Exposing China’s Fashionistas To New Designers No Small Task
“Wash. Rinse. Repeat” – for the past three years, since opening THE VILLA, one of China’s premier multi-brand destinations for international designers, this has been my mantra.
Introducing a new shopping concept, new fashion sensibilities and new designers to a new market is no small feat. It has taken much patience, resilience and repetition. Season after season, exposing curious local style-savvy women to styles from the “new guard” of international designers has been an exhausting process. Not only because we were teaching others something new, but also — and probably more significantly — because we were also learning ourselves. Introducing a fresh concept to a foreign market and figuring out how to communicate your message and position your brand is a daunting challenge.
For all its beauty and opportunity, China is an incredibly vast, complex, idiosyncratic and fickle place. This is no groundbreaking revelation, but it is difficult to truly grasp and comprehend the implications of the country’s dynamism without living here. Even after five years, I feel like I’ve only begun to scratch the surface.
THE VILLA is now coming up on three years of age, and we’ve managed to create a small but growing niche for ourselves. We know who our client is and we know how to better serve her and buy for her. Nevertheless, despite this modest achievement, we constantly rack our brains to come up with new ways to help our client — to better understand the logic behind her personal style. We constantly experiment with color and mixing and matching to connect with our customer.
We are still learning that Chinese ladies, and Shanghainese specifically, have very high and discerning expectations and will reward you for meeting them. On the other side of that coin, they’re quick to penalize you for falling short. Moreover, they have a wealth of information available to them. This allows them to hold us, their trusted fashion advisors, accountable if we are insincere or less than fully forthcoming.
For THE VILLA, we’ve found that investing in meaningful relationships with our clients is one of the only ways to successfully navigate the city’s delicate climate. While sincere customer relationship management is both time-consuming and resource-intensive, this is how we gather critical information that enables us to make better informed business decisions and, ultimately, what translates into assuring longevity. We pride ourselves on the relationships that we’ve created with our clients by providing specialized, exclusive services that allow us to cultivate meaningful, long-lasting friendships. These friendships engender trust and openness, which is the best way we learn the most about our clients, their lives, their priorities and how THE VILLA can fit into their lifestyle and their fashion sensibilities.
So, another day, another lesson, and with more encouragement, THE VILLA continues to support a growing community of fashion-conscious ladies with the resources and knowledge needed to become bona fide fashionistas.
Sara Villarreal is the founder of THE VILLA, a high-end women’s fashion boutique in the heart of Shanghai’s former French Concession. In addition to apparel by 20 hand-picked up-and-coming designers from the US and Europe, the store carries a curated mix of designer bags, belts and jewelry.
1 Taojiang Lu (near Yueyang Lu)
Shanghai, China 200031
Tel: +86 (21) 6466 9322