Luxottica, the eyewear company that produces popular brands like Ray-Ban, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Oakley, Burberry, and Dolce & Gabbana, is taking a closer look at the Chinese market. Last year, Luxottica released a line of eyewear tailored to characteristically Asian features, such as lower nose bridges and higher cheekbones.
And these tweaks are paying off. In the first year, Luxottica’s sales have doubled in the Chinese market, and it plans to adapt more of its brands to these specs. The company plans to debut local collections for Prada, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana in the fall. In the next three years, Luxottica plans to open 500 new retail outlets in China.
“We need to really become domestic in these markets,” Guerra said. “We are in the process of understanding that in the world there are a number of diversities.”
Part of the process of establishing Luxottica in China was focusing resources on creating a Chinese design center. In 2009, Luxottica opened a design hub in Shanghai, hiring 19 young Chinese from Chinese Luxottica manufacturing sites to design a new Ray-Ban line. While 30 percent of the Shanghai collection was designed specifically for Chinese tastes, 45 percent of the collection was simply international Ray-Ban designs with structural tailoring to better suit Asian faces.
Currently, China doesn’t even rank in Luxottica’s top ten sales markets. However, according to a Bain & Co. analysis, China comes in at number seven in terms of world luxury markets. Guerra says the Luxottica recognizes that China is a potentially huge market, but they had previously been held back by a reluctance to adapt products for locals.
This reluctance is not only a concern for Luxottica. Many luxury brands constantly face the challenge of balancing local tastes against a national image. Internationally-known brands pride themselves on their ability to offer the same level of style and quality at all outlets, and often see the act of releasing products specific to a single market as a cheapening of the brand’s name.
But, as with the structural changes Luxottica has made to its eyewear, some practical local adaptations are necessary for a brand to flourish. While designers make sure to offer the same style and quality across the globe, it is common practice for them to make adjustments in color, fit, and sizing specific to local markets.