In China, you could have it if you wanted to. But Dior’s personalisation for one of its most popular bags may have an unintended effect: could it be fake?
ABCDior personalisation in Chinese font. From left, the bags of actresses/celebs Zhang Xueying, Jing Tian, and Wu Jinyan. Photos: Dior/Weibo
Dior’s bag personalisation service, ABCDior, has arrived in China with the option of having the Book Tote, to name one, embroidered in logosyllabic Chinese characters. According to some local media reports, ABCDior as embroidered-name-on-bag has been met with lukewarm response. Despite celebrity endorsement and a feverish return to shopping after the COVID-19 lockdown has been lifted, women are not biting. Surprising?
To be sure, the Book Tote is, by most accounts and inane unboxing videos, still a popular bag, but would hanzi (汉字) of your choice enhance its appeal? For the Chinese, the height of prestige and sophistication is association with a European name, spelled out in letters of the Latin alphabet. Luxury brand’s snob appeal would be considerably, if not entirely, reduced if Chinese characters take the place of anything from A to Z and back again, so much so that, with the exception of the press, Chinese consumers rarely, if ever, write Dior in its Chinese script: 迪奥 (pronounced dí ào).
One major complaint, it appears, is the font choice. According to reports, as well as posts on Weibo, many (even Dior fans) are horrified by the plain and generic typeface, believed to be Source Han Sans, a sans-serif gothic type conceived by Adobe and Google, first released in 2014. This was clearly picked to match Dior Book Tote’s serif-free, unidentified typeface, that has the minimalism of the-still-popular Helvetica, but none of the latter’s relaxed cool nor the elegance of the original font, designed by the Parisian typographer Georges Peignot. In English, or French, the full name of the creator of the New Look, while unnecessarily busy-looking in full caps, still evokes widespread admiration and respect. What does the name of actresses—or the regular Dior consumer—call up?
Personal branding to augment luxury branding is merely the sprinkles on an already fancy cake
To be certain, the brand name of the unlined, Oblique-patterned Dior Book Tote is still kept since its already embroidered as part of the jacquard canvas. For the ABCDior service, the customer’s name is embroidered on the opposite, (for most users) body-facing side, which, in the end, may not front the public as much as Monsieur Dior’s full name. Although Dior has engaged actresses—looking like they are out to the supermarket—such as Zhang Xueying (张雪迎, due to appear in the new Chen Kaige film Flowers Bloom in the Ashes) and Jing Tian (景甜, in a nearly wordless role in 2017’s King Kong: Skull Island) to show off the bag with their names on it, the effort smacks of pretentious display. Personal branding to augment luxury branding is merely the sprinkles on an already fancy, good-to-look-at gateau.
There is also the thought that the Dior with Chinese characters, featuring a bland font, look like fakes, an unimaginative Qipu Lu (七浦路) Market—if you’re in Shanghai—spin-off. We also see another fake—personalisation as fake customisation. This is, in fact, merely identification, rather than personalisation that reflect one’s personality. Placing your name on a bag is the same as inscribing your initials on the back of a watch, on the body of a pen, in the inside of a ring—it does not make the watch, the pen, and the ring any different from when you first chose either. It does not become more you.
And there’s a third fake: an unreal sense of superiority—that because one’s bag now comes with one’s name could be better than another without. The thing about such personalisation is that one person’s name is not another’s titular treasure. If, as it is commonly known, tai tais and society ladies sell their bags to acquire the next newest, would a tote that spots a name such as 阿莲 (Ah Lian) have appeal, let alone resale value?
Of course, the personalised Book Tote was already carried by stars such as Rihanna and the KOL Chiara Ferangni way before ABCDior embroiderers travelled the world. The service was available here last June at the Dior store in The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. The personalisation, as we understand it, was not available in Chinese characters then. Dior had not made known the total number of bags—in the Oblique monogram style only, including the Diorcamp messenger (and the Walk‘n’Dior sneakers)—that had been embroidered. We may, therefore, never know of the personalisation’s popularity here. In the end, our names, like any child knows, should be, at most, used as icing on birthday cakes.
Collage: Just So