Jing Daily’s Top Posts for the Week
In case you missed them the first time around, here are some of Jing Daily’s top posts for the week of February 6-10:
Last week, the global art market was shaken to the core by the news that a Paul Cézanne painting, The Card Players, was sold to the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar for over US$250 million. The highest price ever paid for a piece of artwork, this sale sent shockwaves throughout the modern art market and reflected the new multipolarity and shifting power structure of the art world, where emerging players like China and India are producing new, cash-flush collectors with an appetite for top-quality artwork and, more importantly, are willing to pay dearly for it.
As Vanity Fair wrote of the sale last week, part of Qatar’s motivation for the purchase was led by a desire to become an arts and culture hub in the Middle East, a goal that has seen the tiny country become a “new destination on the art-world grand tour.”
During the recent Dragon Week in New York, during which retailers and luxury brands in New York came face-to-face with some of China’s emerging outbound tourist-shoppers, the Swiss watchmaker Piaget held an event at its Fifth Avenue flagship to debut the “Dragon and Phoenix” series of China-focused timepieces. Created last year in preparation for 2012 — the Year of the Dragon on the Chinese calendar — the recent event marked the official US launch of the series, which included a Piaget Altiplano 38mm in 18k white gold set with 78 brilliant-cut diamonds, a Grand Feu enamel dial with a dragon depicted on an alligator strap, and an Emperador XL in 18k rose gold, featuring a hand-engraved dragon set with 257 brilliant-cut diamonds.
Following the event, Jing Daily had a chance to engage in a Q&A with Larry Boland, President of Piaget North America, and ask him a few questions about the series, its reception, and what Piaget is doing to cater to the growing number of Chinese tourists showing up at stores throughout the US and Canada.
Following the lead of Rolls-Royce — whose “Year of the Dragon” special edition Phantom, created specifically for the China market, recently sold out despite a hefty US$1.2 million price tag — another British automaker, Aston Martin, has announced that it will debut its own China-focused “Dragon88″ line at the upcoming Beijing Auto Show. Now operating six dealerships in mainland China, Aston Martin recently projected that China will become its third-largest market, trailing only the U.S. and U.K., within only a few short years.
Looking to tap growing demand for ultra-luxury autos even as other auto segments show signs of a slowdown in China, Aston Martin recently opened its largest showroom in China in Shanghai and has expressed interest in speeding up inland expansion in 2012 in order to keep up with competitors like Bentley and Rolls-Royce. Last year, Aston Martin sold 190 vehicles in China, double its sales in 2010, and has new showrooms slated for Chongqing, Shenyang and Ordos.
This week, the FT writes that a renewed push to drive domestic consumption in China is creating a new generation of increasingly savvy and demanding consumers, less willing to pay for low-quality, low-end goods. Noting that both Chinese and international brands have had to change their long-standing policy of dumping low-end inventory on the mainland China market, the article holds that more discriminating shoppers have brought about a sea-change in the country’s luxury market, which has long been plagued by a flood of counterfeits. According to a recent survey by the fashion brand Escada, Chinese consumer willingness to buy fakes has plummeted in recent years, from 31 percent in 2008 to only 12 percent in 2010. Quoting Max Magni, head of McKinsey’s Chinese consumer goods practice in Shanghai, the FT adds that the market for luxury fakes is growing at a snail’s pace compared to the authentic market, and companies are finding that Chinese consumers are simply getting harder to please.
This shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone who has kept an eye on the market’s fundamental development over the past few years. Nor is growing brand-savviness and sophistication the only factor making it necessary for luxury brands to try harder in the China market.
One of the standouts in China’s nascent home-grown luxury industry and a Jing Daily favorite, Shanghai-based Shang Xia is currently at work preparing its first international location (and second overall) in Paris. Slated to open about 200 meters away from the mammoth Rue De Sèvres Hermès location — which Suzy Menkes of the New York Times described in 2010 as “a way station on a new Silk Road, designed as a destination for shopping tourists, who increasingly come from China” — preparations for the space are still in their early stages, and as such no opening date has been set.
As Shang Xia brand manager, Shu Shu Chen, told Jing Daily this week, the brand is taking its time to open the new Paris location. As Chen put it, “We are willing to invest enough time inquired.” It’s not entirely surprising Shang Xia is taking the long view of its Paris expansion, since CEO and artistic director Jiang Qiong’er told us last September, “I think time is the most precious thing in the luxury business."