For Chinese Valentine’s Day, Creating Nuanced Campaigns Wins the Day

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SHANGHAI — Chinese Valentine’s day, or Qixi Festival, is the third love-themed festival in the China market, after the real Valentine’s Day and 520.

Qixi stems from the Han Dynasty mythology that celebrated the tale of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, who could only reunite on the Milky Way once a year.

From early July to Aug. 4, which is the day of Qixi Festival, top luxury brands gradually released Qixi capsules and visuals that bring a refreshing take on the topic.

As COVID-19-related lockdown measures in key markets eased, Qixi “may also be the first festival that many couples are celebrating together this year,” said Pablo Mauron, partner and managing director of China at Digital Luxury Group. “This also gives brands a key opportunity to develop marketing messages that emotionally resonate with the audience.”

Dior tapped its China ambassador Yi Lin and friend of the house Yihan Sun, to star in campaigns that featured the Dior Jardin, Lucky Dior and Rose Dior Couture jewelry collections. A wide range of products, including the popular Book Tote and Lady Dior handbag, were featured.

Louis Vuitton turned to supermodel Cong He and its mascots Vivienne and Gaston to front a Qixi campaign washed over in pastel. The collection featured playful items in the handbag, fashion accessories and watch categories. Louis Vuitton also launched a WeChat Mini Program blind box game and a mascot-themed Qixi sticker collection for the occasion.

Captured by Anders Edström in Milan, Prada featured Chinese models Shuping Li and Liren Shi rubbing shoulders in a deserted cityscape, only matching gold handbags and accessories, gray and white outfits indicate they are about to meet.

Highlighting handbag products was of prominence for a number of luxury brands.

Maison Margiela enlisted Nowness to create a dreamy story called “Pillowery Confessions” around its classic Glam Slam handbag. Themed “I love you, but I’ve chosen Versace,” the Italian luxury brand chose to highlight the Greca Goddess handbag for Qixi in youthful peach blossom pink. Ferragamo featured Chinese singer and actress Jing Fu toting the iconic Trifolio handbag in red.

“Unlike local shopping events such as 618 or Double 11, events like Qixi and 520 are not typically associated with promotional activities, which provides brands with a good window to communicate about new products and festival-exclusive collections, instead of focusing on discounts,” Mauron said.

Thus, for some luxury and fashion players, pushing out a campaign that doesn’t explicitly mention Qixi, but can reroute attention to specific key product offerings became the objective. Saint Laurent showed a summer-friendly collection called “La Piscine & Sunkissed” featuring fashion and lifestyle products including a surfboard, bath towels and swimwear.

For other luxury players, creating a nuanced regional campaign around romance became just as crucial as selling Qixi-related capsules this year.

In the case of Bottega Veneta, which Matthieu Blazy took over as creative director this March, Qixi became an occasion to wax poetic about the diversity of love.

In a “Call Me By Your Name”-style video set in the seaside city of Qingdao in Shandong province, Chinese videographer Jess Zhou and photographer Meng Zhi captured three pairs of real-life partners roaming around town on bikes, dressed in palettes of black, white, cream or green Bottega Veneta pieces, which goes well with the natural splendor of the resort town.

Titled “Love, In Motion,” the campaign featured two pairs of same-sex couples, whom casting director Denise Hu discovered on Xiaohongshu, the popular social-commerce app. The brand gifted bike bells to VIP clients in sync with the biking-themed visuals.

Mauron thinks luxury brands have to act as cultural trailblazers in the market “to guide narratives instead of merely following marketing trends,” he said.

“Despite the fact that China’s social landscape is quite different from that of the West, luxury brands are delivering inclusive messages in order to strengthen their connections with certain segments of consumers who were previously overlooked by the mainstream market over the last few decades,” Mauron said.

To understand love or human relationships in the digitized future, Balenciaga revealed a Qixi campaign with a dystopian twist. Featuring robots produced by Engineered Arts Limited, a U.K.-based company specializing in humanoid robots, and photographed by Andrea Artemisio, Balenciaga’s simple point-and-shoot visual amplified a sense of hyper-reality. “Models” were dressed in Qixi Crest caps and T-shirts that featured a cupid figurine, Qixi Hearts-printed garments, and they carried pink mini hourglass bags.

Exploring a different side of Qixi, the Chinese-owned French luxury house Lanvin’s campaign moved away from the unrequited love of the beloved folk tale to present a collection that celebrates sisterhood, which can be just as romantic.

Lanvin retold an older version of the Qixi story, when young girls gathered and worshipped the moon, praying they could adapt dexterous sewing skills, a virtue for women at the time. The collection featured illustrations collaged with Qixi design elements, such as pearls and daisies. The capsule consists of fashion jewelry, logo tote bags, a quilted Happy Bag and apparel.

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