SHANGHAI – Italian luxury powerhouse Prada has temporarily shifted its focus from chic Shanghai malls to one of the city’s simpler wet markets.

Thousands of people took to Wuzhong Market in the city’s former French concession for the sole purpose of posing with vegetables wrapped in Prada wrappers and securing paper bags bearing the brand’s name. Since the two-week event began on September 27, mostly young, selfie-hungry, and brand-conscious consumers have taken to Wulumuqi Middle Road to snap photos for their social media feeds, while keeping the sellers out. busy and puzzled.

Liu Bin and his mother-in-law, who have a fruit and vegetable stall near the entrance to the market, told Sixth Tone that many young people stopped just to “point”, referring to the Chinese term. daka – validate its presence in trendy places by posting photos on social networks. Many online users have called Wuzhong “the hottest wet market”, and one visitor even said “this is the only Prada I can afford”.

Prada’s advertising campaign in the 2,000 square meter wet market, according to the company, was aimed at promoting its global fall / winter 2021 campaign, titled “Feels Like Prada.” And while the brand has managed to gain visibility through the campaign, some are questioning its choice of location and what the marketing activity means to sellers.

Liu Bin packs vegetables with Prada wrappers, Shanghai, October 9, 2021. Jiang Yaling / Sixth Tone

Zhu Tianhua, assistant researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said the event was gentrification, but not in the literal sense of turning old neighborhoods into modern spaces, as Wulumuqi Middle Road has long been seen as a destination of choice in Shanghai. However, he added that the countryside has disrupted the way of life of the locals.

“It may sound like a fashion crossover when you put non-everyday luxury symbolic codes in the environment of a wet market, but it can also be interpreted as an invasion of consumer symbols into everyday life,” he said. Zhu told Sixth Tone. “We can interpret the intrusion as a kind of everyday consumerism. This, rather than ‘gentrification’, may be closer to the root of the problem. “

Some residents of Sixth Tone said they were aware of the event – “it’s for Prada” – but expressed no concern. Meanwhile, people who took to the wet market for the publicity stunt believed that such carefully coordinated campaigns could be more helpful than harmful.

“They’ve given it a lot of thought, although people may criticize the way influencers can interfere with business,” said Yang Yingchen, a 28-year-old advertising professional. “I felt it was good and saw a lot of people shopping.”

“A third of the people there have actually bought stuff,” said Meng Jia, a 34-year-old Shanghai-based fashion brand manager, who visited the market to “point” and buy vegetables. “I give it a perfect mark for the presentation, but what is the real meaning behind?” “

A woman poses for a photo outside Wuzhong Market in Shanghai on October 9, 2021. Jiang Yaling / Sixth Tone

A woman poses for a photo outside Wuzhong Market in Shanghai on October 9, 2021. Jiang Yaling / Sixth Tone

Over the years, several luxury brands have focused heavily on the Asian market, which contributes significantly to their revenue. Asia-Pacific is a major market for the Prada Group, and its sales in the first half of 2021 are up 77% compared to the same period in 2019, according to the company.

Given its importance, the brand chose Shanghai as one of the five cities outside Italy for the “Feel Like Prada” campaign. Similar to the Shanghai Wet Market, Prada plans to take over bakeries and fruit and vegetable markets in Milan, Florence, Rome, Paris, London, New York and Tokyo for its experimental initiative.

At Wuzhong market, vendors said that brand representatives distribute a limited number of Prada bags twice a day at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., which they distribute on a first-come, first-served basis to customers with spent more than 20 yuan ($ 3). . Liu, the fruit and vegetable vendor who moved to the current location after the 2019 renovation, said he was not fazed by visitors who only posed but didn’t buy anything.

“I just want to remind them to be careful because the vegetables are delicate,” he said. “But I have told my regular customers to avoid these times as they might not be able to squeeze in with the crowds.”

But not everyone was ready to adjust to the sudden rush. A second-floor vendor who sells sparsely packaged food items like red dates and soybeans said she was not happy and asked how the event had helped her business.

“Young people are only there for the bags,” said the seller who declined to be named, referring to the limited number of branded bags. “Some people ask me to weigh food in bulk, only to find that I have no more bags left, which leads them to say ‘I don’t want any more.’ The stalls on the ground floor benefited the most from the event.

Meanwhile, researchers like Zhu believe mainstream brands occupying everyday spaces for social media-focused visibility will not have lasting appeal, or enduring practice. Instead, he said businesses need to find better ways to connect with existing or potential consumers.

“It is important for businesses to form an emotional bond (with consumers), so that there is less chance of the brand (the events) disrupting everyday life,” he said.

Publisher: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: courtesy Prada)

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