Louis Vuitton Men's Spring 2021

Louis Vuitton attracted a sizable online audience for its physical men’s wear show, held in Shanghai on Thursday. The spectacle, which featured giant inflatables and models stepping out of cargo containers, generated more than 100 million views worldwide, the brand said Friday.

The livestreamed show, which closed with Chinese actor-singer Kris Wu, drew 68 million views on Weibo, 18 million on Douyin, eight million on Tencent and one million on OOH, a spokesman for Louis Vuitton said. In addition, 3.3 million people watched it on Instagram, 1.6 million on Twitter, 335,000 on Facebook and 84,000 on the Vuitton web site.

Michael Burke, chairman and chief executive officer of Vuitton, said the social networks told Vuitton it set audience records with the outdoor fashion spectacle, the first roving show for the brand since its men’s creative director Virgil Abloh revealed it would switch to a seasonless model.

What’s more, the event is already fanning robust business across Asia.

“The Taiwan market, China and Korea all had the biggest sales in their history this week,” Burke said.

He credited a show that blended several collections, even reprising fall looks, for strong sales ahead of Thursday night’s event, plus healthy preorders for the spring 2021 collection, titled “Message in a Bottle,” that will be delivered to boutiques in about four months.

“When you do an event like this and the buzz is so huge, everything sells,” he said.

He also attributed the enormous interest on social networks to “pent-up demand and frustration with not seeing live shows” since the coronavirus pandemic scuttled summer fashion weeks in London, Milan and Paris, prompting organizers to post creative films online instead.

“There’s no more trickle-down,” Burke said in an interview. “Everybody wants immersive, simultaneous access to the information. What made it even stronger was the fact that [Shanghai] was Act 2. There’s this narrative, and we’re weaving it together and that makes it more compelling.”

Act 1 took place during Paris Fashion Week in July, when Abloh unveiled a teaser film for the Shanghai showing titled “Zoooom With Friends,” unveiling a cast of kooky animal-like characters that jump into shipping containers on a barge that sets sail from Paris.

For comparison, that teaser generated 15.4 million views worldwide after its release. Meanwhile, the last Vuitton men’s show to be livestreamed in China in January 2019 drew 18.7 million views just on Weibo.

Act 3 will be another large-scale live event in Tokyo on Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m. local time.

“It looks like this could be a new model going forward,” Burke hinted. “If the audience could not come to Paris, then we take the collection to the audience, and I think that’s going to remain.”

Burke also attributed heightened interest in Thursday’s show to the fact a major luxury house was unveiling a new collection in China first. Typically, European brands have done repeat shows, adding a few new looks — and often flying over seamstresses, production teams and others.

By contrast, not a single person from Vuitton headquarters was in Shanghai for Thursday’s event — with all production, casting and logistics done there — and Burke said this is the way forward.

“We think the traveling runway is the future,” he said. “The engagement is so much higher when it’s localized.”

Vuitton was also able to engage with more VIP clients, as it could only fly limited numbers to Paris Fashion Week displays.

Counterfeit invitations for Abloh’s fifth effort for Vuitton were said to be on offer for as much as 5,000 euros. Vuitton employed its blockchain to issue official tickets and ensure security at the event, the first live fashion show in China since COVID-19 swept through many parts of the country.

Not everyone was thrilled by Abloh’s latest collection, however. Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck posted to Instagram an image of a masked model wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “I Hate Fashion Copycats.”

In his Stories, he reposted several collages pointing out similarities between Vuitton’s spring 2021 clothing and eyewear designs and Van Beirendonck’s fall 2016 collection. Fellow Belgian designers Olivier Theyskens and Jean-Paul Lespagnard expressed their solidarity with Van Beirendonck in separate posts.

Vuitton said there was no link. “Van Beirendonck’s past work is not referenced in our spring 2021 collection. We never saw a collection of his with a similar treatment,” a spokesman for the brand said, adding that Abloh was inspired by stuffed animals he bought in a children’s store near his studio in Paris in January 2020. “They integrate into garments and bags, animate them,” he added.

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