EC China’s Millennial Consumers: What Victoria’s Secret Got Wrong, And Nike Got Right
Chinese millennials are a new breed of consumers who will shape the future of commerce. They are very interested in consumption, and excited by it. They constantly live-stream fashion shows on their phones and discuss new trends.
Yet, they are also torn between the old and new. They are conflicted between their national pride and their love for western brands. They are struggling to find their own individuality in a collective culture.
At a recent fashion show in Paris, Victoria’s Secret tried to woo Chinese consumers by showcasing dragon-themed lingerie. The supermodel Elsa Hosk appeared on the runway with an elaborate dragon wrapped around on her body, Kendall Jendall wore a pair of phoenix wings made of feather, and Adrian Lima cat-walked in a pair of dragon-embroidered stiletto boots.
But Chinese consumers found these outfits distasteful and tacky. Many commented on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblog site, that the dragon themed-outfits were “really ugly” and didn’t represent Chinese culture.
Some were even offended. An article by Helin Jung, a lifestyle editor for Cosmopolitan, who is an ethnic Chinese, called the show “racist” (the article has since been deleted). “What condescension,” she wrote, “for Victoria’s Secret to think that by wrapping a model in a dragon, it could connect directly with a new consumer in China.”
What went wrong with Victoria’s Secret’s effort to impress Chinese consumers?
First, it takes more than a superficial understanding of Chinese culture to attract Chinese consumers. The dragon in Chinese tradition represents the majesty of an emperor. The clothing the emperor wore was called a dragon robe. The throne the emperor sat on was called a dragon chair. Even the emperor’s body was called a dragon body. The Chinese refer to themselves as descendants of the Dragon.
Therefore, the dragon is a sacred symbol and should be revered. Pairing a dragon with revealing lingerie on models’ super sexy bodies is completely off-putting, and inappropriate to say the least.