Following English Counterparts, Scottish Fashion Brands Look To China

“We Think This Could Be The Start Of Something Very Exciting”

A special tartan was created in January 2012 to welcome two giant pandas to the Edinburgh Zoo

Whisky makers and cashmere labels, golf evangelists and salmon salesmen aren’t the only ones angling to get a bigger piece of the China market. At the end of this month, 16 Scottish textile companies and fashion designers will take part in the 21st China International Clothing and Accessories Fair in Beijing, marking the debut of the Scottish Pavilion at the long-running event. According to Herald Scotland, brands slated to appear at the fair include textile mainstays Johnstons of Elgin and Hawick Cashmere, along with emerging Scots designers such as Rebecca Torres, Iona Crawford and Hilary Grant. Also making an appearance will be Barrie Knitwear, acquired last year by Chanel.

Coordinated by Scottish Development International, the event underlines Scotland’s push to gain a greater piece of China’s estimated US$17 billion luxury market and boost its reputation among Chinese shoppers. Though the country is less of a draw for mainstream Chinese tourist-shoppers than France or Italy, travelers from mainland China already rank as the biggest spenders in Scotland, outspending both Indian and Russian visitors. Scotland’s 11,000 annual Chinese tourist arrivals may pale in comparison to the roughly 1 million who visited France last year, but their average individual spend per trip of US$1,163 is nothing to shrug off.

Up-and-coming designer Iona Crawford will take part in the Beijing event

In addition to attracting more Chinese inbound visitors, Scotland also hopes to increase exports to China by 50 percent over the next two years. As such, we’re likely to see brands and designers take part in more events on Chinese soil to drum up greater interest. As Cathy Black of Scottish Enterprise told Herald Scotland this week, “We’re hoping to generate at least £1 million of additional sales for the participating companies and given the size of the market, we think this could be the start of something very exciting.”

Although Scottish fashion brands don’t currently enjoy the same level of brand recognition in China as English counterparts like Burberry, it’s only natural that cashmere makers and independent designers would target the market now, given the changing tides of luxury consumption — at least in top-tier cities. Less known for flash in China than Italy, yet enjoying a reputation for craftsmanship that rivals France, Scotland’s ancient history and deep association with quality products (as well as that most quintessential of wealth-connoting activities, golf) has translated to massive opportunity in China for many Scottish companies. Now we’ll see if fashion designers, like their whisky-distilling countrymen, can also make serious inroads.

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