Jing Daily’s Top Posts for the Week
In recent years some enterprising individuals and companies have sought to “revive” moribund Chinese labels, aiming them squarely at the same young urban taste-makers coveted by Western and Japanese brands.
Interestingly, some of the more motivated individuals breathing new life into Chinese brands are not Chinese at all. From footwear maker Feiyue, run by a French team since 2006, to the sneaker and bag label ospop. and watchmaker Iguzzini, a handful of expat entrepreneurs are introducing retro Chinese brands to a new generation of consumers in China as well as abroad. Jing Daily editor Avery Booker recently spoke with Bayan Ferzandi and Patrick Conn, part of the Canadian team readying the 61-year-old Chinese bicycle brand Flying Pigeon for its largest North American rollout to date.
With the development of China’s private aviation industry has come another status symbol: a pilot’s license. Despite pricey training costs, which range between 60,000-80,000 yuan (US$9,278-12,371) — upwards of three times the country’s annual per capita GDP — ChinaLuxus noted this week that 1,600 budding pilots have already obtained official licenses in China, with the site suggesting that the actual number is far higher. Sort of a frightening prospect, but someone has to pilot the much-discussed “black flights” taking place across the country.
At present, provinces like Heilongjiang, Guangdong and Hainan have opened low-altitude flight space, with much of China projected to make more airspace become available as early as 2015. Despite these restrictions, demand for pilot training has increased gradually since the opening of China’s first private flight school in the 1990s, with wealthier individuals in the country’s top-tier cities now signing up for lessons as a recreational or lifestyle activity.
On the heels of a highly successful spring auction season in Hong Kong, this summer, blue-chip Chinese contemporary art is not only back in the news, it’s being exhibited at an ever-increasing number of Western museums — even at venues not traditionally known for visual arts. This month, Xu Bing will show a larger-scale installation of his 2001 work “The Living Word” at New York’s Morgan Library & Museum, which the Wall Street Journal notes “will consist of some 350 carved and painted Chinese characters for the word “bird” in various historical scripts—all hung from the ceiling of the Morgan’s soaring entry court in a cloudlike cluster that will rise dramatically from the floor to the top of a 50-foot glass wall.” Beginning on July 12, visitors can watch Xu and his team build the installation over a four-day span, with the piece staying on view through September 15.
While Xu Bing is no stranger to large-scale installations — his massive “Phoenix” project was shown last year in Beijing and Shanghai — what makes his upcoming Morgan show particularly interesting is the fact that the museum is better known for classic and literary exhibitions than Chinese contemporary art.
This past weekend, the ASICS-owned Japanese sneaker label Onitsuka Tiger launched its first China flagship on the fifth floor of Beijing’s Xidan Joy City mall. With retro footwear brands proliferating in China, particularly revived domestic players like Feiyue, Warrior and Ospop, conditions are ripe for Onitsuka Tiger, which has seen a wave of popularity in Western markets over the past decade, to intensify its push in the Chinese market. Still, despite an existing and expanding presence in the China market (the brand is currently available at 160 points of sale throughout the country), Onitsuka Tiger lacks the visibility or brand recognition of international competitors like Adidas — a key motivation for the brand to launch its first flagship in the Chinese capital.
This week, the Chinese-language fashion portal YOKA asked the general manager of Onitsuka Tiger China, a Mr. Hoshino (星野总经理), about the brand’s development in, and plans for, the China market.
Amid increasing pressure from business leaders and consumers, Chinese Ministry of Commerce official Yao Jian recently hinted that the government may reduce China’s notoriously high luxury tax in an effort to increase domestic spending on high-end goods. (A statement quickly denied by Ministry of Finance officials.) Yao’s somewhat vague pronouncement, that luxury tax cuts are an “irresistible trend”, quickly triggered a firestorm of articles for and against the cuts, with those in favor echoing Wang Jianlin’s belief that high luxury tariffs don’t actually decrease demand for high-end goods, but rather induce consumers to shop for them elsewhere (e.g., Hong Kong or Europe), and those against the cuts contending that stiff luxury taxes will help reduce China’s yawning wealth gap.
Still, the Chinese government has given no clear word on whether these luxury tax cuts will actually happen, so we’re left with conjecture from those on both sides of the issue.