“Alcohol god bag,” “hobo bag,” and “socks shoes”… Those are a few of the luxury items that were most discussed by Chinese youth on the internet in 2018, but their real names are Gucci’s Dionysus, Chanel’s Gabrielle, and Balenciaga’s speed socks. It’s quite common for Chinese netizens to grant new names to their favorite, most-hyped products as they sell like mad. But industry insiders question how long these “it” items can stay hot and how much brands can rely on sales of trending luxuries.
In June, Weibo’s marketing research institute published a luxury industry white paper generated from data from over 1000 consumers on the platform. The report was created as a guide for brands to navigate top fashions with young Chinese consumers and better understand the hottest-selling items, categories, and brands from 2018. It also explained behavioral differences between Chinese post-80s, -90s, and -00s luxury consumers.
We found that even though ready-to-wear and bags were the most discussed categories on Weibo, fashion brand trends have shifted away from creating one-off items in bags and shoes and more towards the development of full categories, with more attention being placed on jewelry and watches.
The younger and older crowds showed significant differences in the type of items they preferred as well as their motivations for buying them. For example, Chinese post-80s consumers were more interested in the product itself, prioritizing quality and design, while post-90s and -00s consumers preferred to discuss the context of the product and where they can wear it — in other words, they placed more value on intangible experiences and the social meaning behind their purchases. Below we break down these preferences by category:
All consumers demonstrated relatively mature tastes here, and they were familiar with the vocabulary of “it” bags for each brand. The winner was the Gucci Dionysus bag (酒神包), which ranked in the top 3 for all three age groups in 2018. The second-most discussed bag was Chanel’s Gabrielle (流浪包), followed by the Hermès Birkin (铂金包), and Louis Vuitton’s Pochette Metis（邮差包). The rankings also hinted at the fashion life cycle of these “it” bags. For example, Dior’s Saddle Bag (马鞍包) was the no.10 most-discussed bag among post-90s buyers in 2018. This is quite good considering the brand’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri just launched the collection in July 2018. But, meanwhile, Fendi’s peekaboo bag dropped out of the top-10 ranking in 2018, which could mean that people were losing interest in this collection which first hit the runway 10 years ago.
In general, people liked to discuss the style of the bags, though topics like packaging also saw a significant jump from the previous year. For bags, post-80s consumers liked to look at the style, materials, and the hardware (handle, buckle, zipper) of the bag. They also often focused on classic styles and looked for toned-down colors, whereas post-90s and -00s consumers liked vibrant colors and wanted a bag that made sense in a social context, whether it was a laptop bag for work, a backpack for travel, or a crossbody bag for celebrating a birthday. Post-90s consumers were more easily influenced by limited-edition and trend-based styles.
Different from the handbag market, the ready-to-wear category is dominated by big name brands like LV and Gucci, thanks to their frequent collaborations with artists and streetwear companies, such as the LV x Supreme and the Gucci x Coco Capitán pairings.
Large scale exhibition like Louis Vitton’s VVV and Gucci’s The Artist is Present at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai were effective strategies that proved to be topical and buzz-worthy among younger people on Weibo.
One interesting trend is that post-90s and -00s consumers speak more frequently about higher-end product lines, such as couture and pan suits and coats, giving brands great potential to further educate those up-and-coming luxury consumers. Streaming fashion shows could be the right channel for this, as Louis Vuitton and Chanel are currently the top most discussed fashion shows on Weibo.
Chanel’s fine jewelry line coco crush is the only branded item that made to the top of most discussed jewelry list. While post-80s consumers bought to please themselves with styles they liked, post-90s and -00s buyers preferred to discuss where to wear these items, largely focusing on jewelry as a gift to please others. There was also an obvious trend toward discussing jewelry brands by season, and conversations were heavily clustered within the spring and summer.
Since 2017, Cartier, Chanel, and Chopard increased the exposure of their fashion watches on Weibo. Watches like Chanel’s J12, Codecoco, Piaget’s Altiplano, and LV’s Tambour Horizon were being promoted and had attracted attention from female fans. The post-80s male demographic discussed watches the most and spoke more about function than style. Post-80s consumers like to get technical — they know what they’re looking for from a product. On the other hand, post-90s and 00s consumers were more interested in the style of a watch and the branding story behind it.
Sneakers are already at the forefront of luxury footwear nowadays, and shoes nicknamed “little white sneakers” (小白鞋) still sit at the top of the list. After that, loafers (乐福鞋), Tod’s Gomminos (豆豆鞋), sock shoes (袜靴), and “daddy shoes” (老爹鞋) were trending among post-00s buyers in 2018. Post-90s consumers were likely to be attracted by the latest and limited-edition footwear, and the most discussed products include LV’s Trainers and Arclights and Gucci’s Aces and Rhytons. Luxury brands’ collaborations with sportswear companies helped expand their audiences, namely the LV x Supreme x Nike Air Max, the Gucci x Adidas, the Hermes x Nike Air Force, and the Chanel x Adidas Hu NMD collaborations.