Marc Jacobs’s spring 2011 Louis Vuitton show may have seemed at first like a clear appeal to that region of the world — China — that’s on everyone in the luxury-fashion business’s lips right now. LVMH, along with pretty much everyone else, is expanding in Asia, and Jacobs’s Vuitton show, with strikingly literal Chinese influences, looked like a clear nod to that. However, Jacobs said after his likewise Asian-inflected Louis Vuitton men’s show in June that “probably the least appealing thing to the Chinese market is any kind of Asian reference.” He said he didn’t design the spring 2011 women’s collection with that market in mind. Style.com’s Nicole Phelps noted in her review of the collection, “It’s debatable whether the aspirational Chinese customer wants to look like a ‘China Girl.’”
Jing Daily wonders if it’s true that Jacobs’s menswear and womenswear Vuitton shows were not “about appealing from a business point of view” — especially when 13 percent of the spring 2011 Vuitton looks were modeled by Asian women, contrasting to the zero Asian women who walked his fall 2010 show, and the 5.4 percent of looks modeled by Asian women in the spring 2010 show.
Nels Frye of Stylites has commented on the never-ending obsession of Western designers, Jacobs included, with the concept of “Old Shanghai.” Noting that “many of the looks could be achieved after an afternoon excavating at the Xiushui market, here in Beijing,” Frye wryly observed that going to the Louis Vuitton boutique less than ten minutes away would save “the stress of haggling.”
Those who know the Chinese market seem to agree that this collection, with its exaggerated use of Chinese elements, is not likely to appeal to the Chinese market. Torsten Stocker of Monitor Group, a global strategy consulting firm with offices in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong, observed that with “cliched” elements that “reflect a Western image of what Chinese design looks like,” Jacobs’s SS2011 collections may not truly appeal to Chinese consumers. While the clothes “might be good for a Chinese star to wear in a Western setting,” Stocker said, the collections would be less successful with the broader Chinese market.
Maybe this isn’t so complicated, and Jacobs just looked to China because he felt like it. But one would still think LVMH executives had some hand in determining what Jacobs should show because it would sell.