Jing Daily’s market report “Chinese Cultural Consumers: The Future of Luxury” is available for purchase on our Reports page. Packed with 88 pages of market research, exclusive interviews, and on-the-ground consumer insights, the report is a must-read for anyone interested in tapping China’s most powerful new consumer base. Get your copy of the report here.
The Chinese Cultural Consumer (CCC)’s deep interest in culture is largely unaffected by commercial considerations. According to Karl Cyprien, managing director of Archive Editions, the China-specific platform launched by Daniel Arsham, “The hierarchy between the mediums is relatively nonexistent compared to the West.” The CCC cannot be likened to classic art collectors, Cyprien said, as they act in an educated, fan-like fashion, collecting and consuming culture in all its facets, whether through branded merchandise or works of art.
Yet, when considering the CCC, a key distinction must be made between consumption and collecting. Whereas consumption — typically involving fashion and luxury brands — often means a relatively straightforward purchase that serves a near-term purpose (such as the need for something to wear), collecting serves longer-term goals, whether investment for future resale or the establishment of a personal legacy. Simple consumption by CCCs is an important sales driver for many major luxury brands today, with Chinese consumers accounting for an estimated 20 percent of all global luxury sales in 2020, according to Bain.
CCCs who buy not only for the sake of leisurely consumption, but also to build their interest-based collections (including rare and hard-to-find items), are emerging as VIPs for top brands. This is particularly true for luxury brands that base their top consumer lists not simply on who spends the most, but what they spend on, their personal networks, and their particular personal tastes. Moreover, for the luxury market, this represents an important sea-change that will make it more difficult for traditional VIP shoppers in Europe, North America, and Japan to get their hands on the most sought-after products.
Another important trend bringing new challenges to international luxury brands is the CCC’s rising awareness of China’s own artists, designers, and heritage. Whereas the core Chinese luxury consumer of just a decade ago displayed a marked preference for Western or Japanese imports over domestic brands, younger CCCs — digitally savvy, educated, and raised in an era during which imported brands can be taken for granted — increasingly value China’s cultural and artistic heritage. As Jing Daily columnist Daniel Langer noted, “Since they grew up in a globalized world, [young Chinese consumers] value local traditions and local talent. They are more patriotic than any generation before and like to support homegrown businesses.”
Fresh Opportunities for Chinese Artists and Designers
This shift has translated into new opportunities for younger Chinese artists and designers, many of whom have worked with international brands on collaborations and collections that are often (but not always) designed specifically for the Chinese market. Examples of these partnerships abound, such as the inclusion of Chinese designers Liu Wei and Zhao Zhao in a special collection of customized Louis Vuitton Artycapucines handbags and the Dior x Song Dong installation at the ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair in late 2020.
Other brands have appealed to the sensibilities of the CCC by spotlighting native arts and crafts traditions and working with Chinese cultural institutions. These types of partnerships have increased exponentially in the years since Cartier’s groundbreaking “Treasures” jewelry exhibition at the Palace Museum in Beijing in 2009, ranging from museum shows such as Gucci’s 2015 “No Longer / Not Yet” exhibition at the Minsheng Art Museum in Shanghai to Valentino’s interactive “Re-Signify” show at the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art in late 2020.
Broader arts-focused efforts have increased the representation of Chinese artists and designers in the global luxury market, such as Porsche’s annual “Young Chinese Artist of the Year” award and Chinese textile artist Fanglu Lin winning the Loewe Craft Prize in 2021. Bringing Chinese creative talent into the fold is a win-win situation for brands and cultural institutions alike, as it appeals to CCCs on their home turf while offering fresh sources of inspiration to global luxury brands for future collections.
What the Chinese Cultural Consumer Says:
What has been an outstanding cultural consumption experience of the past year for you?
I’ve been really impressed by Prada’s latest collections in collaboration with Raf Simons. I’m more interested in niche designer brands than typical luxury houses, but their partnership highlighting sustainability, technology, and modern fluidity brought Prada into a new era. Also, their localization initiatives featuring both digital and physical experiences effectively elevated audience engagement.
– Ciera Xu, 26, Shanghai
I’ve enjoyed visiting art exhibitions over the past year. Physical events are more exciting to me since we went through lockdowns during the pandemic. One of the most impressive exhibitions was Louis Vuitton’s luggage exhibition in Shanghai last year. Even though I didn’t order anything as I can’t afford it at this stage, they are on my wish list. I think they are quite collectible and worth the investment.
– Wash Wang, 22, Nanjing
Prada Mode Shanghai at Prada Rongzhai was one of my favorite events that I visited over the past year. Although it was not a promotional fashion event but a culturally oriented one, I have spent more on the brand since then as I appreciate how the house supports Chinese contemporary culture.
– Ashley Qiu, 28, Beijing
Get your copy of Chinese Cultural Consumers: The Future of Luxury on our Reports page.