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CNY Weekly #6: LV’s new ambassador 👍, carpool for pets 🐶, companion photographers 📸 | Following the yuan
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Not to complain, but this is the third major holiday I’ve celebrated since November. My big takeaway? These things are much the same the world over. People lie flat, pig out, and feel bad about being unproductive — or maybe that’s just me.
So after a comatose Thanksgiving and Christmas, I decided to try a ‘productive’ Chinese New Year by focusing on a single task each day. One of these was binging Netflix’s Bling Empire of New York — which if you don’t know, is a classier spinoff of the original show featuring ultra-rich people of Chinese heritage hanging out in LA. The New York version is well worth a watch, I promise!
In this edition, we’re going to discuss why I give a thumbs up to Louis Vuitton’s new brand ambassador (despite his recent controversy) and two new business models tapping into China’s pet economy and the female economy.
1. Louis Vuitton’s SAFE choice for China 👍
While I was catching up with Bling Empire NY, Louis Vuitton appointed Hong Kong-born Jackson Wang as its latest brand ambassador.
So? This is not another boring announcement. Keep in mind that the fashion house’s last notable global ambassador was Chinese-Canadian pop star Kris Wu, a man now serving 13 years in jail after being found guilty of sex crimes.
What’s his deal? Wang, a former member of K-pop boy group, GOT7, speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and English, which make him an ideal ambassador. Then, there’s the political aspect.
Wang went viral earlier this month when, at a London concert, he accused the media of anti-China “propaganda BS”.
LV probably won’t say this on the record, but his patriotism makes him a very safe choice for China. Born in Hong Kong, a former British colony until 1997, Wang always says that he is from China, which is fitting for Beijing’s Greater Bay Area narrative.
Let’s chill: Rather than getting worked up about Wang’s most recent statements, some clarification is needed. Which anti-China stories, for example, is Wang pushing back against. Let’s hope someone asks him. Though he recently said no to the Financial Times, so maybe a Chinese media?
A note for business nerds: LV’s parent company, LVMH will release its 2022 full-year results Jan. 26th after the Paris market close. You can access a live webcast here at 6PM (Paris time) on Thurs.
2. Carpooling for fur babies 🐶
As Spring Festival travel rush, a.k.a. the world’s largest human migration, began, many young professionals worried about how to ferry their pets home. Despite the fact one in seven people own a cat or a dog, China isn’t exactly pet friendly, especially on public transportation. This led many to turn to carpooling.
#Shamelessplug: As an accidental pet owner (I rescued a dog two years ago), I’m sympathetic. Our dog isn’t allowed in parks or on public transit — he almost got arrested by police for playing near my parents’ house.
Not worth the risk: Without carpooling, intercity trip via public transportation means pets have to stay in the cargo sections of trains or planes. Sometimes they die from stress or poor treatment, as happened to comedian Jia Ling’s French bulldog (below) who wore a sweater bearing its face during 2019’s Spring Festival gala.
Pet owners who choose to carpool end up paying 3 times as much as they would on public transport. It’s also a hassle because carpoolers have to search for rides on social media, ride-hailing platforms, and custom WeChat groups up to a month in advance, as E-commerce Online, a domestic business publication, recently reported.
The problem endures at a time when China’s pet market continues to grow. In 2022, the consumption market size of dogs and cats was 270.6 billion yuan (US$40 billion), an increase of 8.7 percent compared with 2021. Woof.
3. Companion photographers 📸
Twenty-something-year-old female college students in cities such as Beijing, Tianjin, and Chengdu are looking for companion photographers 陪拍 to take their social media pictures. The going rate for these mobile phone snaps is 60-80 yuan/hour (US$9-12, or roughly the price of a bad salad at Wagas) with the average gig lasting three hours.
China’s personal photography industry is huge with a 2020 report by Tencent estimating 110 million women (aged 18 to 44) as potential customers. Previously, however, this economy has largely been the domain of appointment-based studios or photographers 约拍 which offer the use of professional equipment and make-up services for around 100 yuan/hour. Given the comparative affordability of companion photography, expect to see growth in first-tier cities.
One writer at digital media Vista Qing gave a student photographer she found on social e-commerce platform Xiaohongshu a go and the results were…well, judge for yourself:
Some of your die-hard fans may notice that the roundup has 3 items instead of 5, thoughts & feedback?
Also, why are people still feuding about Chinese/Lunar New Year distinctions? Why don’t you, the person who crossed out ‘Lunar’ on a display and replaced it with ‘Chinese’, just let people get on with celebrating? Personally, I use both depending on the context and target audience.
I want to acknowledge a new Substack feature that allows me to see where hundreds of you are based: 23 U.S. States and 40 countries and regions. Thank you for being part of the community.
Researcher: Nie Yiming; Copy Editor: Richard Whiddington
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