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Brands Return for China’s 520 Valentine’s Day Amid Spending Rebound

LONDON — As China continues to be a key source of growth post-COVID-19, luxury players are racing to build campaigns around every gifting opportunity in the market to sustain that high level of growth.

Originated online as an acronym for “I love you” in Chinese, the phrase 520 has gained momentum in popular culture in recent years, and May 20 has become another festival among the younger generation in China for lovers to showcase their affection for one another by gifting each other.

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At the beginning of the pandemic in China, as both Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day were canceled due to lockdowns, 520 was elevated to a top priority for brands, including Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada.

Since then, the occasion has become a fixture on brands’ China marketing calendar, and a warm-up event for 618, which was originated by JD.com to compete with Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sales event on Nov. 11. It’s now a national shopping holiday for all to participate.

Bottega Veneta's 520 campaign
An image from Bottega Veneta’s 520 campaign.

This year, some brands went the extra mile to build impactful campaigns around romance to win over consumers who are in the mood for love.

Bottega Veneta, for example, conscripted two models to play a couple holding hands and watching the sunrise on the top of a mountain, while showing limited-edition bags, shoes and accessories the brand offers for 520.

Editor-turned-fashion consultant Leaf Greener counted the Bottega Veneta campaign as one of the most nuanced executions she has seen this year.

“520 means ‘I Love You’ in Chinese. It is different from Qixi, China’s other traditional Valentine’s Day based on a folktale. This one is more focused on action, just like the act of saying ‘I Love You’ to each other. So the feeling of love should be presented with a specific gesture. I guess that’s why the picture is all about two holding hands,” she added.

soccer player Zhao Lina, short track speed skater Wu Dajing, and skateboarder Stephen Khou star in Ami's 520 campaiign

Ami, which is backed by Sequoia Capital China, featured soccer player Zhao Lina, short track speed skater Wu Dajing, and skateboarder Stephen Khou, who are considered top-tier sports celebrities, in the brand’s 520 capsule collection campaign.

The capsule offers a mix of men’s, women’s and unisex pieces in red, such as skirts, shorts, baseball and fisherman hats, polo shirts, long- and short-sleeve T-shirts, denim jackets and hoodies.

Prada's 520 campaign
Prada’s 520 campaign.

Prada has a clean and subtle 520 campaign featuring models He Zhi and Benji Xu. It highlights pieces from the brand’s Suddenly Summer men’s and women’s collection, as well as the mini Galleria bag in various colors, only available online during the 520 period. The blue version is exclusive to its JD.com online flagship.

Balenciaga's 520 campaign
Balenciaga’s 520 campaign.

Balenciaga, for 520, designed a limited run of items for China. The offering includes T-shirts, hoodies, pierced caps, and socks that feature a specially designed graphic consisting of the letter I and a red heart shape, blurred as if in a vertical motion.

It’s accompanied by a campaign shot by Andrea Artemisio with models posing in nature, and an educational game playable on Balenciaga’s official WeChat account, which allows users to choose a farmer avatar dressed in products from the 520 capsule, who is tasked with growing virtual crops using regenerative agriculture techniques.

The brand said these initiatives are in line with Balenciaga’s mission to become environmentally sustainable and coincide with projects supported by the Regenerative Fund for Nature, which was set up with the aim of transforming 1 million hectares of crop and rangelands into regenerative agricultural spaces.

<a href="https://wwd.com/eye/scoops/living-beauty-raises-funds-valentino-luncheon-1235651015/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Valentino;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Valentino</a>’s 520 campaign spotlights its Rockstud23 handbag.
Valentino’s 520 campaign spotlights its Rockstud23 handbag.
For 520, the bag will be put inside a flower box filled with roses in a shade similar to PP Pink.
For 520, the bag will be put inside a flower box filled with roses in a shade similar to PP Pink.

Bags, shoes and jewelry, which are categories that are easier to sell online, take center stage at several brands’ 520 activations.

Valentino puts the spotlight on the brand’s Rockstud23 handbag, for the occasion, with two models portraying the feeling of happily in love while wearing pieces from the brand’s pre-fall 2023 collection.

All items under the 520 edit will be put inside a flower box filled with roses in a shade similar to PP Pink. This service is available in all stores across the Greater China region, as well as online stores on WeChat, Tmall and JD.com.

Actress Liu Yase stars in Ferragamo's 520 Wanda campaign
Actress Liu Yase stars in Ferragamo’s 520 Wanda campaign.

Ferragamo feted the launch of the 520 Wanda handbag in Shanghai by decorating its store facade with flowers for a party. Designed by creative director Maximilian Davis, the 520 Wanda bag comes in cherry blossom pink, white and gradient green colorways, and is available in mini and supermini sizes.

The brand also invited popular singer Shan Yichun, actor Liu Zheyuan and actress Liu Yase to feature in the 520 Wanda campaign, which began rolling out across China beginning April 28.

Maison Margiela’s 520 campaign.
Maison Margiela’s 520 campaign.

Similarly, Maison Margiela is marking 520 with a capsule collection of its Snatched bags in an exclusive light-colored palette. It also launched a short film and campaign images featuring model Cici Xiang.

Xiao Zhan stars in Gucci's Link to Love campaign
Xiao Zhan stars in Gucci’s Link to Love campaign.

Gucci, which is in a transitional period, is counting on star power to boost its presence during 520. Brand ambassador Xiao Zhan, who is known to have an army of dedicated fans buying up anything the star endorses, appears in the Link to Love fine jewelry campaign, showcasing ’80s-inspired geometric rings and diamond and green tourmaline-adorned necklaces.

The brand also is offering a 520 curation of products on its WeChat store and promises same-day delivery in select cities.

Brand ambassador William Chan stars in Golden Goose’s 520 campaign.
Brand ambassador William Chan stars in Golden Goose’s 520 campaign.

Golden Goose has adopted a similar strategy for 520. In the campaign, brand ambassador William Chan, who is also the face of Chanel, doodles alongside an artist on the brand’s signature sneakers, showcasing the brand’s playful do-it-yourself spirit.

Other festivals for Chinese lovers, on top of May 20 and the original Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, include the Lantern Festival, which lands on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese calendar; the Shangsi Festival, an ancient festival celebrated on the third day of the third month of the Chinese calendar, and the Qixi Festival, the most famous of them all on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese calendar.

Qixi stems from the Han Dynasty mythology that celebrated the tale of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, who could only reunite on the Milky Way once a year.

Launch Gallery: Brands Return for China’s Own 520 Valentine’s Day

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