PARIS — With China reopened from Jan. 8, Chinese stars, influencers, buyers and the press returned to the fashion calendar en masse this season.
While New York and London fashion weeks didn’t see many appearances, their presence was certainly felt in Milan and Paris. It’s estimated that more than 30 editors from China came to Paris, and almost all the top-tier influencers were present, such as Thomas Ye, professionally known as Gogoboi; Mr. Bags Tao Liang; Anny Fan, and Yuyu Zhangzou.
The Chinese stars came out in full force too. At Gucci, brand ambassador and singer Chris Lee sat next to François-Henri Pinault, Kering group chairman and chief executive officer, and his wife Salma Hayek, while Chinese actor Xiao Zhan, who’s known for having an army of dedicated fans in China, was chatting with Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri, who sat next to him at the show.
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“I am most impressed with the set of the show. It felt contemporary, like an art space. The music and lighting are super cool as well,” Lee said post-show.
Xiao also made a huge entrance at Tod’s, where he is also a brand ambassador. He issued two capsule collections with the Italian label during the pandemic to generate buzz in China. Members from his fan club came to support and cheer for him outside the show. In one Instagram post, one editor can be heard saying: “This is crazy. I have never seen anything like this.”
The Chinese actor said he visited Duomo di Milano and walked around the neighborhood between shows. He also had some pizza, and he is a fan of cheese.
Prada brought its secret weapon — Chinese singer Cai Xukun — to bump up the discussion around its fall 2023 show. Fans of Cai put out banners and balloons that spelled KUN outside Fondazione Prada to show their support.
In Paris, Chinese celebrities at all levels could be seen at shows big and small.
Fan Bingbing, the high-profile actress who was famously fined $130 million in 2018, plotted her comeback this Paris Fashion Week with an appearance at the Yun Yun Sun x LusiaViaRoma jewelry launch dinner, as well as by attending three fashion shows: Schiaparelli, Giambattista Valli and Yohji Yamamoto.
She arrived moments before the show started at Schiaparelli. Her fans were shouting “Welcome to Paris Bingbing,” as she posed in front of the paparazzi while entering the show venue at Place Vendôme.
She then wore a feathered and sequined couture look to the Giambattista Valli fall 2023 show. She sat next to Anne Wintour and Pinault. At Yohji Yamamoto, she experimented with avant-garde fashion and shared a hug with the Japanese designer post-show.
Following a slew of controversies last year, celebrities from Asia were the only ones who came to the Balenciaga fall 2023 show. Chinese actress Song Jia was dressed in a cyber couture ensemble and sat in the same row as Wintour and Pinault as well, alongside Taiwanese singer Rainie Yang and Thai star Chayanit Chansangave.
With around 13 million followers on Weibo, Song is considered a surprising choice for the brand to bring to Paris, but so far positive comments have outnumbered negative ones on social media.
The show also did something unusual — it accommodated a large number of Chinese editors and influencers and put them right opposite the celebrities and the American press. It’s probably not a coincidence that in every video shared on Chinese social media Song and Wintour were in the same frame.
Fashion houses in the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton camp, meanwhile, invited some of the buzziest Chinese stars to endorse its brands.
Christian Dior flew in its brand ambassador, Chinese singer Liu Yuxin, who attracted diehard fans cheering for her outside of the show space at the Tuileries, as well as famed actress Zhang Ziyi, who sat next to Gal Gadot at the show.
Speaking to WWD, Zhang said she enjoyed the show and the magical set design by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos.
“It felt like ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and I feel like I could wear all the pieces. Maria Grazia’s designs are so contemporary and so appropriate for the way we live. Relaxed yet elegant,” she said of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s collection.
She was also very happy that she could finally come back to Paris, a place that’s “simply amazing.”
“Each and every street is unique. There’s always something to capture your attention. I just feel that there never is enough time to see it all. Not to mention the exhibitions and installations everywhere,” she added.
While the surprise appearance of Zendaya at Louis Vuitton show was the hottest topic in the West, the brand had a trio of influencer powerhouses in hand to maximize its reach in China.
Brand ambassadors “Mulan” star Yifei Liu and award-winning actress Zhou Dongyu showed up at the show at Musée d’Orsay, alongside Eileen Gu, who won three medals for China in the Beijing Winter Olympics last year. On China’s popular social commerce platform Xiaohongshu, users were actively debating who looked better at the event, which helped drive engagement around the show.
Givenchy got a trio of stars from China as well: Macau’s gambling empire heiress Laurinda Ho, who is dating Chinese actor Dou Xiao; actress Lulu Xu, and TV star Crystal Zhang. Their hashtags have a combined number of more than 68 million views on Xiaohongshu, where fashion content dominates the conversation.
Later in the week, Zhang also attended Alexander McQueen and Shiatzy Chen, where this year’s Oscar nominee Michelle Yeoh came to support her old friend’s first physical return to Paris after the pandemic.
Loewe invited the emerging Chinese actress Sun Qian to its fall 2023 show at Chateau de Vincennes. People may not be familiar with her name as much as they do with K-pop star Taeyong or members of the girl group NMIXX, but Sun appeared to be one of the most discussed stars this season. She wore a simple red leather dress with a decoration in the shape of an anthurium for the occasion.
At Valentino, actress and brand ambassador Guan Xiaotong, who has more than 1.6 billion impressions on Xiahongshu, and around 35 million on Weibo, got the Zendaya treatment at the brand’s fall 2023 show at Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild.
She was greeted by the senior members of the management, waving and saying hello to her fans in China via livestream, and then sat next to Simona Caggia, wife of designer Pierpaolo Piccioli, at the show. She wore a casual shirtdress, showing her slim long legs for the occasion.
Chanel’s plan to win social media attention in China was to make the show a place where supermodel Liu Wen made her global couple debut with actor boyfriend Jing Boran. Liu made a strong runway comeback in Milan and Paris. She closed both Prada and Bottega Veneta and walked for Givenchy, Loewe, Miu Miu, Isabel Marant, Schiaparelli and Ludovic de Saint Sernin’s Ann Demeulemeester debut.
The two wore matching black-and-white tweed jackets to the star-studded showcase. While other press were chasing after Jennie from Blackpink and Korean actor Seojoon Park, Chinese editors ran collectively towards them to take footage of the couple right after the show ended, and Liu adjusting Jin’s necklace at the show became the top trending topic on Weibo on the same day.
Finishing the Chinese celebrity craze this fashion month, Miu Miu brought the uber-cool and buzzy singer Lexie Liu from China to its fall 2023 show at Palais d’Iéna.
Other major Chinese stars making waves this season included actress Liu Tao at Chloé. She had a lovely exchange with Emma Roberts and posed with Hong Kong singer Charlene Choi before the show began.
The influx of the Chinese this season was well handled by most brands. Brands needed Chinese editors and influencers with the know-how to talk about the collections and the celebrities.
The general sentiment is that they got better seats than before, except for a few brands that have little presence in China, where Chinese editors still got the wall-facing seats with a few seconds to see the clothes.
Buyers from China also found new inspiration during their first trip to Paris in three years.
Eric Young, founder of the Shanghai-based fashion boutique Le Monde de SHC, said resuming in-person communication with the West was key to absorbing new ideas in the post-pandemic world.
“It’s great to have everyone back at Paris Fashion Week, and I think the Chinese fashion industry should come out as much as it can. There is no substitute for Paris to inspire and clarify the direction of fashion,” he concluded.