Paris came to Shanghai last Friday evening as
presented its Spring-Summer 2013 haute couture collection at Bund 5, its second annual show in the city. Some 300 ultra-VIPs, including a scattering of celebs like actresses Zhang Ziyi, Shu Qi, Sun Li, and Angelababy, were on hand for the show — presented in an intimate setting that re-created Dior’s Paris salon—and the candlelit dinner that followed.
According to Dior president and CEO Sidney Toledano, the haute couture sector in China has tremendous potential -- enough to make the Shanghai show an annual event on the brand’s calendar. Too, Dior’s Chinese clients are young and increasingly well-informed about fashion and trends -- and their tastes are changing. “They look for refinement and sophistication,” Toledano told Women’s Wear Daily. “I am really, really impressed. They go fast in terms of getting information.”
Dior’s growing emphasis on haute couture and other high-end products reflects the brand’s measured approach to growth in China. With boutiques in 12 mainland Chinese cities (including second- and third-tier centers like Nanjing, Harbin, Dalian, and Chengdu) the label only has a few new stores in the pipeline, including a men’s and womenswear boutique opening this month in the luxe Shanghai mall L’Avenue. Overall, said Toledano, expansion will happen on a “step-by- step” basis, with more of a focus on upgrading existing store infrastructure and improving the shopping experience.
This approach reflects broader trends in luxury retailing as global brands adjust to the market realities of China in 2013. In recent weeks, Gucci, Burberry, and other marques have quietly downshifted their China expansion plans, while introducing more discreet, low- and no-logo products. Such offerings are in line with an evolving turn to quality and craftsmanship on the part of well-heeled “stealth wealth” consumers.
Retailers’ mounting interest in refining the in-store experience is another part of the picture, interestingly exemplified by the use of “senior guides” at Shanghai’s Yifeng Galleria mall on the Bund -- individuals who act like museum docents for the luxury goods on offer, not “try[ing] to sell,” as one guide put it, “but tell[ing] of the beauty of each of these masterpieces.”
In its pursuit of the sophisticated high-end consumer, Christian Dior may well be ahead of the game. According to Women’s Wear Daily, Dior banished logo-heavy products from the mainland some six years ago, and its boutiques beyond Beijing and Shanghai are staffed with personnel well-versed in local style trends. All of which plays neatly into the brand’s overall global strategy.
“We see Chinese everywhere,” Toledano told Shanghai Daily, “in Paris, Milan, New York, Vancouver. There’s no conflict between their spending in China or overseas. It’s the lifestyle they’ve developed -- to travel and shop. So in my opinion it’s good for Europe to have such economic relationships.”
March 27, 2013: Trend piece on “Stealth Wealth”
February 25, 2013: One-month pop-up shop in Beijing to promote Raf Simons’ first collection
January 14, 2013: Dior “Bar Jacket” exhibition at its Seasons Palace boutique in Beijing