Céline de Hedi Slimane is rising high in China – for the moment
Key points to remember:
The star-studded designer Hedi Slimane joined the French Maison as director of creation, art and image in 2018 with a clear mission from LVMH chief Bernard Arnault: to double or triple the current sales of 1 billion Celine dollars within five years.
Blackpink member Lisa was named Celine’s Global Ambassador in September 2020. This endorsement led to the brand’s commercial success, and Celine’s Triomphe Canvas collection received high praise after the star presented it.
Celine’s double-C leather goods and monogrammed handbags are currently the latest trending items among Gen Z, in addition to Calvin Klein-inspired bra tops with a white elastic band bearing the inscription “CELINE”.
Celine’s new Creative Director, Hedi Slimane, caused an online uproar in China with his first show. The hashtag “Celine designer is suffocating” (#Celine è®¾è®¡å¸ ä»¤äººçªæ¯ #) was all the rage on Weibo at the time, and users of the platform were sorely disappointed. Cult followers of Celine’s former Creative Director Phoebe Philo lamented the removal of the accent above the “e” from the logo, Slimane’s new handbags and her “C” monogram.
In fact, the arrival of Slimane has seriously shaken the Luxury House. Its distinctive rock-and-roll aesthetic – with sparkling mini dresses, studded leather, and exaggerated ’80s silhouettes – alienated its predecessor’s fan base. But James Hebbert, UK managing director of Chinese advertising and marketing agency Hylink, suggested brand reinvention was needed to keep it relevant. âSlimane made some bold changes to Celine, and many consumers felt it was a radical shift towards the brand,â he said.
And Slimane was perhaps the only person with the chops to do it. During his tenure at Dior Homme, Slimane’s male skinny figure met with huge success, and at Saint Laurent, the designer increased the brand’s sales from $ 400 million to $ 1 billion. And, despite all the negative reactions, Celine did not ultimately lose her Chinese consumers.
Three years after Slimane’s debut, consumers are now familiar with the new logo, and many local first-time buyers might not even be aware of its predecessor. Now, thanks to China, 2021 seems to be the turning point for the brand. LVMH’s latest financial report stated that “CÃ©line has had great success with the creations of Hedi Slimane.”
Sales on the continent saw double-digit growth as the lockdown eased, and they are expected to continue to accelerate. Three years after the start of his mandate, Daily jing analyzes Slimane’s strategies and initiatives to reach local consumers at CÃ©line.
CÃ©line de Slimane expands its offers and inflates prices
The historic designer joined the French Maison as director of creation, art and image in 2018 with a clear mission entrusted to him by the head of LVMH Bernard Arnault: to double or triple the number of Celine’s current $ 1 billion business in five years and expand its product category to fragrances, menswear, and high fashion. The expectations were high, but not unreasonable.
The deployment of CÃ©line’s full category under Slimane – which has developed a more complete offering by expanding into men’s fashion, perfumes and a stronger fashion jewelry category – is proof of LVMH’s ambition to make the brand the next powerhouse in luxury.
And if CÃ©line is still far from the figures reached by Slimane in Saint Laurent, she is on the right track. Her double C-logo leather goods and monogrammed handbags are currently the latest Gen Z trends, in addition to her Calvin Klein-inspired bra tops with a white elastic band inscribed with “CELINE”. Although some netizens have undermined the design by saying it âlooks like Zara,â the products seem to work for younger shoppers, who prefer to mix and match high and low brands.
In fact, Celine is so confident now that she has ushered in a new wave of price hikes for luxury goods and is expected to raise prices for three series this year (she has only increased prices once in 2020. ). Three tours a year is an impressive number. On the one hand, price inflation makes buyers rush to buy. But on the other hand, brands must be careful to take into account their tariff positions and not exceed customer expectations. After all, few brands – including HermÃ¨s and Chanel handbags – are considered worthy of an investment. Celine may not yet be.
K-stars a gateway to the local Generation Zers
Wealthy buyers in China are younger than ever, and labels from Louis Vuitton to Prada are finding new ways to reach this target audience. The success of Korean entertainment has caught the attention of the big luxury powers, and they are now dressing popular K-drama characters from head to toe.
âKorean dramas have already gone global and many people around the world are watching them,â said Professor Seo Kyoung-Duk of Sungshin Women’s University. Heritage brands seizing the Korean soap opera opportunity via product seeds indicate that school dramas appear to be the preferred gateway for local Gen Z members.
Real beauty is one of the latest of these popular series, and the hashtag # truebeauty # (# å¥³ç¥ å°é¢ #) has over 2.6 billion views on Weibo. In December 2020, the main woman wore a full Celine look on screen (a monogrammed drum bag, a plaid jacket and a chiffon shirt) while her support man wore Celine’s triangle bag, which is went viral online. These smart placements further boosted the brand’s visibility on local social platforms.
Previously, in September 2020, Celine announced that Lisa, a member of girl group Blackpink, would become a global ambassador for the house. This endorsement led to the brand’s commercial success and Celine’s Triomphe canvas series became very popular after the star appeared there. âThe power of influencers in China is very business driven,â Hebbert explains. “When young icons and KOLs are seen carrying a bag, it can become a centerpiece.”
Lisa has significant exposure on the continent, having appeared on local variety shows like Youth with you. This successful approval may indicate that Chinese ambassadors are not the only way to attract local consumers. But in the long run, domestic buyers can expect a local celebrity to endorse the brands that resonate with them.
KOL and KOC seed on local social platforms
Celine has undertaken several social strategies to gain fans among Chinese digital shoppers. But Hebbert says the brand has been very “slow and conservative” to embrace digital transformation compared to competitors like Burberry. However, he added that “Little Red Book has been a positive for the brand, thanks to its KOL and KOC rankings.”
Hedi Slimane’s reinterpretation of CÃ©line’s Triomphe bag garnered numerous mentions on the Little Red Book platform, representing over 20,000 instances of user-generated content for the accessory. The handbag with the new logo is slowly overtaking Phoebe Philo’s minimalist precursor, the Celine Box, attesting to the importance of the KOL and KOC seeding initiatives on Chinese social platforms.
The brand is also generating an impressive number of online conversations and organic target traffic for its special edition â520â leather goods collection. It includes collaborations with privileged Gen Z influencers, dressing young celebrities (Esther Yu, Grace Chow, Savislook and others) and appearing in Li Jiaqi’s broadcast room.
Under Slimane, CÃ©line also began to take an interest in other Chinese social platforms. Launching its first WeChat Mini program in 2019, the brand is finally offering subscribers the ability to purchase products online. But the brand badly needs to energize and localize its publications on the site. âCeline’s content is very safe, and they have to break up,â Hebbert said.
China is a dynamic market, and if Celine keeps a conservative mindset, she risks missing out. âYou shouldn’t judge China through the Western prism,â Hebbert added. The country offers brands the opportunity to experiment with innovation and to export globally. As such, influencers will continue to play a relevant role in communications, regardless of the channel. But as consumers become more sophisticated, playing it safe is also risky.
Slimane has, once again, proven its ability to create new luxury trends and gives birth to a new era for the French House under its name. To stay in the minds of distracted young consumers and reach her sales goal of $ 1 billion, Celine will need the courage to embrace novelty and experiment – not only on the creative side, but also from a marketing and digital perspective.