Following up our year-end wrap up, here are some of the most noteworthy grand openings we saw this year in the Greater China region:
Reflecting the automaker’s desire to catch up to ultra-luxury competitors like Rolls-Royce and Bentley — both of which have made huge strides in China in the past few years — Aston Martin unveiled its largest showroom in China, and its second in Shanghai, in the city’s Pudong district.
Lim’s sixth store worldwide, the new location features clean lines and a stark minimalistic interior designed by Leong Leong Architecture. In addition to Lim’s latest collection, the store carries footwear, bags, sunglasses and belts.
Situated on Huahai Zhong Road, amidst dozens of high-end boutiques and flagships, the school is ostensibly aimed at addressing one of the biggest issues facing the luxury industry within China: poor customer service. Attended by Richemont Group execs, the opening of the new Shanghai academy this week was lauded as a major step in teaching corporate culture, and building and maintaining an international level of service.
A relatively early entrant to the China luxury market, and one of the country’s most popular menswear brands, Zegna has opened over 75 stores in nearly 40 cities since debuting in China in 1991. As Jing Daily pointed out last fall, Zegna posted annual sales growth of around 30 percent between 2006-2010, reaching net revenue of US$79.2 million in 2010, well above the $24 million it raked in in 2009.
The store at 188 Tai Cang Road serves not only as brand’s first flagship in China, but a very lavish anchor for greater expansion efforts in the country. Currently, Harry Winston operates only two boutiques in China, one at the Peninsula in Beijing and another at Shanghai’s Peninsula Hotel, but starting with the new Xintiandi flagship, the jeweler plans to open several new locations in the country as part of its plan to open 50 new flagship stores worldwide by 2016.
Shanghai Tang made the decision to relocate from its landmark Pedder Building flagship location after a fierce bidding war with Abercrombie & Fitch. Upon its launch this year, the American retailer will pay an estimated HK$7 million (US$900,000) per month on rent for the enviable retail spot — a 250 percent hike.
Alexander Wang’s two-story shop is located in Beijing’s Sanlitun Village North, home to brands like Balenciaga and Lanvin. Held at the complex’s underground parking garage, Wang’s Beijing bash was attended by the likes of Gossip Girl‘s Penn Badgely and Zoë Kravitz and Chinese supermodel Du Juan, with music supplied by Diplo and a performance by A$AP Rocky.
Montblanc inaugurated its largest global flagship store in the city’s Sanlitun neighborhood with a gala attended by Hollywood and Chinese celebrities. Stars like Jessica Alba, Naomi Watts, Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard and Maggie Cheung came out for the launch of the four-story flagship, taking in Montblanc’s presentation of its acclaimed “Collection Princesse Grace de Monaco,” created as a tribute to the late actress Grace Kelly.
Covering 800 square meters and two floors, the new location at Golden Eagle Shopping Center stocks the full Gucci collection of leathergoods, footwear, apparel, accessories and children’s clothing for the “Little Emperor.” Coming just a year after Chongqing’s much-hyped and ultimately ill-fated “red revival,” perhaps never before has the moniker “Gucci Maoists” been so apt.
Delayed nearly a year, and coming after flagship launches in Shanghai and Hong Kong, French luxury shoemaker Christian Louboutin ventured to Beijing for the grand opening of his newest location at Sanlitun North Village.
Comprising four floors, the Shanghai Maison houses LV’s full range of leathergoods, men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections, watches and jewelry, luggage, footwear, bespoke collections and a range of “China-only” limited-edition products. A temple both to commerce and culture, the vast store will also exhibit exclusive artwork by Chinese and international contemporary artists, along with a five-meter-high pagoda.
Hot on the heels of fellow American imports American Eagle and A&F offshoot Hollister and the British brand Superdry, A&F is jumping on the Hong Kong bandwagon, expanding its All-American presence into the eastern front at no small cost — reportedly paying HK$7 million (US$902,727) per month in rent for the location. Of course, like any good retailer hoping to tap China’s younger middle-class consumer, A&F is making itself fully accessible through Facebook, Twitter, and Weibo, allowing fans to find out where its “Hot Guys” will be mugging for photos in Hong Kong prior to the opening.
J. Lindeberg: First China Flagship, Shanghai (September)
Looking to capture more of the fast-growing premium menswear and golf apparel market, Swedish label J. Lindeberg recently opened its first Chinese flagship at Shanghai’s Grand Gateway Plaza. At the opening, J.Lindeberg China GM Kristian Goth Vinther said that the brand plans to use the flagship as a springboard for greater expansion throughout China. Said Vinther, ”This is just the beginning of our plan. China will be an important market for J.Lindeberg, one with a lot of opportunities.”
Saint Laurent Paris: China Debut in Shanghai (September)
Already with a notable presence in multibrand stores and malls across Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Harbin, and Wuhan, today French luxury fashion house Yves Saint Laurent, led by creative director Hedi Slimane, launched the brand’s first ready-to-wear Saint Laurent Paris boutique at Shanghai’s Réel Department Store. Taking up 3,200 square feet, Saint Laurent Paris Shanghai is part one of a rollout of boutiques set to open in the months ahead in Berlin and Paris.
J. Crew: Partnership With Lane Crawford (September)
Appearing first at Lane Crawford Canton Road and online at lanecrawford.com on September 26, followed by Lane Crawford ifc mall on September 28, J.Crew will offer customers in Asia special access to curated women’s and men’s ready-to-wear collections, including shoes and accessories. This two-pronged on- and offline approach will give customers throughout Hong Kong and mainland China the ability to shop in-person at J. Crew outside of North America for the first time.
Piaget: Asia Flagship, Hong Kong (October)
Swiss watchmaker and jeweler Piaget pulled out all the stops for the grand opening of its new Asia flagship boutique at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, throwing a blowout gala attended by 160 execs, local celebrities and VIPs. Co-hosted by Piaget CEO Philippe Léopold-Metzger and Dimitri Gouten, President of Piaget Asia-Pacific, the event kicked off with a cocktail reception at the 5,000 square foot store, during which guests had a chance to preview the new Couture Précieuse collection, recently unveiled at the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris.
Streamlined to mainly focus on skincare, Osiao (which has been under wraps for four years) is specifically developed with the Chinese consumer in mind. Now the third largest regional market for the Estée Lauder group, having recently surpassed Japan, group chief executive Fabrizio Freda recently called China Estée Lauder’s “second home market.”
Canali: Beijing Flagship (October)
Attended by three members of the Canali family, Group GM Stefano Canali, Global Commercial Director Paolo Canali, and Global Communications Director Elisabetta Canali, the grand opening event attracted 200 VIPs including actor Huang Xiaoming. Following the unveiling of the boutique, guests took part in an elaborate event at 798 D-Park, entitled “Unveiling Tradition,” a three-act performance illustrating the story of the 78-year-old brand’s past, present and future.
The popular Finnish textile & clothing design house Marimekko held its first fashion show at MoCA Shanghai in People’s Park as part of Radical Design Week 2012. Having made its official entrée into the Greater China market with a Hong Kong flagship this past May, the fashion show and exhibition — Design Colours Life – Contemporary Finnish Design & Marimekko — is arguably the brand’s biggest overture to mainland China to date.
Hublot: Xiamen “Mega-Boutique” (November)
The LVMH-owned watchmaker’s seventh store in mainland China and 55th worldwide, the new location opened its doors this past weekend in Xiamen’s leading high-end shopping area, China Town. While not widely known as a luxury battleground on par with second-tier heavyweights like Shenyang (population 8 million) or Chengdu (14 million), Xiamen — with around 3.5 million residents — is a key “blank-slate” market for many upscale brands, particularly those in the LVMH portfolio.
Spearheaded by the new Tianjin location, Paul Smith’s renewed China push will be both old-school and cutting-edge, with the brand expanding its brick-and-mortar presence while jumping into domestic Chinese social media platforms. Hoping to open around 20 locations nationwide over the next five years, Paul Smith is preparing to open its very first mainland China flagship, a 5,000 square foot (465 square meter) “megastore” in Shanghai by the end of this year.
IWC: Beijing Flagship & Weibo Competition (November)
Fresh off its recent boutique opening at Pacific Place in Hong Kong, on November 22 Swiss luxury watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen opens its latest flagship at Beijing’s new Parkview Green mall — which opened last month with early tenants like illycaffe, Karen Millen and Ted Baker. Considering IWC currently has over 40 points of sale throughout China, the launch of a new store would otherwise be minor news, but it’s the way the brand is promoting the event that makes the grand opening noteworthy.
Allen Edmonds: China Debut in Shanghai (December)
Flanked by China chairman Kelvin Chao and China CEO Michael Cape, president and CEO Paul Grangaard expressed his excitement about Allen Edmonds’ China expansion, which coincides with its 90th anniversary, reiterating that the first location in Shanghai is only the first in what looks to be an ambitious project. Previously, Grangaard has said that, in China, he plans to open “at least six to 12 flagship stores and over time, 40 or 50 stores in China in the next five years.”
An extension to Ford’s existing 1,700-square-foot menswear store at the Peninsula Hotel, the womenswear section comprises an adjacent 1,400-square-foot space, with the two collections connected by a perfumery housing the Tom Ford beauty collection.
Launched in the city’s Qianmen area, the Johnnie Walker House Beijing, like its Shanghai counterpart, is geared towards those new to whisky as well as seasoned aficionados, functioning as a sort of “embassy of Scotch” to tell the story of the brand, its history, and its products.