/Who’s Courting China at Milan Fashion Week?

Who’s Courting China at Milan Fashion Week?

As the global Fashion Week circuit continues, Milan is up next back in all its pre-pandemic splendor. After two years of mixed digital and physical presentations, this season saw 67 physical shows scheduled for Fall 2022, which ran from February 22-28. 

From Matthieu Blazy’s hotly-anticipated debut collection at Bottega Veneta to Y/Project founder Glenn Martens’ first physical show for Diesel to Gucci’s return following an absence since February 2020 and Kim Kardashian on Prada’s front row all were gathered in Italy’s fashion capital.

Despite the outbreak of war, the shows reflected an overall optimism across luxurious venues. Frivolous, effervescent embellishments like sequins, glitter, and feathers were a noticeable component of many major brands’ Fall collections, such as Prada, Sportmax, and MSGM. But the event closed with one designer showing his solidarity with Ukraine the Italian Giorgio Armani who presented his collection in silence. 

On the runways, Max Mara, Versace, and Moschino’s reds were seen on Asian models, potentially indicating special efforts from the brands to connect with a Chinese audience. Moreover, additional efforts were made by the Italian houses to connect with China: from Gucci to Prada to Bottega Veneta, labels hosted offline screening events at popular clubs in Shanghai, inviting local celebrities, press, and fashion bloggers to follow the livestreaming. The initiatives have driven millions of views for the maisons’ livestreaming.

Alessandra Della Morte, a scouting consultant who works with Chinese and Asian brands, agrees that the mix of luxury and emerging brands on show definitely caters to Chinese buyers. “We have witnessed a strong revival of Milan showrooms, which in the last two seasons have diversified and grown their mix of Italian and international brands.” She points to new talents too, such as Andrea Adamo, Alessandro Vigilante, Cormio, and AC9 who are “an interesting made-in-Italy take on new trends that China is sure to appreciate.”

Read on for Jing Daily’s analysis of the luxury brands and local designers at Milan Fashion Week using the following parameters: 

  • Brand history: considers existing brand history in China, including overall presence, social reach, number of stores, earning trends, and brand missteps.
  • Market potential: analyzes local consumer preference for the brand through design (how the brand’s collection will speak to the Chinese audience based on current trends and preferences) and digital impact (netizen mentions and perceptions on leading social media platforms including Weibo, WeChat, and Xiaohongshu).
  • KOL & celebrity visibility: consider the star power associated with the brand through strategic KOL and celebrity partnerships.
  • Special brand efforts: where relevant, consider special programs or efforts on a brand’s part to speak to the Chinese audience. Company or brand contributions toward the ongoing virus crisis are also considered.

Diesel 

Brand history: Founded in 1978 by Renzo Rosso, Diesel intends to create the world’s most innovative denim. In 2020, the brand shared with that it had 56 stores in China with the aim of opening a dozen more shortly. The company’s efforts in the local market are paying off: on Xiaohongshu the brand currently enjoys 7,600 UGC instances and on Weibo it has over 14,000 followers. 

Market potential: If Xiaohongshu is anything to go by, Y/Project founder Glenn Martens has created the next It bag for Diesel. KOLs as well as users have been posting the Diesel logo-plaque crossbody bag on the lifestyle platform. The Fall collection has also received significant interest from press (Tencent Fashion, Sina Fashion, Hypebeast) and bloggers (@七爷Jessi, @孙怡静cristine, and @frigaciak), reaching a total of 86 million people.

KOL & celebrity visibility: In 2021, Chinese actor Ou Hao was announced as its APAC watch and accessories ambassador, which garnered significant traffic from the celebrity’s followers. Diesel’s commercial campaign for its Year of the Tiger special watch edition (featuring Ou Hao) has been being reposted by fans on Weibo since last December. However, the label failed to leverage the celebrity for the promotion of its fashion show.

Special brand efforts: Diesel’s Fall collection was livestreamed on Weibo. The show, which marks Martens’ first physical event, has received significant attention online. So far, the livestream video garnered 1.44 million views.

Max Mara 

Brand history: With offline footprints in over 30 cities in China, store in July 2021, meaning the Italian luxury brand now has a broad retail network across physical and digital channels. Renowned for its “Teddy coat” in China, the brand has established a solid reputation as one of the go-to brands for winter clothing in the country. On Weibo it currently boasts 197,000 followers.

Market potential: On top of this, the Fall collection received much attention from major media outlets, fashion bloggers, and netizens. Magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Marie Claire and fashion KOLs @ElephantKingdom, @Pipijuice, and @yangfanjame all posted about the show, reaching 135 million people on social media. 

KOL & celebrity visibility: Max Mara’s catwalk had an all-star cast: Gigi Hadid, Caroline Trentini, Bella Hadid, Vittoria Ceretti, Adut Akech, and more. The supermodels attracted netizens but the lack of Chinese faces will hinder the show’s potential viralability. 

Special brand efforts: The brand livestreamed the show on Weibo and the video amassed an impressive total of 260,000 views far exceeding its number of fans on the platform.

Prada 

Brand history: Prada, now under the creative direction of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, is listed on the Hong Kong stock market. Thanks to a series of digital transformations, cultural initiatives, and the appointment of singer Cai Xukun as ambassador, Prada is fully regaining its momentum in China and now has a healthy two million Weibo followers.

Market potential: Given Prada’s solid credentials, it is unsurprising that China continues to yield results. For the Fall 2022 collection, Prada’s unusual approach emphasizing embellishment and a mixed use of fabrics was exciting and novel. Overall, the handbags featured at the show have been well received by local shoppers. 

KOL & celebrity visibility: A roll call of ambassadors including Cai Xukun, Chunxia, Zhang Zifeng, Qiao Xin, Zhao Lei, Zhou Yiran, and Guo Keyu as well as sports stars Gong Lijiao, Li Zhixuan, and Xiong Dunhan were all invited to a show screening at Shanghai’s System club. The presence of the celebrities, in particular Cai Xukun, has driven impressive organic traffic for the brand as fans have been actively reposting the show on Weibo to show support for their idols.

Special brand efforts: The livestream of the show has received as high as 37 million views so far. Many of the viewers were Cai Xukun’s fans, who hoped to catch a glimpse of the star. 

MM6 

Brand history: In recent years, has accelerated its expansion in China. In 2017 the brand consecutively launched a page on Weibo, then WeChat, and opened a store in SKP Beijing. In 2018, it expanded to two other locations, followed by the launch of its Tmall flagship store in 2019. Now, the brand counts 14 stores in China, of which 3 of them are MM6 boutiques. The house has great potential in the country, and its concept and designs have attracted local consumers (on Xiaohongshu, MM6 counts over 320,000 UGC instances.)

Market potential: At the Fall 2022 show, MM6 revealed its collaboration with French footwear brand Salomon. The partnership has attracted significant media hype. Alongside fashion KOLs and media outlets, such as @Pipijuice, @Frigaciak, and i-D China, many sneaker bloggers reposted about the collection, reaching 43 million people on social media. Overall, local online reactions have been very positive.

KOL & celebrity visibility: The brand did not rely on celebrities to promote its latest runway show. However, the label actively dresses renowned celebrities namely Wang Yibo, Gong Jun, and Ma Jiaqi which helps it to garner significant exposure and traffic.

Special brand efforts: For the Chinese New Year, the avant-garde house created a customizable electronic red pockets cover on its WeChat Mini Program. The initiative resonated well with local netizens, with the limited edition virtual covers soon selling out. 

Moschino

Brand history: Moschino, known for its elegant and playful brand image, is a major player shaping the Italian fashion industry. It has experienced peaks and declines in its 40-year history, and has recently been reimagined under the helm of American designer Jeremy Scott, who took the role of creative director in 2013. Moschino opened an official outlet store, as well as a flagship store on Tmall with a total following of 430,000. In November 2021, Moschino parent company Aeffe Group announced it would directly manage the Chinese market from June 2022 as part of its ongoing repositioning strategy.

Market potential: Moschino’s popularity in the Chinese market began with the endorsement of K-pop idols. Its products like handbags, phone cases, and pop culture-inspired T-shirts with brand logos were popular among Chinese fashion enthusiasts. However, since the brand has been entrusting a third-party to manage the Chinese market, its digital strategies have begun to lag failing to maintain its brand awareness as other luxury houses have divided up the market share.

KOL & celebrity visibility: Leading fashion KOLs such as @Neil王静昌, @Anny_Fan and @Foogy园长 posted its Fall 2022 collection, generating nearly two million views for the brand. Chinese netizens’ comments on the presentation were mostly focused on the supermodel lineup and the designer’s limitless imagination.

Special brand efforts: The brand posted teaser videos on Weibo and livestreamed the show on its official site. After the show, it also shared the show replay and runway looks, as well as insights into the inspirations behind this collection. While the brand collaborated several times with local celebrities and fashion influencers in the last year, no celebrity power was leveraged for the show. 

Tod’s

Brand history: The Italian luxury house Tod’s now counts 44 boutiques in the mainland and 1 million followers on Weibo. Last year, the maison announced Chinese actor Xiao Zhan as its brand ambassador, driving a huge amount of organic traffic for the brand. 

Market potential: Overall, the chic, romantic, and elegant runway looks from this season have been well received by Chinese netizens. In particular, the handbags and accessories resonated greatly with women fashionistas. 

KOL & celebrity visibility: The show’s video teasers starring brand ambassadors Xiao Zhan and Liu Shishi respectively had received 7.4 million and 9 million views as of February 28. Meanwhile,  fashion KOLs such as Xu Yan (@深夜徐老师) and @Chrison posted their show invitations on Weibo before it began.

Special brand efforts: Tod’s collaborated with Xiao Zhan and Liu Shishi to invite Chinese audiences to tune in to the show’s livestream. Afterward, the house also posted detailed runway looks and inspirations to share the “Italian Beauty” with local audiences.

Bottega Veneta

Brand history: Bottega Veneta quit all social media in China one year ago, maintaining a presence only on WeChat. However, as a pioneer in the marketing arena, the Kering-owned house is not saying goodbye to digital marketing; rather, it is experimenting with alternative methods launching a branded AR APP just before the show.

Market potential: With all eyes on Matthieu Blazy, the creative director taking over Daniel Lee’s position, this season sparked complex online discussions of his debut. The majority adored Blazy’s expression of the house’s codes which brings newness and technological potential. However, some netizens commented that they could not see any products with the potential to become the next It bag or create significant hype among Chinese consumers.

KOL & celebrity visibility: Local celebrities including INTO-1 Mika, Liu Wen, Na Jiazuo, Huang Miyi, and Ning Zetao were invited to the screening event in Shanghai. In particular, INTO-1 Mika (who sports 2 million Weibo followers) drove substantial traffic on Weibo and Xiaohongshu. Meanwhile, over 30 fashion KOLs posted the runway show and their Snapchat at the Shanghai event.

Special brand efforts: In addition to livestreaming the show on WeChat Channel and Tencent Video, the brand hosted immersive screening events at Tank Shanghai — inviting local fashion KOLs and media. The Shanghai venue was curated in the label’s signature hue (a vibrant bright green) and was spotlighted with silver installations made with recycled cans. This approach allowed the show to engage broader Chinese audiences through media exposure and KOLs’ posts on social media.

Dolce & Gabbana

Brand history: Though the Italian house has made multiple attempts to return to market prominence since 2018, Chinese netizens have not openly welcomed it. However, with 914,200 followers on Weibo, the house’s online engagement has room to grow. 

Market potential: For Fall 2022, the house embraced the metaverse and experimented with avatar looks in the virtual world. Though the concept should intrigue Chinese netizens, we’ll have to see how well the brand’s communication efforts do to reach local audiences. 

KOL & celebrity visibility: Only 5 Weibo accounts (including media and KOLs) shared the runway looks. There have been no top names in China mentioning the brand name or the show, and the latter’s topic hashtag #DGFW22 garnered only 718,000 views in one week.

Special brand efforts: D&G posted its runway teaser video on Weibo, WeChat, and Douyin and livestreamed the show on its official website. 

Gucci 

Brand history: With official accounts on Weibo, WeChat, Xiaohongshu, and Douyin, the Kering-owned house has built a solid following of 3.6 million on Weibo. Moreover, the Italian brand’s revenues in Q4 grew by 32 percent, quite a jump from analysts’ expectations of 18 percent, according to Kering’s full-year report. The quarterly sales boost came from “the success of its iconic lines, along with an intense schedule of events and new product launches,” including for Aria, the brand’s collab collection with Balenciaga. 

Market potential:  The collaboration between Gucci and adidas astonished the audience, and creative director Alessandro Michele provided countless new ideas in this collection. The fusion of the adidas clover logo into Gucci’s classic pattern has revitalized sportswear while opening up a new world of possibility within the legacy house. The live broadcast of the show reached 50.01 million views on Weibo, as of March 1, and many netizens praised the show.

KOL & celebrity visibility: Before the show, Gucci collaborated with celebrities such as Olympic champion Cai Yun, actor Duan Yihong, Deng Lun, Edward Lai, UCCA’s director Philip Tinari, and writer Xiong Liang to launch individual interviews as show teasers. These videos garnered a combined viewership of 2 million, driving significant traffic to the presentation. Fashion KOLs such as @Nikki-Min, @李马特, and @Mia-Kong shared their snapshots at the screening event in Shanghai. 

Special brand efforts: The house hosted a screening event and after-party at KOR Shanghai, a premium lounge favored by local fashionistas. Surrounded by giant screens and the show’s background music, attendees enjoyed the show livestream in an immersive experience.  

Ports 1961   

Brand history: Created in 2004, PORTS 1961 is an international high-end designer women’s clothing brand under the Ports Group. It is committed to conveying the spirit of global exploration and an independent and optimistic lifestyle to women who love fashion. No.10 Shirt is the brand’s fashion classic item and is recognized by many Chinese. The group’s four brands PORTS 1961, Ports International, PortsPURE, and PORTS V have around 200 physical stores and five flagship stores on Tmall in China.

Market potential: PORTS 1961 has 200,000 followers and 8,518 followers on Weibo and Xiaohongshu, respectively. Moreover, there are more than 10,000 original posts on Xiaohongshu and many fashion bloggers share the brand’s styles with their fans. A lot of KOLs reported the show of PORTS 1961 2022FW, such as @Chaoren Fan, @Global Fashion Hotline, and @houjue. Up to now, the Weibo topic #PORTS1961MilanFashionWeek has exceeded 160 million views and the reaction from Chinese audiences was highly positive.

KOL & celebrity visibility: On February 26, PORTS 1961 invited INTO1 member Bo Yuan (3.459 million Weibo fans), Hard Candy Girl 303 Zhao Yue (7.124 million Weibo fans), and KOL @大睿睿 (1.27 million Weibo fans) to promote this collection.

Special brand efforts: In September 2021, Ports 1961’s parent company launched its retrospective 60th-anniversary exhibition in China. Since then, the topic of #ports 60 Time Traveler# has reached 220 million views on Weibo. 

ETRO   

Brand history: ETRO is an old Italian fashion house with a history of 54 years which gained fame almost immediately after its inception for its refined prints. The brand designs and produces its own men’s and women’s clothing collections, alongside accessories, perfumes, and home furnishing collections. In September 2021, L Catterton, a private equity fund owned by LVMH, acquired a majority stake in the brand — which really put it on the map with regard to Chinese consumers. 

Market potential: There are a number of stars wearing ETRO and the looks were posted in the official Xiaohongshu accounts, such as actor Huang Xiaoming and Chen Weiting. As yet, there are 5,251 fans on Xiaohongshu. For this new collection, ETRO invited actor Ren Jialun and fashion KOL @Linda_李静 to participate in the live broadcast, which gained 3 million views on Weibo. It was clear that many netizens loved the show: “The clothes are super pretty.” @幂桃乌龙肥 commented on Weibo.

KOL & celebrity visibility: In 2021, actress Yang Mi became ETRO’s global brand spokesperson and the announcement brought traffic of nearly 300 million on Weibo; currently, their official account has 62,000 followers. The label has also cooperated with Chinese celebrities such as singer Li Sidani and Song Yaxuan in the past two years to develop its popularity in local markets. 

Special brand efforts: It built its Tmall flagship store in 2012 and entered JD.com in 2018. There are also a large number of boutiques in cities such as Shanghai, Xi’an, and Hangzhou. In 2021, ETRO debuted in the first China International Consumer Products Expo. It’s also very active in the duty-free market in Hainan.

Reported by Lisa Nan, Wenzhuo Wu, and Gemma A. Williams

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