Mainland And Hong Kong Luxury Brands Becoming More Confident, Taking More Risks As Chinese Luxury Consumers Call The Shots
The concept of Chinese brands moving beyond the country’s borders and sharing rack space with major European or American clothing or footwear brands might still sound like a remote possibility, but of some ambitious companies have their way, you might see some Chinese companies in stores before you know it — selling products that eschew the stereotypical cheap, low-quality nature of many “Made in China” products for high quality and innovative, culture- and history-infused design.
China’s new brands — and some of its old brands, like Hong Kong’s Chow Tai Fook (est’d. 1929 in Guangzhou) — naturally have some work to do if they’re to convince potential overseas buyers of their quality. (Although after this week’s news, it may be a little easier for some of them to do that at home.) Others, however, like Warrior (hui li) sneakers, have already made inroads among fans of retro style in Europe and North America.
In case you missed them the first time around, here are a selection of Jing Daily articles about some of China’s up-and-coming domestic brands. Whether they’re aiming for the luxury segment or shooting for retro style (fugu) lovers at home and abroad, these companies are among the best and brightest hopes for Chinese brands to shed their (often unwarranted) reputation for cheap construction and materials.
While foreign luxury brands still reign supreme in the China market, there are indications that things are starting to change, gradually, as home-grown Chinese brands start to make more of an impact in the domestic market. While these new brands lack the pedigree and history of top European brands, the cultural understanding and insight afforded these brands by their domestic upbringing gives them a head start in the China market. As many foreign luxury execs have already noticed, though in the Chinese luxury market, foreign still “equals” luxury, in 10-20 years the game is certain to have changed and been reshaped by emerging Chinese luxury brands.
Although most of the world’s top watchmakers remain cozily ensconced within the borders of Switzerland, as with most luxury industries “the Chinese are coming”…in this case, to reinvent a brand better known for gracing the wrists of Mao Zedong and Zhou En’lai than Donald Trump or Warren Buffett. (Though the latter might be more open to it than we might assume.)
This brand, Shanghai Watch (上海手表厂), started producing watches in the mid-1950s, amid a flurry of activity in the Shanghai wristwatch industry, and quickly established itself as the country’s top watchmaker.
Warren Buffett’s interest in China as an investment destination is well known, and his words of praise for (or investments in) the occasional Chinese company seems to have the effect of boosting that company’s visibility abroad virtually overnight. His company’s $230 million investment in Chinese electric and hybrid automaker BYD has elevated what was only a few years ago a fledgling battery maker into a brand which is set to enter the US market as early as next year.
So for little-known (even in China) Chinese menswear designer Trands, Buffett’s endorsement of his newest Chinese-brand-of-the-moment is definitely exciting news — especially because their stocks have risen 70% since the release of a video in which Buffett extols the brand’s qualities.
This fall, Chinese fashion house JNBY (”Just Naturally Be Yourself”) opened a temporary pop-up store in New York’s Soho district, showcasing the brand’s unique mixture of Chinese and western design.
Although JNBY first ventured outside of mainland China back in 2000, with the opening of its Tokyo location, and has opened retail outlets in Hong Kong, Singapore, Russia, and Canada (with plans to expand to France and Taiwan soon), JNBY’s Soho pop-up store was the first time the brand had been available in New York.
Women’s Wear Daily reported last week that French luxury house Hermes plans to support the launch of a new luxury handbag brand, Shang Xia, in China this coming spring. According to reports confirmed by French newspaper La Tribune, Hermes’ involvement in the launch of Shang Xia wil mark the first time Hermes has built a brand from the ground up, and the company’s products will be designed, manufactured and sold entirely in China.
All of this seems to make sense, since China is now the world’s second-largest luxury market and the world’s most populous country. But is this concept doomed to fail?
Li Ning, the sportswear brand founded by one of China’s most famous athletes, has set out to become one of the world’s top five sports brands within the next decade. Although the brand’s dream of joining the upper echelon of global sports brands may seem like a pipe dream to many observers, the rapid growth of Li Ning since 1990 has astonished others. Currently, the brand operates over 6,000 stores in mainland China, with plans to build 3,000 more within the next four years, and takes in nearly a billion dollars each year from their China operations alone.
Articles on China’s jewelry industry often focus only on the country’s booming demand for gold and platinum (althoughwe too are guilty of that) or diamonds and other precious stones. But what many observers of China’s jewelry market rarely notice is the country’s growing demand for traditional Chinese materials like jade. Jade, coveted in China for thousands of years, and its much rarer cousin jadeite, are making a comeback among women of China’s “me generation” in top tier cities who are looking to differentiate their style and set them apart from less discriminating conspicuous consumers.