Levi’s, Gap, Japanese Brands Localizing For China Market
As a luxury shopping destination, Macau is often overlooked in favor of nearby Hong Kong, but it appears that the city’s promotion of non-gambling entertainment may be attracting more brands to set up shop. Recently, the Los Angeles-based premium denim maker 7 For All Mankind, which operates 15 stores in mainland China and four in Hong Kong, opened its first flagship in Macau. Set in a 2000 square meter space in the Venetian Macau, the location is likely to benefit from the label’s brand-building operations over the past few years in China, during which 7 For All Mankind opened stores in second-tier cities like Shenyang, Harbin, Dalian and Wuhan. Considering the popularity of Macau (and the Venetian) as a destination for more affluent second-tier residents, brand recognition will be key for the denim brand’s vast new flagship.
For the grand opening of the Venetian store, 7 For All Mankind held a runway show of its S/S 2012 collection and invited guests to take part in its “Seven Senses” exhibition, an interactive installation immersing visitors in the sights, aromas and flavors of California. (Ranging from sipping Napa Valley wine tasting to touching raw denim.) Special guests at the grand opening included 7 For All Mankind president Barry Miguel, Aidan O’Meara of the VF Corporation (which purchased the brand in 2007), as well as well-known Chinese performers Sammi Cheng (鄭秀文), Li Yuchun (李宇春), and William Chan (陳偉霆) and around 300 other invited attendees.
Following the runway show, singers Cheng and Li presented 7 For All Mankind jeans created specifically for them by the label, featuring a massive embroidered cross for Cheng and sewn crystal musical notes for Li. Wrapping up the event, models showed off the new limited-edition 7 For All Mankind “Macau edition,” which will be available exclusively at the Venetian flagship and include special embroidery on the side pocket and limited-edition printing in the pocket lining.
While premium denim brands have had a more difficult time in previously booming markets like the United States, a growing number have found a receptive audience in China. In recent years, American brands like Levi’s and Gap have pushed harder to position their jeans within China’s luxury segment, building more lavish stores and flagships and flogging higher-end, localized collections. Compared to the United States, where a pair of standard 501 jeans sells for around US$58, a similar pair goes for around 799 yuan (US$125) on Tmall.
High prices haven’t dissuaded aspirational shoppers, though, and more recently artisanal Japanese denim makers — considered by enthusiasts to make some of the best jeans on the planet — have begun to court the mainland China market. This summer, Japan’s 45R made its mainland China debut at Beijing’s Sanlitun Village, selling its trademark denim, made on antique American pre-war looms previously owned, ironically enough, by Levi’s. Perhaps in response to the growing Japanese threat, Levi’s is set to release a new range of jeans in China made from Japanese denim, which carry a correspondingly high price tag of 1,499 yuan (US$236).
Meanwhile, rather than selling Japanese-made denim in its American stores, Levi’s is currently pushing its collection of “Made in the USA” jeans, produced in North Carolina. Localization in action.