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Taking the runway: Pepsi X Shanghai fashion week

Taking the Runway:
Pepsi x Shanghai Fashion Week

Engaging consumers in one of Asia’s leading markets by embracing local design and trends

Since its debut in 2003, Shanghai Fashion Week has grown considerably, nearly doubling in size over the last five years. While not part of the “Big Four”, the nickname for fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris and Milan, Shanghai Fashion Week serves as a vibrant platform for international and local designers to creatively connect with buyers, media and the public. On the main stage, well-known stylists often team up with commercial brands, like Pepsi, to create meaningful consumer experiences.

With China representing one of PepsiCo’s largest markets, leveraging the ‘stage’ of Shanghai Fashion Week continues to be a critical opportunity for expressing the lifestyle positioning of our iconic Pepsi brand. It’s equally an opportunity to engage online influencers and ‘Gen Z’ and millennial consumers, a growing population for Shanghai specifically.

For more than four years, PepsiCo Design and Innovation has been a key partner at Shanghai Fashion Week, by collaborating with emerging designers, creating new retail environments, and delivering memorable brand stories. We recently connected with Gianmauro Vella, Senior Design Director, PepsiCo Greater China Region, to learn more about how Shanghai Fashion Week has become a critical priority each year in challenging and strengthening PepsiCo’s design culture and connection with global consumers.

“Pepsi is treating the brand not as a commodity, but as a lifestyle brand. It really helps elevate the story and Pepsi in today’s society,” said Vella. “Because this has been built over the years, it’s not something that only belongs to us. It’s something the Shanghai Fashion Week community and people expect to see. This is a key differentiator for us from competition.”

What started out as a traditional Pepsi sponsorship in the fall of 2015 quickly became a unique bi-annual collaboration with the Shanghai Fashion Week organization. As part of this initial activation, PepsiCo’s Design team proposed creating a limited-edition Pepsi can to celebrate Shanghai Fashion Week and capture the season’s key design themes. “Through this concept, we were able to achieve brand exposure, but also prototype a new way of collaboration,” said Vella.

While the initial, limited-edition Pepsi cans began as a free giveaway to those attending Shanghai Fashion Week, the PepsiCo-led design has become a highly anticipated seasonal product release. Popularity has grown so much over the years that special multipacks are now created for local e-commerce platforms, as a way for all consumers to purchase and enjoy. . “Design was able to unlock a creative partnership and new ROI by highlighting design as a driver for sales,” said Vella.

In the seasons to follow, PepsiCo’s Design team kept the momentum going by embracing greater collaboration – evolving beyond just a sponsor, and becoming a true partner. “The quality we were bringing to the table was something our partners were looking for in their own branding of Shanghai Fashion Week,” said Vella. With this knowledge, the Design team focused on creating a new set of key visuals, event swag and more, to elevate the event’s aesthetic. Now, PepsiCo Design plays an integral role in the Shanghai Fashion Week planning process.

PepsiCo’s presence at Shanghai Fashion Week has also evolved to mirror local design trends and Pepsi’s lifestyle positioning. . In seasons past, themes have been inspired by everything from the bright colors and bold geometrical designs of the 1980’s Memphis Movement; to a summer retreat collection with tropical palm leaves, ; and even a minimalist approach to design with Chinese decorative elements challenging traditional modernism.

“As an iconic, youth culture brand in China, Pepsi has cultivated a presence among passion platforms like music, fashion and design for years as a way to build stronger connections with Chinese youth,” said Nina Mu, Marketing Director, PepsiCo Greater China Region. “This [execution] is a very powerful way and growing platform for Pepsi to show its ingenious young passion through its interpretation of fashion.”

Plans to engage communities across Asia via this April’s Shanghai Fashion Week are now just weeks away from launch. The insight driving the Pepsi x Shanghai Fashion Week designs for the Autumn/Winter 2019 collection is that consumers are pushing back against the so-called “perfect life” showcased on social media, with filters and curated followers. Instead, they are seeking to escape this established framework, hunting for originality spanning new ideas and perspectives. Beauty is becoming boundaryless, regardless of gender, race, age, size and ability.

This year’s design activation aims to elevate this sociological change by celebrating creativity and self-expression in an unorthodox way. The Design team drew inspiration from the most unexpected places—ancient hieroglyphs, paying homage to the “social media” of that time, and turning them into a modern interpretation of today's daring fashion designers. Keeping the spirit of bravery and experimentation intact, bold splashes of fabric-like strokes are paired with daring sewing thread details. Together, they form an unexpected collage.

“In looking ahead, the result for the Autumn/Winter 2019 season will show how Pepsi brings its bold and innovative brand spirit to life through this expressive collage that embraces the new age of fashion,” shared Vella.

As a successful partner and exhibitionist of Shanghai Fashion Week, Pepsi has embedded itself in the evolution and dynamism of the China’s new generation and will be delivering cutting-edge, desirable design for years to come. For more information and previews regarding next month’s Pepsi x Shanghai Fashion Week, please be sure to follow PepsiCo Design & Innovation (@pepsico_design) on Instagram.