Is China The Future “France” Of Fashion?

Chanel is dominant in the China market, but could a potential rival be around the corner? (Image: La Bella Mia)

Coco Chanel dared to suggest French women wear trousers during a time of great social, economic and political transformation, not unlike what is happening in China today. It makes me wonder – is there a Coco in Kunming, or a Dior in Dalian just waiting to transform the international fashion scene?

I’ve had over 15 years to ponder this question.

My first significant interaction with China was in 1996 when, as an investment banker, I worked on a transaction for the Ministry of Finance. My time in Beijing was a deep-dive into the China of yesteryear — no Gucci, no Dior, no Valentino. Louis Vuitton had just one shop at that time, which opened in 1992.

Fast-forward to today where the shop lights of Xintiandi are as bright as Times Square.

I’m no longer a banker, and China is no longer a country of yesteryear. I morphed into an entrepreneur and fashion designer, and China morphed into the second-largest consumer of luxury goods in the world.

A Hong Kong taxi driver shared with me his view that “If Modern China was a person, it would only be 20 years old.” He concluded this because it was in 1992 that the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping famously traveled to southern China and proclaimed, “To get rich is glorious,” unleashing the wave of personal entrepreneurship and reform that drives modern China’s growth today.

Like most 20-somethings, China’s thirst for life (and things) is insatiable.

They are consumers, no doubt, but they are creators too. We’ve seen China’s ingenuity with e-commerce giants like Alibaba, and social sites like Tencent. I have no doubt that we will soon see it with luxury fashion as well.

It may not be what we expect, but then again, neither was Coco.

I ‘m thrilled to have a seat at the show, to watch the renaissance not just of China but of Western brands as they, too, are influenced by the power of the red nation.

I look forward to sharing my observations and musings with you from time to time.

Sonya Madden has lived in Hong Kong since 1994, first as a Banker then as a Fashion Designer/ Entrepreneur. She’s featured in the best-selling book “Ladies who Launch in Hong Kong – How 12 Women Started Million Dollar Businesses.” She consults to Western and Chinese fashion companies in China. Follow her on Twitter at @SonyaMadden1.

(Opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jing Daily editorial team.)


Fashion, Market Analysis