SHANGHAI — Michael Kors saluted the street style of Shanghai Wednesday evening with a high-tech, social media-focused event.
Shanghai is the latest destination for Michael Kors’ global “The Walk” campaign, which features China’s financial mecca as a backdrop for brand ambassador Yang Mi, actor Mark Zhao, actress Jelly Lin, singer Bibi Zhou, actress Chrissie Chau and stylist Fil Xiaobai giving their personal street-style spin to pieces from the holiday 2018 Michael Michael Kors collection.
The launch of the campaign videos was accompanied by a “digital experience” for select partygoers among the 1,000-plus invitees to do their own walk in the “Kors Walkbox,” a 600-square-foot box complete with LED lighting, cameras and an AI “editor” that produces a custom fashion film for each participant to share on their social media channels (after a final, hands-on edit by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Nathan Phillips).
Kors brand ambassador, actress Yang Mi, was the main attraction with the local crowd and shared with WWD some thoughts on her personal style.
“I think a sense of style is partly innate, but then you take that and learn more about what suits you and what you like,” she said.
As well as those who appear in Shanghai’s “The Walk” campaign, international faces from previous iterations, including Ella Richards, Soo Joo Park, Hikari Mori and Princess Olympia of Greece, were on hand to celebrate the launch.
It was the first time the designer himself has visited Shanghai since opening a flagship there three years ago and he observed a significant evolution in local fashion consumer behavior, even over this relatively short period.
“I think the curiosity of our Chinese customers and Chinese consumers, their curiosity makes them so unbelievably exciting for a designer, they want what’s new, they are unbelievably informed. When I talk about travel and jet set, that’s my life certainly and a lot of our customers’ lives, but there is no customer as jet-set as the Chinese customer,” he said.
As newer fashion consumers, Kors sees his brand’s Chinese customers as being free from the edicts and conventions that still hold some sway in many traditional luxury markets, and talked about having lunch in a restaurant on Shanghai’s upmarket Bund promenade and seeing firsthand the excitement and experimentation innate in Shanghai’s sense of fashion.
“That’s why it’s so invigorating for a designer to come here. I like watching people here. Even going to lunch yesterday and watching women of all ages sitting and having lunch, from age 20 to 60 and everything in the room — from leather shorts to demure suits, to dresses, to jeans — but all excited about fashion,” Kors said. “It’s all about the way they feel, they are unencumbered. They don’t have someone telling them, ‘No you can’t.’ So they try everything.”
Since entering the China market just over five years ago, Kors has opened flagships in Shanghai and Beijing, launched an e-commerce operation in 2015, and built a stable of 106 stores in Greater China, with no end to expansion in site.
As part of the brand’s “Runway 2020” restructuring program, unveiled earlier this year, Kors will shutter 125 stores worldwide, but the company has a very different strategy for Greater China, where it plans to add up to 100 stores over the next three years.
“Factors impacting our decision to continue our growth in China include the acceleration of urbanization in China, with more people moving into the city, and the faster-rising middle class, with more consumer acquisition and purchasing opportunities,” Kors chief executive officer John Idol said. “China represents a strong growth opportunity for the company and we’re excited about our future growth in this region moving forward.”
Last year the company acquired the previously licensed operation in the Greater China region for $500 million.
As sales slow elsewhere, the brand is becoming more and more reliant on the Asian market with better-than-expected second-quarter results reported earlier this month driven by 30.4 percent revenue growth in Asia, compared with a 0.9 percent rise in the Americas and 9.2 percent in Europe — admittedly off a lower baseline.
“We were very pleased to see strong sales growth in China, as our store network expanded and our brand awareness increased. We continue to see strong performance in Mainland China and Japan. Overall, we are pleased with the performance of our Asia business and continue to invest in our retail network as we build on the positive momentum in this growing region,” Idol added.
Brand awareness certainly hasn’t been hurt by the link with Yang Mi, who boasts more than 70 million followers on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
“When we work with actresses and celebrities, I like when they have their own spin on what I do, because we have varied clientele, we have all ages, we run the gamut from classic to avant-garde and it really depends on how she puts herself together,” Kors said.
“It boils down to style, she has style. She knows what works on herself, for her life, she’s busy, she travels, she’s very Michael Kors in those regards, so she’s been such a great example for women to look and say, ‘Oh, that’s how you can wear it.’”