With the close of the global lightweight China Fashion Week, it seems as though China’s luxury labels will have to wait awhile longer before rivaling European luxury companies. And there may be those who have a difficult time seeing China and luxury going together; some luxury companies, like Prada, now manufacture their high-end products in China. So could the stigma against Chinese products be lifting?
“Where Chinese companies are lacking is quality control and product and image design,” said Ann Eggers, fashion editor of Tatler Hong Kong. “So far, China has not been able to produce a brand with a broad international appeal.”
Angelica Cheung, editor-in-chief of China Vogue, thinks the reason for China’s slow start in the world of luxury brands is not clear-cut. “It’s many factors — generations of culture, skills, understanding of brands, understanding of quality, understanding of who you are, communication skills, business concepts, everything — understanding of markets. They’re all part and parcel of what makes a brand successful,” she says.
Still, as China is posed to overtake Japan as the world’s leading consumer in luxury products, it seems inevitable that the country’s labels will appeal to international markets.
Cheung, whose popular magazine has featured a column called “Made in China” for years, celebrating Chinese creativity, believes there isn’t much holding today’s Chinese designers back from big-time success. She said, “They understand more how these brands work, and they appreciate quality better than before.”
“Historically, Chinese craftsmen have been able to produce extremely sophisticated products,” said Eggers, “so in theory there shouldn’t be a problem to compete with the more traditional luxury houses.”
Cheung and Eggers picked a list of Chinese luxury labels who are destined for global success:
Shiatzy Chen: “This fashion house was founded by iconic Taiwanese designer Wang ChenTsai-Hsia, who merges traditional Chinese styles with contemporary western aesthetics. While the brand already has a store on Paris’s Rue St. Honoré, its international brand awareness is still fairly low but with a strong presence in China it might not necessarily matter.”
Shang Xia: “This brand was founded by French luxury house Hermes and specifically targets China’s wealthy. The designs have a distinct Asian edge but the team behind the brand is international. The brand only launched last year so it remains to be seen whether the concept is going to be a winner on the long run but with the backing and expertise of Hermes, chances are probably high.”
Guo Pei: “Guo Pei is China’s first couturiere who creates magnificent dresses that match, or almost exceed Paris’ haute couture standard. While there is only a small audience for her designs (not only the craftsmanship but also the prices are comparable to those of her Paris counterparts!), Guo’s incredible creations have attracted international interest — even Lady Gaga is said to be a fan.”
Uma Wang and Zou You: “These two are very mature in their designs, capabilities, and business approach. They work well with people who manage the distribution channels. They are starting to show signs of developing the brand into an image of quality.”
Shanghai Tang: “Originally founded by Hong Kong entrepreneur David Tang, this now-Richemont owned company manages to make Asian aesthetics approachable to western taste. Opening stores around the world, from Dubai to Las Vegas, this brand is steady in its global expansion.”
photo credit: shanghai tang, shiatzy chen