How To Lead A Couture Brand in the Age of Fast Fashion: An Interview With LANYU'S CEO

    We speak with Nicole Zhao, the CEO of the Chinese label LANYU, to find out the benefits for a couture brand in launching a Ready-to-Wear collection.
    Nicole Zhao with models wearing LANYU at the China Fashion Gala 2017 co-hosted by the China Institute and the China Beauty Charity Fund on May 7, 2017 in New York City. Image via VCG.
    Yiling PanAuthor
      Published   in Fashion

    When consumers more and more demand fashion to be fast, cheap and perhaps sometimes even disposable, is the concept of “haute couture” still relevant to the industry today? Nicole Zhao, chief executive of the Chinese couture brand LANYU, certainly has the authority to answer it. Her response is LANYU's Ready-to-Wear (RTW) collection launched in 2016, after the brand had been serving its premium clients exclusively with customized apparel for 11 years.

    Lan Yu is one of the most well-known haute couture fashion designers in China whose designs are frequently worn by international celebrities including Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian and the “Miss World” Zhang Zilin at some globally important events such as the International Cannes Film Festival.

    Lan frequently uses a traditional Chinese sewing technique called “Su Xiu,” or “embroidery style from Suzhou” in her works.

    Her namesake fashion brand LANYU launched the Ready-to-Wear collection in 2016 with the aim of “expanding the current client base to include those who hope to have more affordable designs.”

    LANYU's runway show at the China Fashion Gala 2017 by China Institute and China Beauty Charity Fund at Tribeca 360 on May 7, 2017 in New York City. (Image via VCG)
    LANYU's runway show at the China Fashion Gala 2017 by China Institute and China Beauty Charity Fund at Tribeca 360 on May 7, 2017 in New York City. (Image via VCG)

    “Many of our clients told us that they really liked our design idea, but they just could not afford it,” said Zhao during a backstage interview with Jing Daily at the “Relaunch Women and China Conference,” which was co-hosted by SupChina and the China Institute on May 18 in New York.

    “And some of our existing ‘haute’ clients also wanted to wear our designs every day. That’s why we decided to have RTW.”

    The decision to produce the RTW designs along with the existing haute couture line is a wise move from a business and marketing perspective that meets the needs of today’s consumers and has the potential to bring in more profits. However, it also requires the haute couture designer to change her mindset a little.

    “In fact, our Creative Director, Lan Yu, was firmly against the idea in the beginning,” said Zhao. “She believed that as long as her design is outstanding and fabulous, someone will be willing to buy it.”

    Zhao said Lan Yu previously considered the RTW idea from a designer’s perspective. The budget limitations of the RTW collection would weaken her ability to express herself in the designs.

    “But we finally figured it out,” she added. “We are now able to make our RTW collection consistent with the idea that we have been expressing in our haute couture designs.”

    In order to give the brand a stronger and more distinctive marketing position in the market, LANYU proposed the concept of “LANYU girls,” an affectionate moniker they give to the women who wear LANYU clothes. The term is meant to connote that the women who wear their clothes are confident and beautiful in their designs.

    Looking ahead, Zhao hopes to build the brand to a level where it can serve a wider range of customers around the world and expand the awareness of the brand.

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