays. 

Joining the digital nomad lifestyle is also viewed as a proactive counter to the prevailing “inward curling” culture, which describes being trapped in an intense competition that does not produce notable economic benefits or growth.

“’Lying flat’ and ‘let it rot’ are both ways to escape from ‘996’ but they do not directly confront the issue,” said Ng. Liu echoed the sentiment: “Being a digital nomad is a better way to push back against ‘996’ because I can coordinate my time and energy the best and become the most productive when I have this level of freedom.”    

Across social media, digital nomad influencers are also on the rise. “The hours of work and the hours of rest are based on my own schedule completely,” a digital nomad named @朱利 (Juli) stated in a recent WeChat interview. “If the weather is good, I can take the day off. I plan to change places according to the seasons, so that I can always live in the most comfortable climates.”

Who are China’s domestic digital nomads?

According to those like Liu and Ng, Dali Hub’s founders, China’s digital nomads tend to work across a handful of industries. They include software development, creative writing, marketing, design and creation, consulting, and tutoring. It is common for a nomad to have several online jobs at the same time, as is the case for Liu; aside from running the co-working space and being a graphic designer, she teaches dance classes as well. 

“I feel much happier than before,” explains Liu. “I’m finally doing the things I’ve wanted to do. My identity is more multifaceted… as a designer, dance teacher, cyclist, carpentry enthusiast… I feel that the breadth of my life is constantly being broadened.”

Cost-wise, Liu notes that life in Dali is far more affordable. “When I was working in Beijing, my rent was about 5,000 RMB a month. Later, when I came to live and work in Dali, my rent was only 1,500 RMB a month.”

Dali, Yunnan is known for its nature, ancient towns and pagodas. Photo: Unsplash

Notably, a significant number of nomads in China are also Web3 professionals, suggesting that its decentralized ideals are upheld in real life by some in the industry as well. This dispels the notion that Web3 has limited influence in China and is separated from the global metaverse.  

A community-intensive approach

One sentiment that founders of digital nomad hubs seem to share is that users of their co-working spaces are not so much customers as they are a “chosen” community. 

“What we do is create a co-living and working space to reduce their sense of loneliness in their journeys,” says Suo Suo, the manager of DNA, a digital nomad hub in Anji, Zhejiang province. 

Likewise, Fu Ye, who became a nomad after losing interest in her job as a Beijing-based project manager for four years and is one of the three co-founders of the aforementioned Dali Hub, states, “I think a more appropriate word than ‘clientele’ is a community or a group of people.” 

Co-working spaces enhance the intimacy of the digital nomad community by enabling nomads to work and even live together in some cases. Unlike business networking, many of China’s digital nomad hubs also facilitate interest-based socializing through events such as hiking, skateboarding, book talks, and local cuisines tastings. 

Dali Hub often hosts social events to foster a sense of community. Photo: Xiaohongshu @Dali Hub

Life on the edge?

Of course, becoming a digital nomad is not the panacea for burnt-out Chinese millennials and Gen Zers. Liu admits that there are several hurdles: “One must have a steady cash flow, strong self-discipline, and a clear sense of what to accomplish in career and in life at the same time. It is definitely not for everyone and can be quite challenging for many people.” 

There’s no guarantee that the choice will be understood and supported by one’s family and friends, either. Though Liu adds that she is lucky enough that her own family members “understand and support” her current living situation.

While the movement’s push into the mainstream has been largely positive and eye-opening for many young Chinese, some traditionalists are concerned that the rising hype surrounding digital nomad culture in China has brought speculative investment, causing people to rush into a lifestyle that may not ultimately suit them. 

“I’m concerned that some people become interested in becoming a nomad primarily because they believe they can make or save money,” says Dali Hub’s Fu, who is also the founder of a pop-up digital nomad space in Wenchang, Hainan. “Such a mentality could misconstrue the original purpose of this lifestyle.” 

Digital nomads share snippets of their life in Dali. Photo: Xiaohongshu

Nevertheless, those who have been digital nomads for years are likely to stick to it for the foreseeable future. “Apart from irresistible forces, nothing can incentivize me to abandon my current lifestyle and go back to become an office worker,” says Ng. 

His counterpart Fu adds, “There is no reason for me to go back to big cities and settle down again. I believe that in the long term, only those projects that respect the soul of the movement will stay behind and shine.”   

As for Liu, China’s domestic digital nomad scene will only continue to rise — in popularity and acceptance. “In the post-epidemic era, the number of digital nomads will increase… Everyone has seen the possibility, and more people want to try this kind of lifestyle.” 

Hong Kong retail tourism

Hong Kong Retail Sales Rebound Despite Labor Shortage, Thanks To Mainland Tourism

What Happened: In February, retail sales in Hong Kong rose 31.3 percent from a year earlier to $4.22 billion — the biggest percentage growth in 13 years. 

This was driven by a sharp rebound in inbound travelers; early February was when all border checkpoints were fully reopened. Tourist arrivals that month surged nearly 557 times year-over-year to 1.46 million, surpassing the one million mark for the first time in three years. Mainland Chinese accounted for 1.11 million of these arrivals, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

The Jing Take: The influx of foot traffic sent sales of jewelry, watches, clocks and valuable gifts up 128.6 percent in February compared to last year, while clothing, footwear and accessories sales jumped 104.1 percent. One notable winner was Hong Kong’s cultural-retail mall K11 Musea, which credited the return of tourists and art enthusiasts for its over 100 percent year-over-year sales growth in the first quarter of 2023.

To keep this momentum going, the Hong Kong Tourism Board launched a promotional campaign called “Hello Hong Kong” in March. Not only is it giving away 500,000 free air tickets over the next six months, but it has also prepared over a million consumption vouchers to restaurants, shops, and attractions to welcome guests with open arms.

The “Hello Hong Kong” campaign features celebrities like Netflix’s Physical 100 contestant Choo Sung-Hoon promoting local destinations. Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board

Fred Lam, the CEO of Hong Kong’s airport authority, believes the initiative will have a ripple effect, with those who receive a free ticket expected to bring along a few friends and family members on their trip.

That said, one issue dampening recovery news is the recent announcement about Hong Kong’s shrinking labor market. In 2022, its workforce fell by 2.4 percent — the largest labor drop on record. As the population ages and talented workers emigrate abroad for better opportunities, the manpower shortage will likely affect the city’s competitiveness as well as its ability to staff up its tourism sector.

Still, looking at the near term, Hong Kong’s economy is predicted to grow 3.5 percent to 5.5 percent this year after shrinking 3.5 percent in 2022, says Financial Secretary Paul Chan. April could help boost this, with over 9 million people expected to travel to the city for the Qingming Festival and Easter week, the first long holiday since COVID-19 measures were lifted.  

The road to recovery is long; as a comparison, Hong Kong recorded 56 million arrivals in 2019 before the pandemic began. But with a packed calendar of events and various consumption initiatives, perhaps the city can inch towards regaining its glory as Asia’s travel and shopping mecca.

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.

Shein high fashion sustainability ethics

Seeking Status: Will Fast Fashion Retailer Shein’s Luxury-focused Strategy Work?

Earlier this month, Oscar de la Renta designer Laura Kim, stylist Maeve Reilly, and designer and founder of his namesake fashion label LaQuan Smith gathered in Los Angeles to speak on a fashion panel. The discussion on luxury fashion appeared like many other industry panels — except for the fact that it was hosted by Shein, the mainland Chinese fast fashion company headquartered in Singapore that has become a paragon for unethical labor practices and unsustainable production.   

Shein’s agility and growth have given it financial success and appeal to Gen Z consumers that luxury brands can only hope to replicate. But Shein is now taking a page from luxury’s playbook not only by partnering with fashion-forward figures like Reilly and Smith, but by launching a resale platform and incubating young design talent with its Shein X program

Shein stands to benefit from the credentials of established names in fashion. But partnering with Shein is a risky proposition for luxury and designer fashion given its association with low-quality clothing and poor labor practices. 

“The reason why I think that luxury companies don’t partner more with Shein and other fast fashion companies is because they don’t want customers to ask these questions about the commonalities between the two business models,” says Elizabeth L. Cline, professor of fashion policy and consumerism at Columbia and author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.

“They want to protect their mystique and this idea that luxury is made ethically and always made with the highest standards and with a lot of integrity and quality. The risk is that you open yourself up to shoppers asking questions about how luxury products are made,” she adds.

Humble beginnings, explosive growth

Founded in 2008 by entrepreneur Chris Xu, Shein evolved from a wedding dress retailer to a global fast fashion powerhouse over the course of a decade. But the explosive growth that Shein experienced in recent years has begun to slow down. 

According to The Business of Fashion, US sales for the Chinese company fell in 2022 for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. The company is up against not just slowed online shopping habits and upstart competitors like Temu, but mounting bad press regarding its labor practices, as well as the e-tailer’s alleged glamorization of overconsumption

Such knocks against Shein are especially out of step with a fashion market that in recent years has made sustainability and transparency top values — even if fashion brands across the sector have been accused of greenwashing their efforts. 

Shein’s recent Los Angeles summit is just one instance of using luxury fashion to realign with the brand with more progressive values. Last December, Shein’s premium line MOTF released a collaboration with Christian Siriano, who has been lauded for promoting size inclusivity and sustainability efforts. 

Shein’s premium line MOTF partnered with Christian Siriano on a limited-edition luxury workwear collection. Photo: MOTF x Christian Siriano

But Shein is not only partnering with elevated names in fashion like Smith or Siriano. The company is also aligning itself with more socially-progressive initiatives in recent months with the same sort of speed at which it churns out on-trend designs, such as by launching a collection for Autism Awareness Month and partnering with streetwear platform Hypebae on a women’s history month advertorial. 

“All Western companies are expected to have philanthropic efforts to give back to the community,” notes Cline. “It’s kind of head spinning to see [Shein] take on this whole playbook of corporate social responsibility that took decades to develop and they just did it overnight.” 

The Shein x Autism Heroes collection is part of Shein’s ongoing CSR program “Powered by Love” to support children with autism across Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Photo: Shein

According to Cline, it is possible for fast fashion brands like Shein to improve their labor and environmental practices the way that Western fast fashion brands H&M and The Gap have in recent years. H&M has become an increasingly attractive destination for luxury brands to expand their reach with partnerships, as Mugler demonstrated earlier this month. 

But what separates a luxury fashion brand from a fast fashion retailer is not simply price or quality — it must also be aspirational. Luxury and designer fashion names’ prestige can help Shein polish its image, but for now they still risk their own status in the process.  

victor wong x ugg

What 2023 Has Taught Us About Chinese Brand Collaboration So Far

With the second quarter of 2023 having gotten underway, this year’s brand collaboration trends in China are coming into full view. The first quarter of the year saw an influx of global sportswear businesses tapping local streetwear names, world-renowned footwear brands inviting independent designers to work on collections, and a plethora of collaborative consumer-goods releases. 

Shanghai Fashion Week’s Fall 2023 collections have just been unveiled, too, foreshadowing the apparel and accessories crossovers that can be expected to emerge over the next eight months, such as the likes of Staffonly x League of Legends, and continued partnerships between Asics and Shushu/Tong, and 8On8.

staffonly x league of legends

Staffonly x League of Legends unveiled for fall 2023. Photo: Staffonly Weibo

“Collaboration has always been an important part of our brand strategy,” says Chinese ready-to-wear concept store Randomevent’s founder Younker Hong, whose brand plans to celebrate Disney’s centenary this year via a dedicated collection. 

“Not only do we collaborate with other brands and artists to increase our voice in the marketplace, but we are also building bridges to express diverse attitudes and ideas,” he says. 

Co-branded products continue to be a key strategy for reaching consumers and boosting revenue, acting as a reliable marketing practice in most cases across industries. Businesses’ approach to co-branded products in 2023 reflects the prioritization of quantity over quality. 

Collaborations aren’t becoming less effective, but the measures of success are changing. Projects that do not break the internet are no longer deemed unsuccessful — in 2023, Chinese brands are planting seeds to maintain relevance, reach, and engagement online.

For example, just because the Grace Chow x NBA collection released in March this year garnered less than 1,000 likes across related posts on Weibo, that does not connote failure. Chinese internet star Chow boasts 11 million fans on Weibo, so the mere association with her name and brand is a major win for NBA’s intellectual property in China. In return, Chow’s apparel brand earned some sportswear kudos, burnishing its streetwear credentials.

Taking factors like these into consideration, here are three Chinese brand collaboration tips for 2023:

Prioritize cultural awareness

“Respect the local culture, get in touch with the current crop of young Chinese people, and build an in-depth understanding of the Chinese market,” says Hong. Household names like Adidas, New Balance and Mizuno have all tapped his brand Randomevent to do just that, connecting with local talent to authentically resonate with consumers.

Collaborations should be strategized according to current cultural nuances, too, such as the impact of Covid-19 restrictions. Consumers have this year finally been venturing out for leisure purposes rather than solely for necessities, which is directly influencing consumer psychology and shopping behavior. 

The first quarter proved to be an optimal time for collections associated with leaving the house, exemplified by Maison Margiela x Chen Peng’s elevated outerwear, which will arrive in September, Arc’Teryx joining forces with Chinese luxury hotel group Songstam, and the glamorous make-up line recently launched by Feng Chen Wang and Estée Lauder

Go offline

Naturally, consumers in China crave offline experiences as a result of being deprived of them for so long under Covid-19 restrictions.

“Brands are interested in having more of their own presence and touchpoints in offline retail post-Covid-19, working closely with retailers to bring their visions to life,” explains Plush Consulting agency founder Lucrezia Seu.

Plush partnered with Turight, a store located in Shanghai, from December 2022 through January 2023, running a pop-up for South Korean brand Mardi Mercredi under the theme “Garden Party.” The collaboration project included afternoon tea.

Experience-led collaboration isn’t the preserve of a single industry – photogenic pop-ups dominate Chinese social media platforms Weibo and Xiaohongshu. 

On March 16, 2023, Clot dropped an Asia-exclusive capsule at over 5,000 McDonald’s stores around China, and on the brand’s WeChat Mini Program and Tmall store — the collection was promoted via an eye-catching pop-up that saw shoppers enter a life-size Happy Meal box. It was trending on global platforms.

clot x mcdonalds

Clot and McDonalds produced the most visually-delicious pop-up of the year, so far. Photo: Clot x McDonalds

Aim for added value

Hong highlights the importance of creating added value when discussing the formula behind his stream of Gen Z and millennial-focused collaboration successes. 

“Forget abiding by fixed standards,” he says. “Sometimes we cooperate with some international brands to do large-scale commercial projects, and sometimes we collaborate with local brands to generate creative ideas, both of which I am keen on.”

Randomevent approaches collaborations, whether for large or small collections, from the perspective of increasing the brand’s voice in the marketplace. 

It’s a game of creating and exchanging value, bridging diverse attitudes, and eventually reaping the benefits of combining unique ideas.

For more on brand collaboration, check out Jing Daily’s weekly Collabs and Drops newsletter — a weekly analytical lowdown on the latest news. Sign up here.
jing daily prada

Dr Martens x BT21, Prada Coffee, And Palm Angels Barbour Coats: Global Collabs Of The Week

Trending over the past week in brand collab news was Balenciaga and Supreme’s canceled collection. From shiny plastic red slippers, to hoodies, fake plastic bags, and dramatic outerwear, consumers don’t seem too sad to have missed out on it. 

Other headlines include British music artist Kano’s clothing collab with C.P. Company, available exclusively at multi-brand retailer Flannels, as well as Ugg’s meme-worthy toe-shaped slides with Victor Wong.

This issue spotlights another Ugg Rising Voices designer AlienAnt, whose designs went on sale in China on April 3. We also delve into the seemingly controversial Palm Angels x Barbour launch. Can contrasting brands always connect their consumer bases seamlessly? Apparently not.

Prada x Harrods

prada x harrods

Prada Caffè is officially open in London, inviting consumers to experience the luxury house through lavish branded dining. Photo: Prada

Date: March 31 to January 7

Verdict: Prada’s temporary café allows fans to immerse themselves in the brand, drinking Italian wines and Negroni-based aperitifs while enjoying an interior sporting Prada’s signature green. Opening a café at a location where consumers already shop is a great way to welcome them to spend more time with the brand and cultivate a deeper relationship. 

Furthermore, Harrods is known for being a tourist hub, attracting a population of high-spenders. The Instagrammable interior is easy marketing when people post about it across social media platforms too.

Dr Martens x BT21

dr martens bt21

Dr Martens has tapped BTS Merchandise line BT21, created with Line Friends. Photo: Dr Martens x BT21

Date: March 30

Verdict: Koya, RJ, Shooky, Mang, Chimmy, Tata, and Cooky — the BT21 characters designed by world-dominating Korean boy band BTS — have hit Dr Martens. On Weibo alone, BT21’s official hashtag has 400 million reads, and the official Instagram account has 5.8 million followers. Just how influential is the BTS “Army” (Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth)? Between January 2013 and December 31, 2022, they drove almost 2 billion mentions of BTS online, with an average of 547,945 mentions daily. As a brand that celebrates youth culture as an intrinsic part of its DNA, Dr Martens has won big time on this.

Palm Angels x Barbour

palm angels x barbour

Injecting vibrance into the ordinarily olive or brown wax jackets of Barbour, Palm Angels knows how to make over a classic. Photo: Palm Angels x Barbour

Date: March 31

Verdict: Fashion forward-labels such as Palm Angels can reinvigorate heritage brands like Barbour. Just as the Ganni x Barbour collaboration positioned the British wax jacket name among It-girl womenswear, this release now allows it to embrace streetwear. 

Palm Angels has brought its trademark bold color palettes to the well-known waxy jacket silhouettes — Barbour pieces really are the perfect blank slate for anyone to work their magic. However, reviews have been mixed online. Some people expressed distaste towards Barbour entering the streetwear segment, suggesting that the consumer bases might still be worlds apart. Is this shaping up to be the collaboration that nobody asked for?