At first glance, it may seem like WeChat and Weibo have the ultimate digital influence in China's luxury industries, but niche social platforms are giving marketers unique avenues for reaching target consumers. China's fashion mavens recently welcomed a new bilingual app called Lawo that aids its users with perfecting their wardrobe, and potentially offers international luxury brands another channel for engaging with the Chinese market.
Lawo combines a Pinterest-like social network with a fashion-focused newsfeed, giving users the chance to interact and find inspiration for shopping. It uses a clean, minimal visual design and navigation system, brand tagging, hashtags, and more, aggregating style-related information that users can accumulate to obtain advice or insight into the fashion world.
The brains behind the platform, a Beijing-based information technology company called Wecare, Ltd., stress that the app is not an e-commerce app, so users won't be able to actually shop the brands they're interested in. However, the app does make money through a credit system that allows users to pay to solicit advice, shopping assistance, and recommendations directly from people working in the fashion industry, celebrities, and friends.
To use the app for fashion advice, users can register through their Weibo, WeChat, QQ, or phone number. They can then upload their own photos and add hashtags to start interacting with the style community. Users can rate posts they like and ratings will help boost users' credibility when it comes to becoming a "Fashion Pro."
For example, the current number-one ranked Fashion Pro, Shanghai-based personal stylist Rui Cheng, who has worked with the likes of Vivienne Tam and Helmut Lang, charges 100 credits to "complete one look." Users can find their favorite pros by searching tags that describe their tastes, such as "vintage/retro," "preppy," and "trendy/chic." To make a transaction, users can add credits via Alipay, WeChat payment, or Apple Pay to obtain these one-on-one online styling services.
Lawo also gives brands and individuals an opportunity to showcase their work through a blog platform that's curated by Wecare. Currently, there is an open call for sponsored content as the makers of the app plan to run weekly fashion contests for their users. According to Lawo's website, users can also submit blog posts and they'll be screened and reviewed by Lawo's team before going live. The feed features a variety of posts from bloggers around the world, including in China and Southeast Asia, with coverage ranging from tips on the best foundation, to coverage on luxury brand campaigns. In one, a writer attending the International Fashion Academy in Paris gives an an overview of Gucci's new DIY handbags.
"We see our platform as a way for both small and big brands alike to personally engage users via one-on-one dialogues and rating requests to test new concepts and products at a more grassroots level, i.e. a more collaborative design partnership if you will versus conventional top down driven design," Wecare Ltd. CEO Todd Okimoto said.
The app is still brand new, and Okimoto said they're in an early phase of operation and are focused on gathering a base of users that can create quality content before they promote too widely. Currently, users are undergoing Fashion Pro styling trials, which Okimoto hopes will eventually bring "a very luxurious service to the masses."
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