Is Topshop’s Failure in China a Fast Fashion Problem?

COVID-19 has hurt one fashion brand after another, and now it’s classic British fashion label Topshop’s turn.

Its 14,000 square-foot flagship store in Hong Kong will close when the lease comes up this October, making the brand yet another in a string of international fashion retailers that have exited the territory. Up to this point, all of Topshop’s business has left China, although it will continue to sell online in Hong Kong despite not having any physical store presence.

In 2013, Topshop formed a partnership with Lane Crawford and launched in Hong Kong, and the grand opening of its central flagship drew countless fans. At the time, the company said the launch was the first step in Topshop and Topman’s full expansion into mainland China. However, thanks to the coronavirus, it wasn’t meant to be.

Arcadia, Topshop, and Topman’s mother company initially set foot into China in 2014 via the Topshop and Miss Selfridge brands by launching them on the online luxury retailer, and after that, the China-based online marketplace Tmall. At the time, it was equipped with ambition and solid strategies aimed at the huge potential of the Chinese market.

But in August of 2018, the strategy began to fail. Topshop split with its Chinese franchise partner ShangPin and stopped selling products on its e-tail website and According to Topshop, the partnership with the fashion and luxury retailer ShangPin had been terminated early by mutual agreement — four years after the e-tailer had introduced the brand tp mainland China through an exclusive partnership.

Why did Topshop fail? Although it’s a well-known, UK-based fashion company, Topshop didn’t choose the right partner to collaborate from the beginning. As a new e-commerce platform, ShangPin desperately needed Topshop, since it was a big name that could attract Chinese investors. During their partnership, Shangpin claimed that its website was home to 30 million users. But some in the Chinese finance media disclosed that the actual number was closer to 5 million, at most.

Topshop then launched a virtual store on Tmall, as ShangPin wasn’t meeting its retailing needs primarily due to financial problems. But Topshop had already missed its best window for development on the world’s most powerful e-commerce platform. Ironically, its revenue increased by over 900 times at its first Taobao Double Eleven shopping day event.

Other than the unimpressive partnership, Topshop was unable to find out what Chinese customers wanted. First, there was no real localization for clothing sizes and styles in China, and no updates were made based on Chinese customers’ needs. For Western brands, sizes matter in China, since body types are the key to adjusting designs. Also, XS and S products were always out of stock due to supply chain issues.

Second, Topshop’s online stores didn’t function properly. Digitalization isn’t simply about opening an online store and delivering clothing. It’s more about integration through KOL/KOC marketing, customer engagement, and brand building in China. Topshop was missing all of this although it did attract a lot of spontaneous customer interaction.

Third, its offline stores didn’t sync with its overall business development strategy. The openings of Topshop’s physical flagships were delayed again and again until eventually, its partner got involved in an investment scandal. Arcadia was having trouble with its operations in the UK and other parts of Europe, and its sales volume decreased by 5.3 percent year-on-year while profits declined to 124 million pounds in 2017.

“What Chinese domestic customers care about most is quality, style, and price,” said Joanna Wang, who owns several trendy boutiques in Beijing. Joanna said fast fashion’s quality doesn’t hold up in China, as its styles aren’t customized for China’s younger generation. Also, its prices, which used to be fast fashion’s ace in the hole, cannot compete with Chinese e-commerce products.

She can’t speak for the entire industry, but she said that even her small boutiques could compete against Topshop’s prices and styles. That is perhaps why Topshop had to give up in China. Chinese women are no longer simple villagers yearning for any Western fashion brand; their aesthetic standards require uniqueness, personality, and independence.

But for others, fast fashion is working in China. According to McKinsey and Co., low-cost clothing is now in high demand there, as demonstrated by the success of Topshop’s market competitors: Zara, H&M, and Uniqlo. “Chinese consumers are not solely driven by international status or brand name, especially in the low-cost division,” said fashion critic Gu Chenxi. “[Being an] international brand will not do much in driving sales, especially when the competition continues into 2-tier and 3-tier cities. The brand needs to have an organic understanding of the market.”

Even though international fast fashion brands are still in the game, their heyday seems to have already passed. But someone’s failure is always someone else’s success, and H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, and others are still standing after the pandemic. When fast fashion is concerned, there will always be opportunities in China — maybe even for Topshop.

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How Will Chinese Fashionistas Take to CR Fashion Book Launching in China?

What Happened: The print fashion magazine CR Fashion Book will launch a Chinese language edition in partnership with the Beijing Koala Media Group this fall, with an initial print run of 25,000 copies, as reported by WWD. In addition to carrying fashion editorials from the mothership, the China version will feature locally produced content, including covers featuring Chinese celebrities.

The founder and creative director of the bi-annual magazine, Carine Roitfeld, who was also the former editor in chief of Vogue Paris, told WWD that the title’s next-step in China is part of the continuing international expansion. And the fashion veteran described diversity and inclusion as a “baseline” rather than a “trend.” The new appointment of Lynette Nylander as CR Fashion Book’s co-creative director and editorial director at large also aligned with the magazine’s dedication to driving greater racial inclusivity and embracing cultural diversity.

The Jing Take: Global fashion publishing companies were already facing a challenging period before COVID-19. Since then, it’s only gotten worse, with declining readership and ad sales and publications scrambling for new growth opportunities. And China is on their bucket list, given the country’s ever-shifting digital landscape, promising luxury spending, as well as luxury brands’ relatively generous budgets for the market.

Though CR Fashion Book, unlike fashion media outlets like Vogue, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar, is not a household name for the general Chinese magazine reader, many fashionistas who are familiar with the title’s bold personality have shown strong interest in the upcoming China version. However, as sales of print magazines in China are predominantly driven by the idol economy, fashion publications frequently focus on overwhelming coverage of idols and celebrities who own large social followings. While celebrity coverage is an effective approach for a newcomer to gain awareness among Chinese readers, CR Fashion Book will have to walk a fine line between the avant-garde fashion spreads that the magazine is known and covering China’s idol ecosphere while also keeping abreast of China’s unique digital ecosystem in.

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.

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Luxury Brand Rivalries Heat Up During Chinese Valentine’s Day

Chinese Valentine’s Day, also known as the Qixi Festival, marks the third occasion on China’s calendar to celebrate love and romance. The annual celebration falls on August 25 this year, and luxury brands have been running campaigns centered around this lucrative marketing opportunity since late July.

Unlike earlier gift-giving holidays when brands opted for softer approaches, this indigenous day of love is becoming a heated battleground for promotions and marketing. In addition to harnessing digital capabilities on social and e-commerce platforms, brands are leveraging celebrity power and opening physical pop-up stores to help them drive more online and offline traffic.

China’s rapid recovery in the retail sector, which comes from stores quickly reopening and customers flexing their revenge-spending power, is a positive sign, but it has led to more players focusing on the country to try and get their piece of the market share. Therefore, the competition among brands during this year’s Qixi Festival is fiercer than ever. Below, Jing Daily has highlighted seven luxury brands that are winning over Chinese consumers with their unique interpretations of the legend behind this traditional festival.



Dior proceeds with its love-inspired “Dioramour” collection to celebrate this year’s Chinese Valentine’s Day. The new capsule collection, which was designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri, shows love, care, and support and features a wide variety of products, from handbags and accessories to ready-to-wear.

The Weibo hashtag “Dioramour” has hit over 520 million views in ten days, thanks to endorsements from the brand’s ambassadors, including Angelabay, Wang Ziwen, and Zhang Xueying, as well as one of the most popular Chinese girl groups THE NINE. Aside from offline pop-up stores in Nanjing and Shenzhen and a feature in the brand’s WeChat e-boutique, “Dioramour Cafés” have opened in Shanghai and Xi’an to further capitalize on the ever-expanding hype Dior has created among local luxury shoppers.



To celebrate the day of the Qixi Festival, Prada released its “Modern Love Stories” campaign. By using an evocative and modern retelling of the Qixi legend, the campaign film follows the journey of a couple as they move through their respective worlds to achieve an emotional reunion.

An exclusive range of women’s and men’s items was dropped onto Prada’s official site and via the brand’s WeChat Mini Program on August 3 that includes a bright lemon-yellow version of the nylon and Saffiano leather Prada re-edition bag and a nylon cap in an identical colorway. Special installations, including a temporary flower station, are available in selected Prada stores in China, where customers may receive flower bouquets created by floral artists on the day of Qixi.

Michael Kors

Michael Kors

Michael Kors is celebrating this year’s Qixi Festival by partnering with brand ambassador and actor Leo Wu, who represented the brand in China for the past year and was also named the Asia Pacific Ambassador on August 5. In addition to the new appointment, the brand is launching a unisex capsule collection in time for this year’s Chinese Valentine’s Day. Distinctive from the brand’s Qixi campaigns over the past two years, 2020’s initiative adds a masculine, “boyfriend” touch to the brand’s typically girly vibe for Qixi collections.

In designing the capsule, Leo drew inspiration from letters that he receives from his fans, which is how the campaign title “Leo Leo Letter (磊磊信)” got its name. The campaign launched across digital and social channels beginning on August 5 ahead of the 2020 Qixi Festival. Additionally, Wu’s campaign shots will also be reimagined on the KuaiKan Comics app — a leading comic platform and community that hosts over 200 million users, of which 79 percent are Gen Zers. This collaboration with Wu shows the brand’s determination to resonate with young shoppers in China.



Gucci introduced the GG apple print collection on July 30 for Chinese Valentine’s Day. The collection, which features a motif made up of two interlocking red letters Gs, is inspired by the phrase “apple of my eye,” meaning a person one cherishes above all others. The limited-edition items with apple patterns include handbags, small leather goods, accessories, and shoes, and they are available on Gucci’s official site, its WeChat Mini Program, and in selected boutiques.

To simultaneously drive online and offline traffic, Gucci initiated an interactive call targeting Little Red Book users that encourages users to take selfies with wall advertisements at landmark storefronts in Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu, and Shenzhen. The hashtag “Gucci Qixi” on Little Red Book has reached 126,000 views as of this publication.

Saint Laurent

Saint Laurent

Debuting its Chinese Valentine’s Day campaign on July 8, Saint Laurent was among the first batch of brands to warm up the festival. Under the theme “NameYourLove” (卫爱之名), the campaign marks the brand’s first-ever personalization service in China, allowing customers to print names in English and Chinese on its signature logo hoodie in washed pink. The service, which is available in boutiques and through the brand’s WeChat Mini Program, is dedicated to the celebration of Qixi.

Social content featuring young stars wearing these personalized hoodies drove a sizable engagement on Weibo, WeChat, and Douyin. The Weibo hashtag “NameYourLove” has garnered over 210 million views and 3.26 million engagements as of this publication, mostly thanks to endorsements from idols who have huge social followings like Zhou Zhennan, Zhou Yutong, Wang Linkai, and Ouyang Nana.



Fendi collaborated with British artist and illustrator Sam Cox — commonly known as Mr. Doodle — to launch a limited Qixi Festival-capsule collection on July 24. The collection, which was inspired by the artist’s unique style of detailed doodles, are available on the brand’s official site, WeChat Mini Program, and offline boutiques.

The campaign not only stars Brand Ambassador Jackson Wang, actor Zhang Ruoyun, Qi Wei, and Tan Zhuo, but it also features two members of the Chinese League of Legends world championship team, FunPlus Phoenix: Liu Qingsong and Jin Taixiang. In addition to leveraging celebrity power, Fendi has tapped into hashtag marketing by initiating the Weibo topic “Share A Heart With You” in social arenas. Elsewhere, the brand hosted offline launch parties in Shanghai and Shenzhen and unveiled a pop-up Fendi Caffe in both the Beijing SKP and the Chengdu IFS shopping mall.



French luxury house Celine has made a foray into China’s social marketing arena for the first time during this Chinese Valentine’s Day. Though other brands controlled by the LVMH Group are now veterans of China’s digital channels, Celine was the exception, and, therefore, had a low-profile in the country’s luxury market. But the brand smartly launched its WeChat boutique on June 19 while debuting its Weibo account on July 16 to help roll out a capsule collection that includes limited-editions of classic Triomphe Canvas handbags and Sacrés Coeurs earrings to celebrate the Qixi Festival.

The campaign has achieved much higher engagement than the brand’s previous social posts on Weibo and WeChat, partly because it stars some of the most famous young female celebrities and idols, like Meng Meiqi, Esther Yu, and Guan Xiaotong. From Celine’s product repositioning to its digital strategy, the house has shown a determination to build greater brand awareness among younger consumers in China.

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Taobao Maker Festival Extends The Meaning of “Guochao” Fashion

Chris Tung, chief marketing officer of Alibaba, only wears a T-shirt in public once a year: at the annual Taobao Maker Festival. At a virtual press conference in late July that kickstarted the event, Tung was seen sporting a black T-shirt featuring four cartoon angels of different skin colors. 

“I love what it stands for; it goes well with our theme ‘New Blood,’” Tung said, referring to the creative merchants on Taobao’s e-commerce platform. His T-shirt was designed by the Wuhan-based streetwear artist Graf Wu, who was one of the two merchants invited to the virtual conference. Similar to the more well-known Maker Faire, which offers a meet-up venue for crafters and tech enthusiasts, Taobao started hosting its own Maker Festival in 2016. This year, it decided to go with an online-offline hybrid model: four days online from August 10 to 14, and a 20-day road trip starting from July 30 that bring merchants to four cities: Hangzhou, Xi’an, Chengdu, and Wuhan.

At a virtual press conference in late July that kickstarted the fifth Taobao Maker Festival, Alibaba’s CMO Chris Tung (second from left) was seen sporting a black T-shirt featuring four cartoon angels of different skin colors. Photo: Alibaba

Riding on the wave of “Guochao” (literally “national hip”), a movement that celebrates Chinese homegrown design, Taobao has put brands like Wu’s on pedestal for the fifth Taobao Maker Festival. Quite different from the likes of Feiyue sneakers that represent established brands, these fashion merchants on Taobao represent the individuality behind young creative minds in China and latest market demand.

Here, Jing Daily highlights five merchants that are showcasing Chinese fashion in their own ways.


As a Wuhan-based designer brand, Graf Wu’s eponymous brand, GRAF, sources ideas from her everyday life and pop culture. Photo: Screenshot from Taobao

As a Wuhan-based designer brand, Graf Wu’s eponymous brand, GRAF, sources ideas from her everyday life and pop culture. Her widely popular “Hometown Hero” series features doctors and nurses who have been fighting COVID-19 at ground zero in Wuhan, which was first hit by the virus. On one T-shirt, a doctor in goggles and a mask holds a gigantic syringe while being carried by a pair of wings, flowers, and pigeons. In addition to graphic t-shirts, her store also sells trousers, hats and accessories and frequently launches collaboration series with other artists.  

Qiaozhi (乔织)


A disco “Hanfu” by Qiaozhi’s Founder and Designer, which was originally her own outfit for a music festival. Photo: Qiaozhi’s Taobao Store

Born in a family of tailors, 27-year-old Wang Mengqiao first started sewing with her grandmother. After having learned about traditional Chinese clothing, known as “Hanfu,” as a teenager, Wang soon started applying her own ideas — science fiction, rock, bold colors — to give her own “Hanfu” a theatrical effect. As a trained architect, Wang has created and interpreted “Hanfu” in a way that is applicable for different scenarios. For example, she has designed a disco “Hanfu” that was originally her own outfit for a music festival.  


TaxEvasion’s hybrid of stilettos and sneakers has been worn by American Japanese model Kiko Mizuhara for an editorial shoot. Photo: Screenshot from Taobao

TaxEvasion breathes a whimsical and futuristic style into every item the team touches upon, which includes gender neutral black blazer with aluminum shards, and a hybrid of stilettos and sneakers that has been worn by American Japanese model Kiko Mizuhara for an editorial shoot. Its Taobao store carries 9 products under the brand’s name, and sells T-shirts from another homegrown brand LURE. As a maverick brand that stands out from the pack, it’s been appealed to followers through Instagram including trend leader Butterfly Princess from the “Too Cool” subculture.  

Fine Creature (尤物志


Liu believes that there is a group of Chinese women who would love to try the brand’s underwear in replacement of bras. Photo: Screenshot from Taobao

Fascinated by traditional Chinese underwear “Dudou,” which was first worn during the Ming Dynasty, the brand’s founder Liu Lei dreamed up her own brand after first having studied psychology in the US and worked in media after returning to China. She believes that there is a group of Chinese women who would love to try the brand’s underwear in replacement of bras. Fine Creature also plans to launch a series of beauty products that draws inspiration from Tang and Song Dynasty. 

GEL (啫喱)

GEL’s 3D-printed earrings. Photo: GEL’s Taobao Store

The jewelry brand specializes in 3D printing and a material combo rarely seen in jewelry design: nylon, resin, 3D materials and precious metals. The pair of founders, who graduated from Italy’s Politecnico di Milano and Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, respectively, moved to Hangzhou, the Chinese e-commerce hub, together to start the brand’s e-commerce operations just over a year ago. On their Taobao page, GEL’s cosmic 3D earrings are the highlight of many buyers’ outfits.

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Chinese Netizens Turn on Balenciaga’s Latest Campaign, But To What End?

What Happened: For Qixi (China’s version of Valentine’s Day), Balenciaga has released four limited-edition Hourglass handbags at the brand’s Tmall flagship store. In its campaign picture, a male model is giving a red “Hourglass” handbag with Chinese characters that read “He Loves Me” written on the flap to a female model, who looks at the present with awe. They two are standing before a waterfall backdrop that’s flanked by red roses and hearts.

The campaign’s four bags, which come in red, black, pink, and white with specially-designed graffiti fonts, exemplify the current “Too Cool” style favored by certain Gen-Zers but seen as offensive by the rest of the internet. The bags mimic styles preferred by China’s rural population and have been labeled “tasteless” or even “insulting of Chinese culture” by many netizens while some are saying they’re “simply ugly.”

By the end of Tuesday in China, the topic #BalenciagaChineseValentineCampaignTasteless (#巴黎世家七夕广告 土) had garnered over 210,000 discussions and 170 million views on Weibo, and the topic #BalenciagaInsultsChina ((#巴黎世家辱华) had over 15 million views and more than 6,000 discussions.

The campaign features four bags in red, black, pink, and white, with specially designed Graffiti fonts in Chinese. Photo: Brand

Jing Take: Chinese netizens are known for finding certain things offensive: sovereignty issues over Hong Kong, Macau, Tibet, or Taiwan (Versace, Marc Jacobs, Coach) as well as implicit racial prejudices or racism (Dolce & Gabbana, Philipp Plein). But to some, even seemingly minor details like natural freckles on a Chinese model’s face (Zara) and the aesthetic of this campaign cross the line.

With Chinese patriotism at an all-time high thanks to intensifying tensions between China and the West, and anti-consumerist voices growing louder in a recovering post-COVID-19 economy, luxury brands have become easy targets for netizens. While the campaign pictures have been widely distributed on Weibo and WeChat, the brand only posted them on Tmall, indicating that they were likely only meant for a particular audience and not the whole internet.

To stand out in a sea of Qixi campaigns, Balenciaga made a commendable effort to learn what Chinese Gen-Zers find cool and designed a unique font for the handbags instead of simply using an existing one like Dior did with its customizable Book Tote. Yet, many people still think the brand hasn’t done its homework. While it’s important for brands to do social listening and understand other brands’ cultural missteps, sometimes it’s better to ignore the noise. After all, a luxury brand wasn’t born to be led by public opinion — it’s job is to set 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.

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Are Chinese Consumers Over Celebrity Livestreaming?

This post originally appeared on Content Commerce Insider, our sister publication on branded entertainment.

As e-commerce livestreaming has taken off in China, celebrities have started flocking to the format as a way to stay in the spotlight while generating income. Many actors have been less busy this year as a result of the coronavirus, with productions delayed and endorsement opportunities drying up as brands slashed their marketing budgets.

The trend reached new heights during last month’s 618 Shopping Festival, which saw more than 300 stars appearing on Taobao Live to sell goods, while hosted another 100 or so, with Kuaishou and Douyin also getting in on the action.

  • But has the frenzy over celebrity livestreaming peaked? One of the first stars of the celebrity e-commerce livestreaming trend, the somewhat notorious tech entrepreneur Luo Yonghao, has seen his viewer numbers and sales plummet by more than 95% since his April 1 debut on Douyin. And recently, one of China’s most bankable influencers, the actress and social media star Angelababy, had an underwhelming debut on Douyin, with a five-hour broadcast on July 18 that drew a relatively low RMB 12 million ($1.8 million) in gross merchandise volume.

  • Yet Jay Chou’s Kuaishou livestreaming show on July 26 showed that there is still a huge market for the right stars, even when there is nothing concrete to sell. Chou, the Chinese king of pop, opened a Kuaishou account on June 1 as part of a broader deal that brought his music to the platform, and he promised a magic show for fans if he hit 10 million followers, which only took 6 days.

  • Chou’s livestream drew 68 million viewers, with fans sending RMB 20 million ($2.8 million) in virtual gifts during the first 30 minutes. Among those offering support were high-profile celebrities such as pianist Lang Lang and Olympic gold medalist table tennis player Zhang Jike. Kuaishou even broadcast a nationwide celebration of sorts for Chou, lighting up landmark buildings in major cities across the country to promote the event.

  • For foreign celebrities looking to promote their products via e-commerce livestreaming, working with big-name professional hosts is the way to go. Last year, Kim Kardashian turned to top Taobao Live seller Viya to help sell her KKW fragrance, and this week Victoria Beckham adopted a similar approach to promote the launch of an official Tmall Global flagship store for her namesake beauty brand.

  • The former Spice Girl participated in a livestreamed Q&A session with Viya (herself a girl-group veteran) that attracted more than 14.4 million viewers, with exclusive Victoria Beckham Beauty sets on offer. Beckham described the Chinese livestreaming experience as “riveting entertainment that creates a great deal of engagement and excitement about products,” and the brand is already planning special marketing activities in China around the November 11 Singles’ Day and the March 8 “Queen’s Day” (aka International Women’s Day) in 2021.

  • Although less well known than Viya in the West, leading Taobao Live anchor Lie’er is aiming to break out of the livestreaming business to become a celebrity in her own right. A veteran of the e-commerce broadcasting industry, Lie’er boasts sufficient star power to host her own celebrity-studded entertainment gala shows on a major satellite TV network — she is reportedly the only e-commerce livestreamer besides Viya to host “fan festivals” — and this time around she showcased her own singing and dancing skills.

  • Lie’er has also parlayed her famed sense of style (developed during a previous career as a model) into her own fashion brands, the budget-friendly Lierkiss and the higher-end LRKS, which were featured in a runway show segment during the recent TV special. Lie’er has made appearances on top-rated reality shows such as “Ace vs. Ace” (王牌对王牌) and is aiming to diversify her e-commerce broadcasts by adding entertainment value with celebrity guest appearances and exclusive collaborations.

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By Siding With Michael Jordan, China Wins Global Approval

CNBC highlights how the NBA is China’s most popular sports league, but despite that popularity, the league couldn’t steer clear of controversy in the country. From Daryl Morey’s tweet that ignited a worldwide scandal to the Michael Jordan-versus-Qiaodan Sports case, it seems as if “basketball diplomacy” has replaced the Cold-War era’s “ping pong diplomacy.”

Accordingly, the eight-year legal dispute between Michael Jordan and the Chinese fashion and streetwear company Qiaodan Sports, which fell in Michael Jordan’s favor, shouldn’t be seen as a simple trademark case. Instead, it can be seen as an act of public diplomacy. Sports have been used as an engine for cultural diplomacy in the past, and Beijing has even incorporated basketball in its national branding campaign, using it to amend the country’s relationship with the US and convey its positive attributes and values to the world.

But make no mistake, the highly-celebrated win for Jordan is a win for the American business community. Yet it also shows that, despite the two countries’ differences, China can act like a mature and fair partner. While President Trump throws temper tantrums on Twitter and goes to war against corporate America by squabbling with retailers like Amazon, social media sites, and businesses that have moved jobs overseas, Beijing comes off as an efficient, reliable, and composed partner by putting business community interests first — and this stance benefits the country’s image immensely.

In past years, the “Made in China” label had been associated with cheap knockoffs and counterfeit consumer goods. The global view was that Beijing refused to tackle intellectual property infringements when promoting the production of cheap goods. However, the Michael Jordan-versus-Qiaodan Sports case indicates that there is a new direction in the country.

It’s worth noting that the change didn’t come overnight and isn’t the first time the Chinese Supreme Court ruled in favor of a prominent global brand or athlete. In 2017, New Balance won a $1.5 million lawsuit against three Chinese shoemakers that were using the sportswear company’s slanted “N” logo. Despite those precedents, it can be argued that the Michael Jordan-versus-Qiaodan Sports case changed views on China for good, with political ramifications that are indisputable.

Sports Illustrated explains how the ruling “was announced at a time when the US and China are implementing a new trade deal and one which emphasizes the protection of intellectual property rights.” But the publication also makes an excellent point by arguing that the case wasn’t as “straightforward” as it may have seemed.

Sports Illustrated also mentions assessments from the IP-law expert Laura Wen-yu Young via her Trademark Reporter article, “Understanding Michael Jordan v. Qiaodan: Historical Anomaly or Systemic Failure to Protect Chinese Consumers?” According to Young, “Qiaodan” has different meanings, and both Sports Illustrated and Young argue that there are “a variety of ways of writing Michael Jordan’s name in Chinese.” Consequently, Young makes the case that “Qiaodan” can be seen as a “rough transliteration” of Jordan’s surname but not a direct translation into “Michael Jordan.

“Transliteration is different from translation since it involves using letters of another language to most closely approximate the sound and pronunciation of a word. Unlike a translation, a transliteration doesn’t concern the meaning of a word,” says Michael McCann, a legal analyst and a writer for Sports Illustrated. McCann makes another interesting argument when he says that Michael Jordan hadn’t licensed the name “Qiaodan” for business purposes, and he conducted his business dealings under the name Michael Jordan or Jordan Brand, not Qiaodan. Lastly, McCann argues that even if Qiaodan means “Jordan,” it’s not necessarily Michael Jordan since there were other NBA players with Jordan as a surname.

Basically, the case is up for interpretation, yet China awarded Jordan the win. While we could interpret this case as a clear sign that China is swiftly changing its direction, one has to wonder if more stretches like this wouldn’t anger the Chinese public, pushing them to boycott American companies and products. In fact, the US has been accused of such “IP Imperialism” in the past, which backfires when countries boycott American products.

In her article What’s Mine Is Mine But What’s Yours Is Ours: IP Imperialism, The Right Of Publicity, And Intellectual Property Social Justice in the Digital Information Age, Lateef Mtima says that “Many contemporary IP-rights conflicts are simply the result of enduring attitudes of Western Imperialism.” Mtima traces this trend of maintaining power back to America’s nascent years when “quasi-imperialist attitudes toward intellectual property rights were seen as serving the country’s immediate interests as a developing nation.”

Considering the mistakes of the past and the boycotts of American products that followed them, the US must understand that it walks on a thin line. It can no longer afford its belligerent and aggressive attitude in a highly-digitized and connected world where consumers learn about legal disputes in a matter of minutes. That is especially true in China — a country where consumers are already familiar with boycotts against American products.

In fact, Brunswick’s 2019 US-China Trade Tracker, which is based on the views of 1,000 American consumers and 1,000 Chinese consumers, showed that 56 percent of Chinese consumers have boycotted an American product “to show support for China.”

Furthermore, the 2018 Edelman Earned Brand survey showed that 64 percent of consumers around the world — all income levels — will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue.

“This is the birth of Brand Democracy; as consumers are electing brands as their change agents,” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman. “Brands are now being pushed to go beyond their classic business interests to become advocates. It is a new relationship between company and consumer, where the purchase is premised on the brand’s willingness to live its values, act with purpose, and if necessary, make the leap into activism.”

China’s record of continuous trademark infringements has cast a long shadow over the hope for new reforms. However, recent events show that the Chinese government has punished intellectual property infringers. The country still has a long way to go, though, and it’s safe to say that a complete IPR protection system cannot be successfully established overnight. But on the whole, both China and the US need to act more carefully while considering stakeholder interests. Cooperation will not be achieved through one-sided arguments and angry rhetoric, so both sides must show an appreciation for past efforts.

American companies have to overcome their mistrust of the Chinese government and understand that local consumers interpret attacks against Beijing or Chinese officials as attacks on their values, cultural norms, and national symbols. Likewise, China must continue on a path of deep reform while also safeguarding stakeholder interests.

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Chinese Companies Outnumber American on Fortune’s Global 500 List

What happened: 

The Fortune Global 500, based on revenues, remains the world’s best snapshot of the state of global business. 2020’s list has fewer companies based in the US than China. The Greater China total of companies is 133 vs 121 from America. This year, the top five is dominated by three Chinese companies (Sinopec Group, State Grid and China National) while other notable spots go to Huawei (in at No. 49) and Tencent Holdings (listed at No. 197). And, just narrowly missing the top 100, featured at 102 (up 37 places from 2019).

The Jing Take: 

Since the list started, China has gone from being absent (in the 1990s) to now topping the ranking. China’s economy has soared to the point that now even COVID-19 has failed to decimate its GDP to anything like the extents that other countries are experiencing.  

Notably, the ranking comes at the peak of US-China tensions, amid continued attacks on Chinese companies’ operations by Trump. The latest executive order threatening the app, WeChat, could well backfire given that Chinese consumers in the US use it to make payments. Given the dominance of domestic monopolies and resultant stranglehold on American innovation, Trump’s America contrasts sharply with China’s continued salvo. Can his tit for tat baiting really impact it? This latest ranking would seem to say no.

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.

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Why China Will Become The Driving Force Of Luxury

The EU and the US have a combined population of around 780 million with an aging demographic. China is home to a much younger 1.4 billion people and has a higher annual population growth than the US and Europe combined. While the average income per capita in China is still significantly lower than in the US or Europe, it’s catching up fast, and more than a hundred million new Chinese luxury consumers will enter the market over the next decade.

Several luxury market analysts are estimating that the percentage of Chinese consumers making global luxury purchases will jump from 40 to 50 percent over the next ten years. And since China’s population numbers and its projected economic growth will outpace both the US and Europe’s, the country’s increase in global luxury consumption seems inevitable.

But today, it isn’t clear where these consumers will buy their luxury. Traditionally, a significant amount of Chinese luxury purchases have been made outside of China. Consumers have valid reasons for this: A Gucci bag bought in a Gucci store in Italy may seem more authentic than one purchased in Shanghai while buying a Hermès belt in Paris carries a different memory than shopping for one in Beijing.

Luxury goods are typically cheaper outside of China due to a combination of exchange rates and taxes, which entices Chinese citizens to combine a memorable vacation with a luxury shopping spree that saves them significant money. If these effects stay in place, the desire to purchase luxury goods outside of China should return once travel resumes.

However, many Chinese consumers have begun to buy domestically over the past few months because of significant travel disruptions. New terms started popping up around March, such as “revenge spending,” which describes a consumer’s desire to boost their mood by splurging on luxury goods post-lockdown. Some of these luxury-buying behavioral changes are expected to remain since habits form over time, and there’s no end in sight to the world’s travel restrictions. Meanwhile, fears about buying counterfeit items inside China have decreased, which was another good reason for Chinese consumers to buy luxury outside of their country.

Global luxury brands are now on the clock, but too many of them have yet to find success in China because they’ve posted poor sales performances, wasted cash, and couldn’t connect with Chinese customers. Many are lost when trying to plan for success in China, particularly smaller brands.

It’s a recipe for disaster that starts when brands underestimate the sophistication of Chinese consumers at all entry points. Too many managers still think of China as an emerging economy with consumers who are desperate to snag any Western brand they can find. But the reality is much different. If a company fails to tell its brand story to Chinese consumers in a relevant way, consumers won’t care, they won’t pay attention, and they definitely won’t buy.

China currently has the youngest, most digitally-savvy, and most discerning luxury market in the world. Since the country’s consumers trust KOLs more than brands, they will follow their advice. So if their KOLs aren’t promoting a brand, China’s consumers won’t even notice it. Social shopping isn’t just one reality there — it’s the only reality. Maneuvering a Western brand through this foreign social media and shopping environment is challenging, to say the least. Most Western brands fail at it sooner or later, but in a market that will soon make up over half of all global luxury purchases, failing is no longer an option.

When it comes to China, luxury brands need to think more holistically by seamlessly combining their strategy, positioning, and story across all digital and physical brand experiences and through the most relevant products. Too many companies are still ignoring local preferences, customs, materials, and shopping traditions. I’ll never forget the CEO of a European beauty brand who asked his Chinese team why they couldn’t celebrate New Year’s at the same time as everyone else. Cultural sensitivity is crucial, especially in China, and it must inform all aspects of the brand.

Chinese consumers are sure to change the luxury market forever. But the recent emergence of Chinese luxury brands across many categories, from cars to wine, will put even more pressure on Western brands. Those that aren’t China-ready will be forced out even faster than before.

Before COVID-19, many luxury brands remained skeptical about needing to transform digitally. Now, amid the pandemic, many of these brands have had to let staff go and close their doors, sometimes forever. Don’t let your brand’s China unpreparedness be the reason it disappears. The writing is on the wall: To win over Chinese customers, a brand has to go all in.

Daniel Langer is CEO of the luxury, lifestyle and consumer brand strategy firm Équité, and the professor of luxury strategy and extreme value creation at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He consults some of the leading luxury brands in the world, is the author of several luxury management books, a global keynote speaker, and holds luxury masterclasses in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Follow @drlanger

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Louis Vuitton and GQ China Partner to Promote a Physical Fashion Show Amid COVID-19

When the last model appeared at Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2021 Menswear show in Shanghai, the crowd became charged. As he walked onto the runway carrying an inflatable doll twice as big as himself, everyone raised their phones, eager to take a snap.

“Oh my God, that’s Kris Wu!” Many in the audience screamed out his name. Shortly afterwards, the Weibo topic #Kris Wu Walks Runway With a 2M Doll (#吴亦凡背着两米高玩偶走秀#) quickly hit the social platform’s hot topic list. At the same location, however, members of the GQ China team were not looking at Wu, but at their laptops, working to get a variety of promotional materials shot right before the show ready to distribute on different communications channels. The fashion show marked the second time Louis Vuitton worked with GQ China as a media partner to generate buzz for an important event.

In recent years, with ever-evolving changes in technology and consumer pursuits, the relationship between media and fashion brands have hit a “refresh” button regarding fashion shows. While the media may only have been able to amplify a brand’s voice in the past, it now can shoulder some of the responsibilities of putting creative marketing ideas into execution and communicating to a target audience for the brand in its own voice.

Jing Daily took this opportunity to learn about how Louis Vuitton presented a physical runway show in China, the country that first emerged from COVID-19 pandemic, as well as how it partnered with GQ China to help it double its impact.

Why China?

For a brand rooted in travel, the on-going international travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Louis Vuitton to rethink its approach to showcase upcoming collections. But that doesn’t mean giving up the concept of doing a physical show. “I think fashion shows have to remain live. There has to be an audience. There has to be anticipation,” said Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton’s Chairman and CEO. “We know people are not going to be able to travel, so let’s not have people travel to the venues. Let’s have the clothes travel to the venues.”

Today, China continues to be one of the most important luxury markets, and Louis Vuitton supported the country when the initial COVID-19 outbreak began. It was among the first global luxury brands to make donations and to create posts to comfort the Chinese people. Although marketing in China was rather quiet during the last Paris Fashion Week in March, again, due to COVID-19, the brand won a whopping 100 million impressions with its five posts from the event, which featured Kris Wu, its brand ambassador, alongside friends of the brand to boost morale for China’s hospital workers.

Louis Vuitton used the same approach for their pre-show promotions this time. One day before the show, Louis Vuitton invited Wu and other friends of the brand, including Ouyang Nana, Zhong Chuxi, and Fan Chengcheng, to create their individual teasers for Weibo. These triggered a total of 63,000 likes, almost 100,000 comments, and a whopping 620,000 shares.

The brand’s choice to present their first runway show in Shanghai was not by accident. China’s economy has been slowly recovering since the national lockdown lifted in mid-March, and consumer sentiment has warmed up. According to the global consulting firm Bain & Co, Chinese consumers are expected to contribute about 50 percent of total global luxury consumption by 2025 and it’s set to be a key driver for the rebound of the global luxury industry. By showing in China, Louis Vuitton made the right decision to bring some positivity and celebration to the Chinese people at this trying time.

What does Virgil Abloh want to say to China?

This was Virgil Abloh‘s fifth fashion show at Louis Vuitton since being appointed in 2018. Although he could not fly in himself, the audience saw him as a giant doll on Wu’s back. With the title “Message in a Bottle,” Abloh brought the audience into a world free from discrimination and conflict, saying: “We can change the world, but we have to allow people a second to get up to speed and feel and hear, instead of other drastic means. I run a studio of optimism, and I have a general belief in good and beauty.”


As characters specifically built for Spring 2021, ”Zoooom with Friends“ is a bunch of toys Abloh bought near his Paris studio. At the venue in Shanghai’s artistic West Bund, they materialized into giant dolls to safeguard Louis Vuitton’s cargo containers that were shipped from Paris in July. Meanwhile, they are also integrated into this season’s collection design. Abloh assumes from a child’s perspective and imagines what the world looks like without inherited social preference. In an age of regional protectionism and rising tension between the world’s major economic powers, a show that breaks through barriers and amplifies unity is ever more important.

What Does GQ China Bring To The Table?

In addition to building momentum through fashion shows, Louis Vuitton is well-versed in using digital marketing to strengthen the brand. Last September, it chose to work with GQ Lab, a WeChat account under GQ China, as a media partner for the 2020 Spring Menswear pop-up store. GQ China also manages the brand’s official Weibo brand, and through strategizing hot fashion topics relevant to the pop-up, the team successfully helped Louis Vuitton drive sales by catching the attention of young consumers.

As the first luxury fashion show in a post-COVID-19 China, GQ China was once again invited to leverage its tools to help the brand break the ice after a quiet marketing period. On the same day of the show, the GQ China team took over the brand’s official Weibo account at 10 in the morning.

During the takeover, teasers were sent out to Louis Vuitton’s 4.3M followers and the 20 celebrity guests’ billions of followers. Each star was recorded a one-liner that encapsulated what the viewers remember about them lately. For example, Wang Qian, an actress and contestant from popular reality TV show Sisters Who Make Waves said in her 11-second teaser: “I’m coming with waves!” These short videos garnered more than 1.6 million likes, 210,000 comments, and 1.73 million shares in one day.

Combining a childhood-like theme and storytelling, GQ China also made sure that the event and the celebrity guests had exposure on its own Weibo account. After the show, a short video of actor Zhu Yilong telling everyone “That’s a wrap!” went viral. One Weibo user commented, “How theatrical!” While another one said, “He’s a man of stories.” The topic #GQ knows how to photograph (#GQ好会拍) found itself on Weibo’s list.

The multimedia materials were all produced on deadline. Altogether, GQ China coordinated with the 20 celebrity guests to shoot 20 teasers, 4 group short videos, a group portrait, six fun short videos, 20 portraits with a newspaper theme, and 20 glamour shots. “All of the materials were finished shooting in under three hours. We also published a full article about the event after the show, which is the fastest among all media,” Condé Nast China’s group publisher Paco Tang told Jing Daily.

When asked about how GQ China sets itself apart from other media when it comes to being a partner. “GQ has been at the forefront of creation, which doesn’t only materialize in our forms of storytelling, but also in the mindset of our team members,” Tang said. “We also aim to produce and create with the highest efficiency.”

As media outlets from around the world grapple to pivot in the digital era to compete with search engines and social platforms, GQ China has carved a path for itself. Since 2017, it has established WeChat official accounts such as GQ Lab and GQ Love, producing articles with rich illustrations and humorous advertorials that often had with 100k+ views, the highest number WeChat shows to the public. For GQ China, which started out as a Menswear magazine in China just like its US counterpart, it has harvested a tremendous amount of local fans through digital trials across different social channels. The recent appointment of Rocco Liu, who formerly spearheaded its digital venture GQ Lab, as the title’s editor, further points at the team’s digital future.

From a commercial standpoint, brands are more likely to partner with media and influencers and with a clear positioning. Whether it’s Lipstick King Li Jiaqi, or top livestreamer Viya, who recently worked on Victoria Beckham’s new beauty brand launch, their success has everything to do with their carefully crafted public identity.

GQ China’s identity, according to netizens, is that of a storyteller with creativity. After initial success on WeChat, it hasn’t stopped. With last year’s “Men of the Year,” a black-tie event for GQ China‘s 10th anniversary, around 60 top celebrities were present. Many participated in GQ’s “Look Back in Vanity” (名利场回眸)  photoshoots, which brought the relevant Weibo topic three billion views. The name has transformed into a video column on GQ China and GQ Lab, continuing to show different sides of celebrities.


GQ China’s Vanity’s Douyin page. Photo: Screenshot from Douyin

For fashion brands, other than leveraging the power of celebrity guests, working with a media partner with creative power can show different possibilities of the collection. The age of post-COVID-19 might give birth to more forms of media partnerships, and the one between Louis Vuitton and GQ China, two digital leaders in fashion and media, is surely leading the pack.

Translated by Yaling Jiang

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