Zhi Outspoken Advocate Of Individual Style Over Brand Worship
Although observers of China’s rapidly growing luxury market can sometimes pin urban Chinese fashion lovers down as brand-worshipping consumers one and all, in recent years China’s influential lifestyle and fashion press has produced an increasing chorus of contrary voices, those who advocate more individual style — and teach their readers how to better express their personalities through fashion. This week, one of these media figures, He Zhi (何智), the chief fashion editor of the magazine “LEON” (男人风尚) — the Chinese imprint of the Japanese magazine of the same name — had a candid conversation with Hong Kong’s iFeng about “blind” luxury consumption and changing conceptions of high-end goods in China.
From iFeng (translation by Jing Daily team):
Ifeng: China is the second-largest luxury market in the world, in terms of consumption. How do you feel about the attitude Chinese people have towards luxury?
He Zhi (HZ): This question doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s not surprising that the most populous country has the second-largest luxury consumption. I think what we need to think about is why [Chinese shoppers] give all their money to foreign brands, when we could buy things of the same quality for a tenth of the price. The reasons go beyond “vanity” or “blindness,” because no one wants to hear that kind of judgment. And even those people who judge others for luxury consumption own plenty of high-end items as well. I have to say that at long as you earn your money decently, it’s your business how you choose to spend it. No one should judge others on how they spend their own money.
Ifeng: Do other countries have the same “fanatical-rational” trend in luxury consumption [as China]?
HZ: Where is the boundary between fanatical and rational? This isn’t exclusive to luxury consumption but you can see it in all kinds of consumption. It all goes from fanatical to rational. Look at the house-buying fever in China right now. Isn’t that a craze? If you would starve in order to buy an Hermes bag, then I’d say that’s fanatical, but I don’t think there are many Chinese people who have that kind of “craze” yet.
Although luxury consumption in China is booming now because the market was essentially zero before, it was a blank slate, it’s far from fanatical. The reason is simple: no one would ever spend every penny in their life savings to buy a bag or a dress, no matter how gorgeous it is. People still control themselves. We can’t just look at the speed at which China’s luxury market has grown and make a snap conclusion based on that.
Ifeng: Do you think Chinese consumers need guidance on their values concerning luxury consumption? If so, how should they be guided?
HZ: Not just their values about luxury consumption, but their values as a whole need guidance. The fever for luxury goods will cool down when everyone can afford luxury goods. The current twisted consumption stems from a lack of faith, compassion and empathy. I want to point out that the charm of luxury goods is no more than extreme beauty or high quality. A Louis Vuitton handbag, no matter how expensive it is, is still just a bag.