After years of seeing mainly Hollywood celebrities and European stars as the global face of the world’s top luxury brands, Asians are finally getting a seat on the table. All four Blackpink members, in particular, have recently been drawing attention for their respective appointments by Chanel, Celine, Dior and Saint Laurent, among others.
They are joined by other a host of other Chinese and South Korean artistes and celebrities, at a rate that sees a new Asian global ambassador being announced practically every month. Today, it would seem that if a luxury brand didn’t have an ambassador from one of these two countries, they are either outdated or missing out big time.
This begs the question: what is driving the shift? We take a closer look at why luxury brands are turning to the East to sell their products and who are the stars they have chosen to front their campaigns.
Targeting the lucrative Chinese market
Liu Yifei – Louis Vuitton
Earlier this year, Chinese American actress Liu Yifei was named the face of Louis Vuitton in China. She has also been the brand ambassador for Chaumet since 2019.
Kris Wu – Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton appointed China rap superstar Kris Wu as its ambassador in 2018. Since then, the actor and musician has fronted numerous campaigns and magazine cover shoots for the Maison, even modelling for its Spring-Summer 2020 presentation.
Karry Wang Junkai – Christian Louboutin, Christian Dior
Christian Louboutin welcomed its first China brand ambassador this year, an honour reserved for 21-year-old singer and actor Wang Junkai (Karry Wang). Prior to that, the TFBoys band member was named brand ambassador for Dior in 2019.
Jackson Wang – Cartier, Fendi
Hong Kong rapper and South Korean K-pop band GOT7 member Jackson Wang is the prince of ambassadorships and endorsements, with luxury brands such as Armani Beauty, Cartier and Fendi lining up to sign him on since he broke into the scene in 2017.
Jackson Yee – Emporio Armani, Tiffany & Co
Another TFBoys band member with a few appointments to his name is Jackson Yee, who signed as the global brand ambassador for Emporio Armani and Tiffany & Co. in the same year – 2020.
Luhan – Gucci, Cartier
Gucci tapped Chinese singer and actor Luhan (former member of K-pop group EXO) as its brand ambassador last year. He had also previously worked with Cartier to promote its Juste un Clou collection.
Yang Mi – Stuart Weitzman, Michael Kors, Victoria’s Secret
Chinese actress and singer Yang Mi – fondly called “China’s fashion queen” – was appointed as brand ambassador in China for Michael Kors Collection in 2017, followed by Stuart Weitzman two years later. She was also briefly the face of Versace, before terminating her contract over a T-shirt design controversy. Last year, Victoria’s Secret signed her on with hopes of boosting its dwindling sales performance.
(swipe left for more)
In 2019, McKinsey & Company released a report projecting that China will account for 40% of the global luxury sales by 2025. A separate report by Global Times indicates that the country is already headed in that direction, with its share of the global market doubling from 11% in 2019 to 20% last year.
With the Chinese market being the only major economy to experience positive growth last year – amidst a pandemic, no less (thank “revenge spending” for that) – it makes sense why luxury brands are looking to work with names and faces that could drive sales further.
At the same time, China has a mature e-commerce infrastructure that allows it to cater to the on-demand online purchases of consumers, especially when retail stores were forced to close. On top of launching virtual stores on Tmall, Alibaba Group’s B2C online marketplace, brands are taking to social media platforms such as Douyin (China’s version of TikTok) and Weibo to boost their online presence and target younger Chinese consumers.
One proven strategy to increase publicity and credibility with these Millennial and Gen Z consumers is through the celebrities they follow, hence the call for more brand ambassadors in China. For instance, Liu Yifei’s recent appointment as the face of Louis Vuitton received overwhelming support on Weibo, with fans showing their support for the Mulan actress by sharing receipts of their purchases from the brand.
Surfing on the K-wave
Blackpink’s Lisa – Bvlgari, Celine, MAC Cosmetics
This Thai-born K-pop singer/rapper is a champ at endorsements, fronting the campaigns of numerous brands within the past few years. In 2020 alone, she was named the global brand ambassador of Bvlgari, Celine, and MAC Cosmetics.
Blackpink’s Jennie Kim – Chanel
Fellow Blackpink member Jennie was the first in the group to score a partnership with a French luxury house back in 2018, earning her the nickname “human Chanel”.
Blackpink’s Rose – Saint Laurent; YSL Beauty
Seen as the cool, edgy and creative one, vocalist Rose perfectly embodies the Saint Laurent girl. Naturally, the French house appointed her as global ambassador last year, followed closely by YSL Beauty earlier in January.
Blackpink’s Kim Jisoo – Dior
The sweet, playful girl-next-door in the group, Jisoo is the latest to be named a global ambassador thanks to Dior, having partnered with the brand several times for the Korean market.
Hyun Bin – Omega
The Crash Landing on You actor was named the global ambassador for Omega last November, making the first Korean to join the brand’s family of ambassadors including George Clooney, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.
Song Hye Kyo – Chaumet, Fendi, Sulwhasoo
Just last month, Fendi announced that Song Hye Kyo is its first Korean global ambassador. The veteran actress has also been the face of Chaumet and Sulwhasoo since 2018.
BIGBANG’s G-Dragon – Chanel
Before Jennie, Chanel had set its sights on Korean with the appointment of BIGBANG group member G-Dragon as its house ambassador in 2017.
EXO’s Kai – Gucci
EXO main dancer Kai was first chosen to endorse Gucci Eyewear in 2019, before becoming the Italian house’s first Korean global ambassador. He is also the first male muse for UK beauty brand Bobbi Brown.
(swipe left for more)
Ever since K-pop entered the mainstream music industry in the 2000s, South Korean artists and groups have been amassing a sizeable fan base across the globe. Coupled with the growing popularity of K-dramas and K-beauty trends, it’s no secret that the K-wave has become a global phenomenon of undeniable influence.
While the South Korean market and appetite for luxury pales in comparison to China, the appeal and influence of its stars are arguably more widespread on a global scale. With groups like Blackpink and BTS ranking among the biggest pop bands in the world, penetrating other major economies including the US and Europe, everyone wants a piece of the K-pie – and luxury brands are no exception.
Not to mention, many fans of these South Korean superstars are known to be fierce supporters of their “bias” (a term to denote a fan’s favorite member within a group) – going as far as to track down representatives of the groups to deliver a gift or spend thousands on merchandise and anything they endorse, which brings us to our point. These idols have a Midas touch to products and brands they are associated with; companies are simply leveraging on that.
Photos courtesy of respective brands