As Chinese luxury consumers mature, their understanding of luxury has begun to reach beyond the price and the logo. Today, smart shoppers in China want to know the artistic and cultural histories behind their favorite designs. Luxury brands are also interested in telling their stories and are now using local media groups and retail companies to help them court a new breed of culturally conscious consumers in China.
A good example of this is the recent partnership between the Chinese media group Huasheng Media and the shopping center Chengdu IFS. Together, they’re helping to create intelligent, co-branded products with a number of Parisian luxury brands such as Moynat and Longchamp, among others. Some of the merchandise includes Panda-themed bags and accessories that average approximately $582.94 (RMB 4000) in price.
These two partners played important roles in helping this commercial project succeed. Huasheng Media, which owns the lion’s share of Chinese licensing for a list of high-end, niche print magazines (T mag, NYT Travel, Nylon, and others) produced the culturally relevant context for the project, while IFS organized the larger event that the commercial project is a part of: the Chengdu Parcours Art Festival that began on September 13.
As the opening ceremony of the festival, the 2nd T mag’s China International Style Conference 2018 is a one-day conference that took place on September 13 and fostered dialogues surrounding art’s function in cities. The talks were led by a number of industry insiders, including Mr. Philip Tinari, Director and Chief Executive Officer of UCCA, Beijing; Mr. Sui Jianguo, the most recognizable artist in China’s contemporary sculpture scene and a professor at CAFA; and Mr. Liu Xiaodu, the principal architect and co-founder of Urbanus Architecture & Design Inc. The in-depth conversations reminded attendees about the public’s impression of how art functions as well as how powerful art ideologies find their way, eventually, into the realm of commercial luxury goods.
But that doesn’t mean that the service behind these creations was forgotten. On the contrary, Chengdu IFS enabled a seamless transaction process for the project and put all items on pre-sale on September 7 via the mall’s WeChat e-commerce portal. Interested buyers need only follow Chengdu IFS’s WeChat account where they can register as a member to place their orders.
As a holistic event, Chengdu IFS—in partnership with the luxury brands Fendi, Chopard, and Loewe—also presented themed art exhibitions in order to teach customers even more about brand history. The Fendi project, for example, invited 9 artists to apply Chinese handcraft techniques to artworks as a way to interpret the brand’s iconic FF logo. The artworks will hang in exhibitions within Chengdu and could travel to Rome afterward.
Christina Hau, General Manager of Operations of Wharf China Estates Ltd., (the parent company of Chengdu IFS) said that “Chengdu has its own very special art DNA and is the third biggest luxury market in China. This commercial project created aspirational yet relatable fashion items to connect with consumers here.”
Neither party disclosed sales figures, but the founder and CEO of Huasheng Media, Feng Chuxuan, told Jing Daily that consumer responses have so far been positive. “(Consumers) are happy with the efficient online channel, but more importantly, they’re able to see diverse luxury offerings and how they want to resonate with the local culture.”
And with an increased interest in art among culturally conscious consumers in China, luxury brands have stepped up to engage their customers in meaningful conversations about both art and luxury. It’s hard to gauge whether these activities will ever fully translate into sales, but at least they offer consumers something more substantial than flash sales or sexy celebrity spokespeople.