“Chinese Consumers Have A Much More Functional Orientation Toward Lingerie”
Expanding rapidly since entering the mainland China market in 2007, Italy’s La Perla has looked to capitalize on rising demand for high-end intimate wear among the growing Chinese middle class. Now with standalone locations in four cities — Shanghai, Hangzhou, Shenyang, and Beijing — La Perla plans to open at least 30 new locations in first- and second-tier cities nationwide.
Despite their increasing presence in China, leading international lingerie brands like La Perla have found that introducing high-priced luxury intimates to the country’s consumers is no small task, owing to cultural norms and macro-level consumer trends. Unlike highly visible items such as handbags, footwear or outerwear, more “invisible” luxury goods like lingerie and perfume are still relatively new to logo-loving Chinese consumers looking for public recognition. However, La Perla for one is optimistic that this will gradually change, and the label has adjusted its China strategy accordingly to catch eyes — in celebration of the Year of the Dragon, La Perla created a limited-edition “Dragon” collection, and the brand will hold a large-scale show in Beijing next January.
To learn more about La Perla’s plans for the China market, Jing Daily recently caught up with CEO Tim Brasher to discuss his brand’s experience in the country, its localized marketing strategy, and future plans.
Jing Daily: Can you tell us a little about how La Perla entered the China market?
Tim Brasher (TB): La Perla entered the Chinese market through the opening of stand-alone boutiques and locations within department stores in Beijing and Shanghai.
JD: How many stores has La Perla opened in China so far? Do you have any plans to open new stores in the next few years? If so, will they be located in second- or third-tier cities?
TB: La Perla has opened two locations in Shanghai, four locations in Beijing, one location in Hangzhou, one location in Shenyang and one outlet outside Beijing. We would like to open at least 30 boutiques in China in first- and second-tier cities
JD: How has the local market responded to La Perla? What observations have you made about your core consumer in China?
TB: The response has been very positive, as consumers have become acquainted with the brand. La Perla consumers are typically fashion-conscious women who appreciate Italian design and style, the finest fabrics and handmade craftsmanship in lingerie that reflects their personal style.
JD: In terms of consumption attitudes, how do you perceive the differences between Chinese and Western consumers?
TB: Typically Chinese consumers have a much more functional orientation toward lingerie and underwear, whereas Western consumers have grown to appreciate the fashion element of lingerie and the self-confidence they gain from wearing lingerie and underwear that is an extension of their personal sense of style.
JD: In terms of pricing strategy and creative design, how does La Perla compete with domestic Chinese lingerie brands like Embry Form, Aimer, Maniform, and others?
TB: La Perla uses the finest fabrics and materials available to create the most innovative designs in each new collection, which debuts twice each year. As the recognized leader in innovation and design worldwide, our pricing strategy is consistent with other leading fashion brands and does not necessarily correlate to more functional underwear brands in the market.
JD: How do you promote the brand in China? Are you active on Chinese social media platforms, or plan to be?
TB: The La Perla brand is promoted through PR and live events staged in connection with store openings and other events aimed at those who would likely be La Perla consumers. We currently use all social media tools available in the West, and plan to use these in China in the future to communicate with our consumers.
JD: In its traditional markets, La Perla is promoted by celebrities like Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham, and regularly appears in films. Do you plan to use similar promotional tactics in China?
TB: Yes. Most of the celebrities seen wearing La Perla in the press are not paid and reflect the popularity of the La Perla brand among key tastemakers.
JD: This year, La Perla launched a special “Dragon” collection. Where have you made this collection available?
TB: This collection is a Chinese market exclusive to commemorate the Year of the Dragon. The collection is available in La Perla locations in the cities mentioned above.
JD: Since entering the Chinese market, what challenges has La Perla encountered? How did the brand overcome these obstacles?
TB: The chief obstacle in any new market is brand awareness. To overcome this, we will continue to expand our distribution locations and introduce the brand to new consumers through PR activities, advertising and live events.
JD: In the long run, how do you plan to position the brand in the Chinese market?
TB: In the long run, we will position the La Perla brand in the same way it is positioned worldwide, as the leading luxury lingerie brand with special appeal to discriminating women who appreciate the finest in craftsmanship, fit, quality and Italian design.