“Story of Yanxi Palace” has taken China by storm. iQiyi blockbuster is one of the most widely distributed series produced in China and, from lipsticks to jewellery, has made an impact on the chinese fashion stage. How was that possible? Brands should heed Chinese millennials’ love of ancient culture and “Yanxi Palace” is the perfect case study
“Stories Yanxi Palace”- 延禧攻略 in Chinese, also called “Yanxi Palace” – break any record. Since its initial July 19 drop on iQiyi, one of the main Chinese video-streaming platform that provides content for free with ads and ad-free episodes and exclusive content to members, the 70-episode show has become China’s number one web-based drama series.
Critics described it as a cross between Game of Thrones and The Crown, minus the violence and nudity following traditional Chinese pudicity.
Set in the 18th-century Qing dynasty, when elegant Manchurian silk dress and lavish handcrafted furnitures were the norms of palace living, the story follows Wei Yingluo — portrayed by actress Wu Jinyan — enters the royal palace to punish the murderer of her sister, and fights with other concubines for Emperor Qianlong’s favour.
Just in the first season, “Yanxi Palace” has attracted an average of 130 million views per episode on iQiyi and has been streamed more than 17 billion times, according to data. Actually “Yanxi Palace” is available in over 70 countries worldwide thanks to broadcast deals, thus sites like YouTube, let iQiyi tv-drama became one of the most widely distributed series produced in China
Which was the key of success? Gong Yu, iQiyi chief executive, said “our goal was doing something different, focusing much of the budget on creating exquisite traditional costumes and grandiose set designs”. And Yuxi Palace captured Chinese millennials’ attention let this tv-drama became a new cornerstone in luxury market.
Comparing with other tv-series, “Yanxi Palace” is “a turning point” for the entertainment industry in China. Here high-quality production is more important than celebrity stars.
The genuine and realistic depiction of ancient Chinese style in the drama, has had fashion bloggers obsessing over fashion details in long. Famous bloggers such as Gogoboi or Mr.Bag published posts that track, frame by frame, all the show’s wardrobe choices, from hairstyles to clothing and accessories. Everything in the show applies a beautiful memory of traditional Chinese beauty and cultural heritage that delivers a sense of calm and nostalgia.
iQiyi tried to recreate historical details as accurately as its crew could. That’s why Yangxi Palace received approval from the audience. As Gogoboi appointed “ancient China pearl scarf worn by China’s real-life Empress Cixi, and in the series, is similar to creation seen on the Burberry catwalk”
The “Stories of Yanxi Palace” has generated commercial opportunities in overseas market as well as in local fashion. Today, Chinese millennials are arguably the most important demographic segment on the planet, and they’re tuning in to ancient culture.
With over 3,000 years of history, Chinese civilization is one of the oldest in the world and millennials have become the spokespeople of cultural pride. This pride is reflected in both everyday style and consumption patterns, and “Yangxi Palace” is supporting this cultural renaissance.
The younger generations are getting specific, expressing their desire to incorporate traditional culture into modern dress. According to millennials Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties each have their own specific styles. Instead of repeating superficial Chinese aesthetics, it’s better to go deeper in a specific period.
About this, Gogoboi accurately described in severals posts on his Wechat page Manchu’s concubines aesthetics and how is possible combine it with modern times. Old time is becoming a new fashion and a perfect description of chinese millennials’ fashion taste.
In ancient times it was believed that the so called “樱桃小口”, “small peach mouth” the literary translation, deemed a charming look on women. Now the “just bitten lips” fashion, is the current trend thanks to Story of Yanxi Palace. In short, chinese tv drama, takes the lipstick shape of Chinese dynasties past and has adapted it for women of the internet era.
On Weibo, Guerlain – a French perfume, cosmetics and skincare sector giant – also announced that the lipsticks used in the Yangxi Palace are none other than their Rouge G lipsticks. The French maison also explained how make-up artists used their lipsticks to emulate Empress’ grace and royalty, or consort Ling’s intelligence. The message it’s easy: here’s how normal and modern Chinese woman can get an updated royal court lady look.
There are several instances of Chinese brands’ efforts to cater to millennials’ desire to connect with ancient culture. China’s Forbidden City, a site of one of the world’s most famous monument, launched a line of traditional accessories which it sold in brick and mortar sites as well as online. They even hired a millennial marketing team to better connect with their target audience through digital millennial ‘speak’.
As is often the case with popular series in the Western market, Yanxi merchandise and products are extremely popular in China. A search on Alibaba’s Taobao shopping platform pulls 100 pages of products ranging from replica jewellery items worn by characters to lipsticks used by a popular concubine in the show.
How can foreign brands be on trend? Building an in-depth knowledge of Chinese culture and history is important. A superficial cultural knowledge will not only drive marketing campaigns into the ground, it can spark loads of disparaging comments from millennials on Weibo and other social channels.
The Muzkin Chinese fashion brand, launched in 2014 by George Feng and Kate Han, is rejecting the prevalence of the Western aesthetic in favor of the Far East. Muzkin’s mission is to revive China through unique representations of ethnic minorities. Efforts include a recent display of the embroidery of Xinjiang province on the catwalk. Mukzin’s brand is “100% Made in China” – even the photographers and models used are chosen from within the country’s borders.
This year’s dog-applique stunt was met by many opposing voices. Millennials do not want to be labeled as 土豪, which literally means “enriched potato” signifying new-found wealth without culture.
Reanimating ancient arts and crafts with the help of local experts and designers is a fertile direction for international luxury brands that want to enter the market. China’s younger generations are just beginning to delve into traditional culture, and want to discover more – even through consumptive channels.
Foreign luxury brands can also support China’s cultural renaissance by funding cultural programs or by developing specific products that support local craftsmanship and skilled labor.
A great example is Cartier’s recent collaboration with Chinese artisans to restore the ancient clocks of the Forbidden City Palace Museum. The brand received overwhelmingly positive feedback for its efforts. Cultural patronage that goes beyond limited timespan of Chinese New Year will foster lasting impact and brand loyalty.
MORE ON THIS TOPIC