But Convincing Wealthy Mainland Chinese To Choose Traditional Culture Over Western Imports Easier Said Than Done
Recently, the 52-year-old Hong Kong retailer Chinese Arts & Crafts (中艺) opened its newest location at Beijing’s Seasons Place mall, its second boutique in the Chinese capital and fourth in mainland China. Specializing in apparel, jewelry and furniture with a distinctively traditional design streak, Chinese Arts & Crafts is the latest brand to bet that wealthy urban dwellers will soon have a greater interest in home-grown Chinese craftsmanship. Chinese Arts & Crafts currently operates locations at the Shenzhen and Hangzhou MixC malls and another outlet at China World Mall in Beijing. Additionally, the company operates five locations in Hong Kong.
Following in the tracks of Shanghai Tang, another Hong Kong brand that has leveraged the global reach of its parent company Richemont to expand not only in Europe and North America but also mainland China, and pushing a similar marketing line to the Shanghai-based Hermes sub-brand Shang Xia (previously on Jing Daily) and the Sino-French jewelry brand Qeelin, Chinese Arts & Crafts, somewhat paradoxically, faces a tough road ahead in the Mainland.
The challenges these “luxury-with-Chinese-characteristics” often come up against in their own country simply boils down to the fact that the market, as a whole, has a long way to go before it’s mature — meaning, until more consumers start to shop for items they actually like, rather than choosing the most expensive luxury brand or item they can find in an attempt to “gain face.” As Rupert Hoogewerf, founder and publisher of the Hurun Report, recently said, “Although China’s new rich may be wealthy or powerful, they may not have taste.”
However, like everything in urban China, this is changing quickly, and attitudes toward luxury consumption (and traditional Chinese design) are shifting year by year. Though it may take five or ten years, we might just see appreciation for Chinese craftsmanship develop more quickly than many would imagine, and more quickly than European luxury brands would like.