Angelababy arrives at the Dior flagship opening at Plaza 66 in Shanghai.

SHANGHAI — Dior celebrated the reopening of its enlarged and revamped flagship in the Plaza 66 mall here on Wednesday.

Spread across three floors of the luxury mall on the major shopping thoroughfare of West Nanjing Road, the boutique is the first Dior flagship in China to feature women’s and men’s collections, as well as fine jewelry and timepieces.

In Shanghai for the brand’s second major event in four months — Dior also held an exhibition in June as part of its 70th anniversary celebrations — chief executive officer Sidney Toledano was quick to defend the brand’s controversial choices of spokespeople in the China market.

With more than 84 million social media followers, there would seem little downside to working with Chinese model and actress Angelababy, but her appointment as Dior’s spokeswoman in May was greeted with a mixed reaction online in China. Many netizens questioned whether Angelababy was too mass-market to be an appropriate choice for a pure luxury brand like Dior — the actress is associated with a number of other companies, including Tag Heuer (also part of Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) and Ugg.

In September, Dior also revealed the appointment of 29-year-old actress Zhao Liying as brand ambassador in China. Zhao’s 56 million Weibo “fans” (as followers are known on the platform) are largely thought to overlap with Angelababy’s fan base. Both brand ambassadors were in attendance at the flagship reopening in Shanghai.

Zhao Liying arrives at Dior’s flagship at Plaza 66 in Shanghai.  M.ohki

“Angelababy, frankly I think she is a good ambassador, she is not a baby, actually she is a mother, and she has the elegance, the allure that will appeal to our customers. When we do partnerships with someone, it’s not about the number of followers, not about the number of Millennials she can capture or not. We’re good at having ambassadors that have the kind of elegance that we like,” Toledano told WWD prior to the event.

“Now, it happens that the impact on the young generation is very positive, we have seen that we are attracting more young people, but we are not a brand for teenagers. We want young people to dream about the brand.”

Far from changing Dior’s strategy in order to bow to the desires of younger consumers, Toledano counters that it’s the brand’s heritage and authenticity that allow it to appeal to consumers of all ages in China and elsewhere.

“Luxury and fashion brands have to see what the new generation is thinking, but not by adapting and changing your products and changing your philosophy and values, because of the young generation, that would be a mistake,” he said.

According to the ceo, the average age of Dior’s consumer base in China aligns with that in other markets, though because the spending power of Millennials here tends to be higher than in Europe, younger consumers in China have a higher average spend than their counterparts in the Old World.

“It’s not a marketing concept. I am a little bit tired to see so many people, the houses showing the same story. You know why the young generation likes us? It’s a genuine thing. When you live in the house of Dior, this is our DNA, this is our story and we do it naturally. This is why I think we are successful,” he said.

On the reopening of the brand’s Plaza 66 flagship, Toledano said the timing was a matter of “the stars aligning” above anything else, with the landlord making almost double the amount of space available for the brand to bring together men’s and women’s collections and offer almost its entire product line to Shanghai’s shoppers.

“Now we have this, it’s almost a Maison within a mall,” Toledano said.

The interior of Dior’s revamped Shanghai flagship.  Kristen Pelou

To celebrate the opening, Dior also released a 10-piece capsule collection exclusive to the China market. The collection includes two bags, a blanket and a special edition of the Grand Bal Coquette watch, as well as men’s wear pieces in black and white with a signature bee motif.

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