Chinese Luxury Brands No Longer Content To Imitate Western Trends, Looking Inward To Develop Unique Style
Last year, Jing Daily wrote about the gradual emergence of home-grown Chinese luxury brands, which have incorporated traditional Chinese cultural and aesthetic traditions into their designs while displaying unmistakably global influences. With China surpassing the United States last year to become the world’s second-largest luxury market and the country quickly gaining ground on the longtime #1, Japan, not only will Chinese consumers be unwilling to have their voices ignored by luxury brands, Chinese luxury brands will look to get a piece of both Chinese and global market share.
This week, an article in Guangzhou Daily (Chinese) looks into the inevitability that home-grown Chinese luxury brands will someday stop imitating and start innovating, selling unique luxury goods “created in China,” not just “made in China.” From the article (translation by Jing Daily team):
Free-spending Chinese have made the world look on in amazement, but as a country’s luxury market matures, it gradually moves from imitation to creation. In the last century Italy, the United States and Japan have all followed a similar path, but this time it’s China’s turn. Of course we can’t expect to see the international status of the “China Logo” to rise in just a few years, but in terms of the world stage of luxury goods, it’s about time for the Chinese to make their debut.
The article goes on to mention established Western brands, like yachtmaker Dalla Pieta and American auto brand Hummer, which were purchased by Chinese companies (or, in the case of Hummer — which appears to be headed to the scrap heap along with its deal with Sichuan Tengzhong — courted by Chinese companies) in the wake of the global financial crisis which saw dozens of luxury brands filing for bankruptcy. As the article goes on to detail, the idea of luxury “created in China” does not have to come totally from within; For some brands, it’s good enough to have a (foreign) luxury brand “with Chinese blood.”
Considering that Chinese consumers make up around 1/4 of the world’s luxury market, it’s no surprise that many global brands have set up shop in China, but as one of France’s top luxury brands — with a Kelly or Birkin bag selling for several hundred thousand [RMB] — Hermes coming to China to invest in a new localized brand really surprised and made an impression on people. Late last December, Hermes brought China a Christmas present, a brand called “Shang Xia” established not just like a domestic brand bought by Hermes in the hopes of building it up, but as a true brand designed from the ground up to take root in China. From the production materials to the Chinese design and management team, localization is the name of the game and is visible in the clothing, accessories, home furnishings and other consumer goods that make up the line. Shang Xia will be available beginning in the spring, when it will open its first store, and will set up shop in Paris this autumn.
The article goes on to discuss other brands that have been purchased by foreign luxury brands, including Hong Kong-based clothier Shanghai Tang (owned by Richemont) and Chinese traditional spirits maker Wenjun (purchased last year by Moet Hennissey). The article then goes on to muse on luxury that is Chinese through and through, from Lan Fine Jewelry (previously on Jing Daily) to premium tea leaves:
China’s not short on history, and has even less of a shortage of items that are tied up with the history of China. Tea leaves are among the most enchanting of these. In 2006, Lundao Zhuyeqing (a type of rare tea — JD) was the star of the show at the Monaco World Luxury show. Out of 500,000 tea leaves were meticulously chosen only 500, which were presented in a special Zen Buddhist wood box designed by Alan Chan that was inlaid in crystal with verses from the “Dao de Jing,” taking Lundao Zhuyeqing tea leaves far beyond their traditional association as a healthy drink, and making them a reflection of taste, culture, and luxury. With a price tag of 2,280 RMB (US$334) for the premium collection, Lundao can easily sell 30,000-40,000 RMB worth of Zhuyeqing tea leaves in many cities every day. [With their ultra-premium tea,] Lundao can let modern people taste, and understand, Chinese culture in a unique way, and might just become a top international brand.
In the field of jewelry, [Chinese television presenter] Yang Lan and Celine Dion jointly launched a high-end custom brand called LAN fine jewelry. LAN is designed to introduce the concept of top-of-the-line Chinese jewelry, and since being unveiled LAN has enchanted many people already. Prince Charles of the UK and his wife Camilla were touched by the craftsmanship and elegance of LAN’s “Perfect Pair” line and purchased several pieces on the spot.
Recalling the phenomenon of Chinese in the field of fashion, actually it’s clear that there has been a steady stream of Chinese cultural output throughout history. In the 14th century, when Marco Polo wrote about the wonders of that ancient dynasty, right there in the beginning he said that China would have a permanent influence on fashion trends — Chinese style. From the exquisite Suzhou embroidery and hand-painted screens to magnificent cloisonne and unique flowing colors, Europeans were enraptured with what they discovered in the Asian continent. Although in the last few hundred years Chinese people have made little progress in creating brands, and have maybe entered the game too late, more and more people nowadays are willing to try out “Chinese style.” Never before have Chinese brands and the world stage been so close together!