The esteemed fashion house and jewel of the Richemont luxury conglomerate, Chloé, hasn’t become one of the world’s leading global luxury brands by mistake. The Maison was founded in 1952 by French fashion designer Gaby Aghion, who revolutionized the industry through innovative ready-to-wear luxury lines that were made from rare and luxurious fabrics usually reserved for the high-end market.
Today, the Chloé brand is a favorite among A-list celebrities and women who want to convey a feminine yet highly independent personality. Hollywood stars like Sienna Miller, Marion Cotillard, Camilla Deterre, and Haley Bennett have selected Chloé designs on various occasions for their light and graceful style. And with the signature bohemian elegance of their new creative director Natacha Ramsay-Levi reshaping the brand, Chloé has started winning over legions of new fans, making it go-to brand not only for silk dresses but also for handbags and fragrances.
Chloé has also found success in the China market thanks to some smart social media campaigns. It inaugurated a “WeBoutique” last August as a way to “launch an exclusive version of the Faye day bag,” according to Richemont’s 2018 Annual Report. Their sales surged across the Asia-Pacific region mostly because of a host of direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns, and after implementing a strategy which better managed inventory while tightening control of products in Asian markets, the group saw their Asia-Pacific region boom to an impressive 40 percent of overall group sales in 2018.
And on June 5th, Ramsay-Levi will showcase the brand’s 2020 Resort Collection in Shanghai. The event will break down barriers for the luxury French Maison, being the first fashion show organized by Chloé outside France. It’s not expected, however, that Chloé will follow in Chanel’s footsteps staging Resort collections in different locations around the world. By selecting China, Chloé emphasizes the strong ties between the brand and its Chinese consumers.
We chatted with Chloé CEO Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye about his approach to social media, the brand’s dynamic outlook for China, and much more:
Chloé is known for free-spirited femininity and understated elegance, but over the past year China has seen a return to maximalism and logo-mania, which contrasts with Natacha Ramsay-Levi’s house style. How is Chloé responding to these trends?
We remain faithful to our [brand] DNA. We have our latest Chloé bag, the “C,” which is performing outstandingly and is not a logo product but a tool or a message because women who wear Chloé don’t want to shine ostentatiously. We don’t intend to dress the Chloé women in a way that is unnatural, so we will remain faithful to the essence of Chloé and what makes us unique. The reason women love Chloé is that we put the woman first, and we share the same values of femininity.
How has influencer marketing worked for the Chloé brand in China?
It works well because it’s a natural part of the imperceptible essence of Chloé. Gaby Aghion established the brand in 1952, and her original idea of giving women the freedom to be themselves is still very much alive. We were always about the Chloé girls. Chloé is not a logo brand and we work around the personality of the customer. The same idea of working with women is at the heart of Natacha’s designs. We have many Chloé Ambassadors, girls who wear Chloé, speak about Chloé, and represent Chloé.
There was continuous speculation that Richemont was going to sell Chloé, but instead the Group rebooted the brand with a new creative director. What’s next for Chloé and what do you plan for the brand in China?
I can confirm that Chloé continues to be part of Richemont and that we are not changing the current creative director. Natacha Ramsay-Levi joined us two years ago, and she’s doing a fantastic job. She will come to China in a couple of months and we are very lucky to have her. Natacha is bringing a modern twist to the Chloé Maison, so we are continuing on our path.
What are the risks that luxury companies encounter when entering the Chinese market?
Personally, I see no risks; I see only opportunities. I think the Chinese clients/consumers are savvy and they know a lot about fashion. They are very discerning. These shoppers can catch the trends swiftly and they learn quickly, so for luxury brands, it’s an opportunity to work in China. Especially now, when Chinese clients spend more on their luxury goods in China instead of choosing to spend outside of their native country.
Do you have any business expansion plans for China? New store openings or anything in that direction?
We have 18 stores in China. We opened a new store in IC Pudong and reopened a new store in China World. We are also present at the K11 in Shanghai and at the Galeries Lafayette in China. We work closely with the biggest partners, landlords, and department stores, but the most recent opening was IC in Pudong, which happened only a couple of weeks ago.
Chloé has delivered some successful social media campaigns like the WeChat Chinese New Year campaign and perfume launch. These creative ways of using digital storytelling have kept the brand relevant in China, but how can you be sure you’re reaching your target market, and do you think social media has diluted the brand’s sense of exclusivity?
For us, our digital presence is just another media. It’s not a dilution but an amplification of our communication. As you know Chloé stands for freedom. Our brand is an extension of the women who feel comfortable in their skin. I’m talking about women who are independent, confident, and free — and they want to be elegant too. Our essence will not change just because we communicate on digital platforms like WeChat and Weibo. We also communicate our unique identity through our Ambassadors — the Chloé girls — who only amplify our singularity. Gaby Aghion added our core qualities into the brand’s DNA. This will not change and our clients know it, and yet again that’s why Chinese women love and choose the Chloé brand. And as you know, Chinese women remain at the forefront of digital communication, so we need to customize our message and focus on digital technology. For us, social media extends our communication strategy.