“Trendiness” and “comfort” are the two main selling points of leisure shoes. Chinese consumers buying this type of footwear are mainly aged between 18 and 45, with students and office workers making up the main market share. They are also more demanding where brand culture and individuality are concerned.
For our second interview with brands who recently presented at Hong Kong fashion trade show The HUB, we talked with British footwear brand Gola Managing Director Tony Evans. Gola, geared toward the student and young professional market, believes that more than 100 years of English brand heritage and its recently created “Made in England 1905” footwear collection—which goes back to its original heritage roots—will win over young Chinese customers.
In the interview with Evans, he presents an overview on the challenges and opportunities the brand faces in China.
The concept of “leisure” lifestyle is becoming increasingly important in the lives of Chinese consumers, and the market for leisure shoes is also growing rapidly. How do you plan on entering the market and differentiating yourself from other global giants?
At Gola Classics, we are aware that there is great demand from the Chinese consumer for leisure brands, and especially European brands that are steeped with heritage. Gola Classics has a unique position as it was the original trainer brand with its initial brand registration dating back to 1905. Within our presentation to Chinese trade and consumers, we will stress our heritage together with our latest designs for SS15, which feature some new and existing updates on classic Gola patterns using new materials and color combinations.
What are the three biggest challenges you are facing as a footwear brand to enter and attract the Chinese market?
The three biggest challenges that we face to enter into the Chinese market are the lack of brand awareness that we currently have in the market, the strength of local brands, and finding a way to enhance the huge growth in the online market in China. We are confident in both our brand proposition, heritage, and our new designs to agree on a strategy of route to market that the brand will appeal to the Chinese consumer.
Is there a key collection/product such as the “Gola Classics” that the brand desires to heavily push to the Chinese market?
Gola Classics is the fashion lifestyle collection that we currently sell in over 40 countries worldwide. The unique, colorful designs coupled with the genuine heritage of the brand are a perfect combination to enter the Chinese market at this moment in time.
Many street style and luxury footwear brands from Adidas to John Lobb are customizing limited-edition products exclusively for the Chinese market. What are your thoughts on this? Is there a possibility in the future to develop this type of activity?
Within the Gola Classics SS15 collection we actually have two collaborations that are perfectly suited to the Chinese market. Within the ladies collection, we have a collaboration with Liberty Art Fabrics, whereby we have used Liberty Fabrics on Gola’s heritage designs to update them with these fresh new looks. Within the Gola Classics SS15 collection, we actually have two collaborations that are perfectly suited to the Chinese market. Within the ladies collection, we have a collaboration with Liberty Art Fabrics, whereby we have used Liberty fabrics on Gola’s heritage designs to update them with these fresh new looks.
Liberty has over 150 years history of selling their fabrics, both in the UK and internationally, and this is a special collaboration for us. On men’s we are also having a small capsule range of Gola’s famous “Harrier” style made in England. We are aware [of] how much demand there is in China for made-in-England products, and the special combination of a British brand made in England should resonate will with the Chinese consumer.
What are your thoughts on The HUB?
We are excited about showing at The HUB show in Hong Kong. We are aware that Hong Kong is the gateway to China and is a global fashion center these days. The show moving location should be a great benefit for all exhibiting, being in the historic garment district in Hong Kong.
Yanie Durocher is a lifestyle and fashion blogger at The Marginalist.