LONDON — You may not have heard of Liu Haoran, or Turbo Liu as he’s called outside of China, but when it was revealed last week that he’d become the face of Louis Vuitton’s second smartwatch, the Tambour Horizon, you could say he nearly broke China’s Internet.
Thousands of excited comments flooded Louis Vuitton’s Instagram account after the brand revealed the actor, China’s equivalent of Timothée Chalamet, will be endorsing the watch and the new wireless Horizon Earphones, $995, along with Justin Theroux and Sophie Turner.
Liu’s announcement on his personal Weibo account received more than 417,000 shares, 19,000 comments and 218,000 likes to date. The hashtag “Liu Haoran becomes the face of Louis Vuitton Watch” was mentioned close to a million times.
Trained at the Central Academy of Drama, one of the country’s most prestigious drama schools, his boy-next-door appeal and acting skills are wildly appreciated in China. Liu began his career with the hit romantic comedy “Beijing Love Story” in 2014, for which he was nominated for Best Newcomer at the Beijing College Student Film Festival, one of the biggest film festivals in China. His popularity rose further with TV dramas “Nirvana in Fire II” and he had key roles in big film productions such as “Detective Chinatown Vol. 2” and “Legend of the Demon Cat.”
Raymond Koo, a sales representative at Louis Vuitton’s Guangzhou store, said the red earphones Liu wore with a matching red suit in the campaign have been selling well.
“Customers came into the store and ask specifically for the earphones. Red color products perform really well during Chinese New Year, and the earphones’ gender-neutral design makes a popular choice across all demographics,” Koo said.
Liu has been in high demand among Chinese fashion media. Last year alone he appeared on the covers of the Chinese editions of GQ; Vogue Me, a new subbrand Vogue China launched speaking directly to the Gen Z; Marie Claire; L’Officiel; Cosmopolitan; Bazaar Men, and Elle Men.
“I think Louis Vuitton bet on the right person,” said Anson Chen, fashion director at GQ China. “Haoran was very professional when I did the cover story with him last year, and he has such a cheerful personality. This is the right kind of message that the brand wants to deliver.”
Here, Liu talks to WWD exclusively about representing a new frontier for the 165-year-old house and how he celebrated the Year of the Pig with his family.
WWD: How did you celebrate Chinese New Year? Are you looking forward to the Year of the Pig?
Liu Haoran: I have celebrated the last three Spring Festivals on set. So this year I stayed with my family. I also grew my beard, as it’s a Chinese traditional custom that people do not cut their hair during the first month of the new year. On Chinese New Year’s Eve, we put up couplets, and watched the Spring Festival Gala [live TV broadcast] while making dumplings.
WWD: You’re a role model for many in China. What are some of the good things you want to influence your generation?
L.H.: As an actor, one of the most important things is to deliver positive messages through my work. Also, like the main theme of this [Vuitton] film, I like the idea of exploration. I would love to take some challenging and unique roles, characters that will be remembered and that will deliver positive messages.
WWD: How do you feel to be featured in the campaign alongside the other actors?
L.H.: It’s my honor to cooperate with these outstanding actors and actresses. I was so happy to shoot with them. I am a big fan of “Game of Thrones,” and I had the opportunity to meet Sophie Turner in Shanghai for the “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” exhibition.
WWD: Have you always worn a watch? If so, what’s the first watch you ever owned and what kind of designer or functionality are you looking for in a watch?
L.H.: Yes, my first watch was a gift from my parents for my good grades. I care a lot about functionality, and on top of that, the design. I also love listening to music so it would be really cool to be able to listen to music connected to my watch in the future.
WWD: What is your favorite function in this watch?
L.H.: The watch has a new application called “My Travel.” This new function can sync schedules of your trains, flights and arrangements of other means of transportation, and hotels information. Compared with the first version, the new one has even more exciting faces available.
WWD: Can you tell us more about your upcoming projects in 2019? Anything in particular you are excited about?
L.H.: I have two upcoming projects. The “Novoland: Eagle Flag,” which will screen in 2019, and “Detective Chinatown 3” that will start filming in Japan and will be released in the Chinese New Year of 2020. This year, I hope to find a challenging script that suits me.