In case you missed them the first time around, here are some of Jing Daily’s top posts for the week of November 8-12:
This weekend, Jing Daily sat down for an interview with John Wang, the Chief Marketing Officer of the Taiwanese handset maker HTC, at the MIT Sloan Asia Business Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Over the course of our discussion, Wang spoke to us about the marketing strategies and brand philosophy that have been instrumental in HTC’s steady growth over the past five years, noting that the brand’s motto — “Quietly Brilliant” — transcends linguistic and cultural boundaries.
While it’s long functioned as a successful fashion industry strategy, “masstige” has gained new currency as the buzzword of the moment, following the announcement of a capsule-collection collaboration between Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz and fast-fashion retailer H&M. Elbaz joins a long list of designers who have collaborated with mass-market retailers like Target, Gap, and H&M to create lower-priced lines. Additionally, high-end designers have been looking to create their own diffusion lines, to cash in on consumers’ thirst for affordable cachet. Fashion industry darling Olivier Theyskens designed a collection for Theory, and while not universally accessible, the collection was much more reasonably priced than his own line. This past week, Theyskens was named the new artistic director of Theory, putting that temporary project on a more permanent footing — a significant indication that “masstige,” with its deft blend of accessible price points and prestige elements, has become more than a fad.
These projects have grabbed headlines, from Stella McCartney’s children’s line for Gap and Mulberry’s collection for Target to Matthew Williamson’s ambitions to launch his own diffusion line. But with the exception of large fashion retail collaborations with H&M or Uniqlo, one market that has seemingly been ignored is China.
In a New York Times article today on the Chinese luxury market, Joyce Hor-Chung Lau wraps up her look at the Chinese obsession with Western labels by asking: “Where are the Chinese brands?” Though it’s unfortunate that Lau conveniently fails to mention up-and-comers like Zhaoyi, Qeelin, the Hermes-backed Shang Xia (previously on Jing Daily), NE-TIGER, or the growing number of individual designers currently making waves in Beijing and Shanghai, it’s not that surprising.
Though part of the blame for the struggles of homegrown Chinese brands lies with Western-brand-obsessed consumers, who are often all too eager to drape themselves head-to-toe in the most garish displays of wealth imaginable, the brands themselves are partly to blame by failing to fully understand the importance of brand positioning and effective marketing. However, with the opening of Qeelin’s first Shanghai location in June, Shang Xia’s first boutique in September, and NE-TIGER’s newest store at Shanghai’s Lippo Plaza last weekend, it seems that Chinese luxury brands are now adopting a more active approach to building credibility.
Yohji Yamamoto’s financial problems are not new, as he filed for bankruptcy and abruptly closed his flagship store on Grand Street in New York a little over a year ago. This past season, Yamamoto returned to Asia, showing his menswear collection at Tokyo Fashion Week after taking a two-year hiatus from Paris Fashion Week, but as his own line goes through an extended transition, Yamamoto’s Y-3 sportswear line — developed for parent company Adidas — continues to expand globally, with efforts broadly concentrated in Asia.
This May marked the opening of the first Y-3 store in Hong Kong, and last week the company opened its fifth freestanding location in Beijing with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and runway show of the label’s 2010/11 autumn/winter collection. With inspiration drawn from “bespoke English tailoring,” the shapes and materials of this collection are distinctly modern, though classic twists are clearly visible.
Jing Daily: What role do you feel culture plays in China’s rise on the global stage? What kind of interest does the Chinese government, for instance, have in promoting Chinese culture overseas?
Handel Jones: I’ve found that the Chinese are very complex and tend to operate on multiple levels. Also, deep down there’s a very strong nationalistic streak, along with a strong distrust of outsiders. On the surface they can be friendly but it takes an extensive amount of effort to gain trust. So I think the culture is very much oriented towards protecting, being cautious.
In terms of the government, I think the government is, in some ways, very anti-culture because it likes to be in control, and in my opinion the Chinese are very individualistic, very entrepreneurial. As a result, they’re very difficult to manage, even though they conform on the surface. So, in terms of exporting culture, Confucianism is often used as a tool, although how actively it’s really believed is up for debate.