Prada on Friday became the first major luxury house to stage a show in China this year, navigating strict COVID restrictions to send models to a catwalk at a historic Beijing mansion, a move intended to underscore its commitment to the market.
Streamed live on multiple online platforms including Weibo, more than 400 celebrities and customers attended the Italian group’s event at Prince Jun’s Mansion Hotel, where it showcased its men’s and women’s fall and winter collections.
Shows in Chinese cities of global luxury giants from Prada to Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior to LVMH were once a familiar sight and have continued even in 2020 and 2021 after China curbed the spread of the virus relatively quickly thanks within strict boundaries.
But much has changed in 2022 with China’s continued insistence on a “dynamic zero COVID” policy that uses tough measures to cut off any chain of virus transmission, even as the rest of the world opens up to face to infectious variants of Omicron.
Since the start of the year, several cities including Shanghai, China’s commercial capital, have suffered drastic lockdowns and much of the country’s population is now required to undergo regular COVID-19 tests. These measures created uncertainty that hurt both the economy and consumer confidence.
In order to attend Prada’s event, guests had to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours and masks were mandatory for all attendees inside except models walking along the podium.
Those coming from other Chinese cities also had to comply with Beijing’s testing requirements for domestic travelers.
“[This event] is a key statement for the brand, especially at this time when first mover advantage will be seen as more powerful and meaningful than before,” said Kim Leitzes, APAC managing director at data provider Launchmetrics.
Prada declined interview requests for this story.
The brand has seen a significant improvement in its business in China in recent years, reducing its reliance on wholesale and generating more sales through its own stores and website, where items are more likely to be priced at strong.
It also attracted a new generation of Chinese consumers with the appointment of superstar Cai Xukun as a celebrity ambassador in 2019.
“I’m very happy to be here tonight,” said one of the Friday show attendees, Chen Zaozao, who works at an auction house in Beijing. “I used to have many opportunities to attend fashion events before, but it’s become rare these days.”
By Sophie Yu and Casey Hall; Editing by Christina Fincher