LONDON, United Kingdom — When it comes to fashion month, luxury brands’ marketing strategies for China have always relied on front-row faces. “To Chinese consumers, fashion week equals celebrities,” Maggie Mao, deputy executive editor-in-chief and fashion director at Grazia China told BoF exactly one year ago.
This season, however, brands had to make do without the physical presences of A-list heartthrobs and selfie-stick-wielding KOLs. Some names, like Prada, chose to forego the front row altogether by launching filmed runway shows sans audience. Others, like Burberry, worked with influencers to launch a livestream ahead of the Spring/Summer 2021 show.
“Of course, putting on shows in Europe without Chinese attendants does make it less of an event for the local market,” said Bohan Qiu, founder of Shanghai-based PR agency Boh Project. “I do think Chinese customers [still] care about fashion weeks in Europe, but not as much as before.”
This should give luxury executives pause for thought. Chinese wallets have never been as vital for luxury fashion brands as they are now. While spending in the US and Europe remains lethargic, the mainland’s retail sales rose for the first time this year in August, according to data published by the National Bureau of Statistics, further cementing China’s lead on the road to recovery from Covid-19.
Finding an effective alternative or supplementary marketing strategy for China should be an urgent priority for most brands. Yet luxury executives are still experimenting and exploring their options as health guidelines change; whether these new formats become more than temporary stand-ins for jet-setting crusades remains to be seen. But they do hint at a new breed of tactics aimed at engaging audiences in China — tactics that could inform the way the sector’s giants target the world’s biggest luxury market for years to come.