Louis Vuitton’s pivot to streetwear is in full force in China, where the brand just announced boy-band idol turned hip-hop star Kris Wu as its most prominent Chinese brand ambassador to date.
The luxury brand revealed the new partnership on its Chinese social accounts on October 31, and has earned over 2.5 million shares so far on Twitter-like Weibo.
Its choice of Kris Wu lines up with its embrace of the streetwear aesthetic that prompted the appointment of Off-White’s Virgil Abloh as its men’s artistic designer. Like Louis Vuitton, Kris Wu has also undergone a streetwear evolution as he shifted from his K-pop boy band roots toward a solo hip-hop career, teaming up with Travis Scott and hosting the wildly popular music competition show Rap of China. With over 44 million Weibo followers, the millennial Canadian-Chinese star cited his four-year friendship with Abloh and early support of Off-White as his reason for working with Louis Vuitton.
Louis Vuitton joins a trend of luxury brands relying heavily on Chinese brand ambassadors for social engagement. According to Gartner L2’s Luxury China: Influencers report, Louis Vuitton was one of only two fashion brands that managed to rank among the top 10 for social engagement without the use of an official ambassador. Overall, fashion brands’ Weibo posts mentioning a celebrity ambassador generate 70% of all engagement for fashion brands despite making up only 5% of total brand posts.
Louis Vuitton is betting big on Kris Wu, bestowing the highest title of brand ambassador, the daiyanren (代言人), or “spokesperson.” Social media commentators have noted this is a major change for the label, which has previously only referred to its brand ambassadors in Chinese with the lesser dashi (大使), or “ambassador.” It uses this lower title when referring to brand ambassador Emma Stone on Chinese social media, and previously used the term for now-disgraced actress Fan Bingbing in 2015.
Louis Vuitton follows in the footsteps of Burberry, which gained a sales boost and increased social engagement after appointing Kris Wu as its brand ambassador in 2016. He was a pioneer of Burberry’s own streetwear pivot even before Riccardo Tisci became its new creative head. In December 2017, he promoted a special Burberry x Kris Wu capsule streetwear collection with the song B.M. (Burberry Made), which made it up to the number two spot on the iTunes charts. Chinese media is reporting that Louis Vuitton snapped him up immediately after his two-year contract with Burberry ended.
With Kris Wu out, Burberry has upped its focus on its new brand ambassador, actress Zhou Dongyu. Zhou generated 47% of Burberry’s total Weibo engagement in the year ending in April, while Kris Wu accounted for 42%. But in the Tisci era, Burberry is toning down its use of celebrities and made its recent runway show a “celebrity-free zone.”
Louis Vuitton’s first campaign featuring Kris Wu goes beyond the streetwear realm. Its WeChat post announcing him as the new ambassador featured a link to a mini program promoting its upcoming Shanghai Volez, Voguez, Voyagez exhibition, which has a decidedly old-school focus on the history of the brand starting in 1854. The mini program offers features like an interactive exhibition map, selfie filters and games aimed at attracting young people, but the main thing likely to lure Chinese millennials to the exhibition will be the promise of Kris Wu’s presence.