Cai Xukun At Prada, Xiaozhan At Tod’s: Chinese Stars, Designers, Influencers Pack A Punch At Milan Fashion Week

What Happened: Chinese celebrities are back in Milan in full force, and brands and designers are celebrating their much-awaited return. In his Instagram post during Milan Fashion Week, Brunello Cucinelli specially thanked his “dearest friends from China, whom we could welcome back with joy and emotion.” 

There’s a reason for brands to be cheerful. The appearance of local stars at fashion week has made waves on Chinese social media. Italian house Prada, which managed to fly idol Cai Xukun to the show, and Tod’s, which invited actor Xiaozhan, have been trending on Weibo during the Milan events. Fans of the two idols have driven astonishing traffic and exposure for the two brands. 

According to influencer marketing platform, Cai Xukun attracted $3.6 million in EMV (earned media value) for Prada, while Xiaozhan made $3.5 million in EMV for Tod’s. (The data refers to Weibo and Instagram for the tracking period of February 17 to 27). Other stars spotted included actress Zhang Jiani for Max Mara, Guo Caijie for Bottega Veneta, and Li Yuchun for Gucci.

After three years, supermodel Liu Wen has also returned to walking for established brands, closing the Prada and Bottega Veneta shows. Other homegrown models who appeared on the runway include Sun Feifei, Zhang Lina, and Wang Shiyi. The initiative was highly praised by domestic netizens who appreciated seeing Chinese models represented.

The Jing Take: Starting last season, some homegrown influencers have made appearances in the Italian fashion capital, namely Mr. Bags, Yuyu Zhangzou, and Cici Xiang. But this time, they came back en masse. Sitting at the front rows were also Anny Fan, @孙怡静cristine, @季未燃JiweiJW, @Nikki-Min, and @AvaFoo. Many of them were thrilled about the idea of finally attending physical shows.

@孙怡静cristine (2.76 million followers on Weibo) shares with Jing Daily, “In the past three years, I have seen many powerful online shows in China, but I was still looking forward to returning to the show venues to see the freshest ideas coming from designers and experience the details and delicacy of the show pieces up close and face-to-face chat with the designers.”

Chinese fashion KOL Cristine Sun with Bally’s creative director Rhuigi Villaseñor at Milan Fashion Week. Photo: Weibo @孙怡静cristine 

In the era of social media, influencers and stars have become a key way for luxury brands to ensure the visibility of their hard work. Chinese KOLs are crucial for brands to connect with the Far East country. 

“Everyone is relying on social media to obtain information,” says @孙怡静cristine. “Whether it’s Jisoo, Chiara Ferragni, or Leonie Hanne, the sales conversion rate of the items they wear is huge. This season, I also found that besides celebrity spokespersons, there were more short video content creators at the shows, such as Jacob Rott. Clearly, luxury brands don’t want to let away the opportunity to reach a broader audience.”

Not only did the KOLs come to attend the most exciting shows of the season, but they also supported Chinese designers like Shuting Qiu, who returned to the city for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shuting Qiu’s Fall 2023 collection, in collaboration with brand licensing company Smiley, showcased heavily embroidered pieces in vivid colors that sparked joy and energy. When asked about her return to Milan, Shuting Qiu told Jing Daily that she is beyond grateful and believes it is very positive for the independent label. 

Shuting Qiu makes her return to Milan Fashion Week with sequined smiley faces and faux fur pieces. Photo: Shuting Qiu

“Since we sell overseas, it is important to showcase in Milan and maximize our exposure there,” she explains. “What is exciting about showing in two continents — Milan and Shanghai — is that you can do two completely different runways and experiment with new things.”

Other up-and-coming native talents showing in Milan included Sara Wong, Raxxy, Annakiki and Hui, which persisted in presenting their collections in the Italian fashion capital throughout COVID-19. With travel resumed, we can only expect China’s presence at shows to return to normal.

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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