Premium US Denim Maker Has Opened Stores In Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Dalian, Hangzhou and Chengdu Since Entering Mainland Market In 2007
Denim is big business in China, and has been since the early 1980s when the first waves of post-Mao fashions swept through Chinese cities. In more recent times, premium denim makers from around the world have seen demand soar in top- (and now second-) tier cities, and brands like Miss Sixty (Italy), ONLY (Denmark), Diesel (Italy) and G-Star (Holland) have opened retail outlets and in-store boutiques throughout the country. In 2007, American premium denim maker 7 For All Mankind entered the mainland market, and since then has established locations in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Dalian, Hangzhou and Chengdu.
This week, in an interview with China Daily, Vice President of VF Asia (the Asian office of American apparel monolith VF Corp, which owns 7 For All Mankind) Raffaele Germano said the company plans to open four new retail locations in China over the course of 2010, with one store each slated for Beijing and Shanghai, with the other two locations to be determined. From China Daily:
7FAM has shifted focus from its home turf to Asian and European markets, “where we don’t have a big presence”, Germano said.
And that strategy paid off, the designer-turned executive said. Last year was a “blue year for everybody”, but 7FAM recorded double-digit growth in China. And Germano hoped Asia could account for 25 to 30 percent of 7FAM’s global sales in two years.
7FAM produces its jeans in Los Angeles, where the brand was established in 2000, with fabrics imported from Japan and Italy.
Asked whether 7FAM plans to relocate part of the production to China, where manufacturing costs are lower, Germano said the answer was “a big fat no”.
“We want to keep our origin and ensure quality,” he said, adding that soft and superb fabrics, well-fitting cuts, stylish washes and hand-sewn embellishments are the things consumers go for from 7FAM jeans.
Targeting buyers between 28 and 48, who are Internet-savvy, the denim maker also plans to launch online sales in China by the second quarter, Germano said, adding that prices online and in real shops will be basically the same.
Celebrity endorsement helped 7FAM ascent in the US, and the company wants to copy that success in China.
Indeed, popular Taiwan model and actress Lin Chi-ling was invited to walk shows for 7FAM in Beijing on Wednesday. Other celebrity 7FAM fans include Cameron Diaz, Jessica Alba and Scarlett Johansson.
7FAM’s China strategy, which is admittedly pretty vague at the moment, sounds pretty good. By keeping production in its home market — a selling point that has been employed to a decent amount of success in China by American Apparel and to even greater success by French luxury brands — the company can justify selling at higher prices and heavily market its vaunted quality control. Also, localizing through the use of celebrities like Lin Chi-ling is a good way to ensure immediate reactions from Chinese consumers of the right age group — although the company will likely use its popularity among Western celebrities as a selling point as well.