What Happened: This London Fashion Week, Vivienne Westwood’s Autumn/Winter 2022 collection is awash with tiger motifs and panther cutting techniques. And no wonder the iconic British designer chose China’s symbol of strength to anchor the concept; the avant-garde label is adding two new flagship stores to expand its footprint in China’s Year of the Tiger.
By the end of March, Vivienne Westwood will open a new flagship store in Shanghai’s CITIC Pacific Plaza, located in the heart of the cosmopolitan district on West Nanjing Road. And by early April, it will unveil its largest flagship store in China, on Beijing Huamao Commercial street, which will be followed by the opening of an in-store café. After the two openings, the brand will officially count 12 stores in China.
The Jing Take: The company’s expansion in the Chinese market suggests an uptick in popularity among the country’s shoppers. The brand has over 40,000 UGC instances on the lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu, where locals share product recommendations. (In comparison, luxury brands Bally and Moschino have a similar number of instances, while Etro only has 6,300.) However, it has not been plain sailing in the past. When the brand debuted in China back in 2011, it planned to open 30 stores over three years — which failed to materialize.
Now, however, thanks to a smart celebrity seeding strategy — dressing local consumers’ favorite fashion icons like Esther Yu, Snow Kong, and Ouyang Nana — the brand has gained momentum in the mainland. All of them have been seen wearing Vivienne Westwood’s accessories, such as its signature pearl necklace. In fact, necklaces, earrings, and handbags are currently the brand’s most popular items in China.
The impressive popularity the punk-style brand enjoys in China can be still surprising, yet, it reflects a shift in consumer behavior. Compared to previous generations, Gen Zers are less attracted by heritage luxury brands’ offerings, and instead, are looking to express their identities through niche labels. Vivienne Westwood’s unique design style and her personality have been key attractions for these shoppers, with many local netizens referring to her as “West Queen.”
Given this, how will the brand — and its many customers in China and beyond — react when she decides to retire? Will the line work without her? Loyal Vivienne Westwood fans hope that day is years away.
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.