Valentino Jumps In On China’s High-Tech Runway Revolution

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Valentino’s Shanghai fashion show on November 14, 2013. (Sina Weibo/Valentino)

Last week, Valentino joined a growing number of fashion labels holding mid-season runway shows in China as they experiment with a variety of high-tech marketing innovations aimed at boosting sales through both online promotion and China-specific products.

On November 14, the brand staged its first ever introduction of a new collection outside Paris in Shanghai, utilizing a combination of savvy digital marketing and items available only in China to improve local sales. Valentino’s original capsule collection of ready-to-wear and haute couture clothing as well as accessories was displayed on a webcast live from Shanghai after being heavily promoted on Sina Weibo with the hashtag “Valentino Shanghai” (#Valentino上海#). Prior to the event, the brand featured a countdown on both its website and social media as well as short teaser videos to help build anticipation.

Immediately following the show, the ready-to-wear items were made available for purchase at Valentino’s new Shanghai flagship at IAPM. In hopes of promoting China sales at a time when China’s affluent are increasingly heading to boutiques abroad to purchase designer items, the new collection is only available in Shanghai until April 2014, where it will be released to other locations such as New York, Milan, Paris, and Rome.

A look from Hugo Boss's 2013 Shanghai runway show. (Hugo Boss)

A look from Hugo Boss’s 2013 Shanghai runway show. (Hugo Boss)

This new format follows a pattern of several other fashion companies undertaking similar strategies with their own innovative runway shows in China. In May, designer Hugo Boss presented his F/W 2013 collection at the Power Station of Art in Shanghai, which it live-streamed globally. Like Valentino, Boss also promoted the show on social media and featured short teaser videos. The label also embraced the idea of “China-exclusive” designs, selling a limited-edition “jade” silk dress and a three-piece suit online during the show. Previously, in March, Dior Homme presented a runway collection in Beijing with special China-specific looks, following a haute couture show in Shanghai in January.

High-tech aesthetics have been a core component of many off-season China shows in recent years. Notably, Burberry sparked a major internet buzz in 2011 with its futuristic holograph fashion show, and in 2012, Hugo Boss hosted a 3D show in Beijing. Both of these events were also livestreamed and heavily promoted through Chinese social media.

The marketing benefits of such shows are numerous. First of all, China-specific items unavailable elsewhere have a twofold advantage. Chinese customers’ rising demand for unique, rare, and special-edition goods will augment sales in China, where the luxury market is experiencing lagging sales as Chinese travelers buy luxury goods for cheaper prices abroad. In addition, these items, along with the runway shows themselves, improve the cachet of China as a burgeoning global fashion center, which may cut down on a mentality among Chinese luxury consumers that purchasing an item in Paris or elsewhere lends significantly higher bragging rights. In addition, these China shows have allowed brands to experiment with their digital marketing techniques in order to help both online and brick-and-mortar sales by building up hype for weeks, livestreaming to the public online, and making the items immediately available for purchase while excitement is still high.

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