For Shanghai’s trendier millennials and Gen Z’ers, fruit and veg shopping rarely tops their to-do lists. But during the most recent National Day holiday – which ended on Thursday last week – thousands of them flocked to the Wuzhong fresh food market in the city’s former French Concession district.
The visitors were less interested in legumes than “Instagrammable” moments, where they were pictured holding their groceries wrapped in jacquard-patterned paper emblazoned with the slogan “Feels like Prada”. Shoppers willing to spend more than Rmb20 ($3.10) were given a paper bag with the same design while (the very limited) stocks lasted.“Over the past few days, there have been a lot of internet celebrities and young people who came here for the spectacle. That struck a contrast with ordinary days, where most visitors are folks living or working in the neighbourhood doing real grocery shopping,” mused a market stall vendor.
Luxianren, an influencer who made a name for himself by creating high-fashion pieces from everyday household objects and then posting videos online doing catwalk struts across the Guangxi countryside (he is also known as China’s self-made “village supermodel”), was one of the fashionistas that descended on Wuzhong.
In a short video he released this month, Lu was shown strolling around the market in clothing from Prada’s latest collection. All of the outfits – which included a cardigan and a bomber jacket – featured the same jacquard pattern that was everywhere in the market.
Prada’s unconventional two-week pop-up blitz in ‘downmarket’ Wuzhong was part of a broader global marketing initiative (in Milan, the fashion house did something similar in the Porta Venezia area, for instance). But the response in Shanghai was particularly strong, thanks to the thriving influencer culture. The hashtag “Prada Wet Market” garnered over 1.45 million views on weibo, as well as a thousand posts on Xiaohongshu, a beauty and shopping social e-commerce platform (known in English as Little Red Book).
Perhaps what has impressed the PR trade most is how Prada sought to make itself known to shoppers from a wider range of backgrounds, in an unexpected take on President Xi Jinping’s promotion of the ‘Common Prosperity’ policy (see WiC553). Whether Prada’s commercial objectives fit quite so effortlessly with Xi’s goals for a flatter, more equitable Chinese society was left unsaid, although less affluent netizens joked that the Rmb20 paper bag and food wrappings were probably the only Prada products they could ever afford.
Along with Kering (owner of Gucci), Prada’s Hong Kong-listed shares have yet to recover from a market sell-off in August. This was prompted by fear that the Common Prosperity push would hurt luxury sales, just as the launch of Xi’s anti-graft campaign damaged business almost a decade ago.
A few state media outlets were less convinced by Prada’s creative approach, pointing out that it contravened another of Xi’s policies – the fight against food wastage. This became an issue for Prada when a young woman was spotted dumping freshly bought celery after taking pictures of it in the firm’s jacquard paper bag (see WiC540 for more on how another marketing stunt by iQiyi and Mengniu backfired when it led to massive milk wastage). “Compared with luxury paper bags that can help attract ‘likes’ on social media, being thrifty, respectful of labour and having the courage to refrain from vanity are the real richness,” rebuked state mouthpiece the Global Times.
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