All eyes are on China’s new emerging luxury brands on the rise and making big names. Smart luxury PR move for Chinese luxury brands who focus on China’s culture. Why not, they have an insider advantage and the entire world is looking to China to lead the luxury market.  So who is leading the pack as the top pick and rising stars?

For many years designer Guo Pei drew inspiration for her luxury clothes collections from traveling abroad, but recently she decided to focus solely on China’s culture. Some call her the McQueen of China and agrees….

The bubbly 44-year-old’s move brought her company into a small but growing and increasingly influential club of luxury Chinese brands that are having success by focusing on their country’s centuries-old heritage.

Guo’s 2012 collection draws inspiration from China’s imagery and folklore — red and gold dresses covered with scales to mark the Year of the Dragon and other clothes with hand-embroidered hems and sleeves.

“After 2008 I realized how proud I was to be Chinese. In my last collection that is what I wanted to express. I wanted to speak about my country: its culture, its people,” said Guo, perfectly groomed in an organza white dress.

China has in recent decades become known as the workshop of the world, with tens of thousands of factories pumping out cheap products for shops globally sporting a ‘Made in China’ label that often evokes poor quality.

But Chinese firms such as Guo’s are now using the label as a marketing tool to create a new generation of home-grown luxury brands and convince the country’s legions of rich to ditch their Chanel clothes and Bordeaux wines.

“For thousands of years, ‘Made in China’ was synonymous with an unparalleled level of quality and craftsmanship,” says Pascal Armoudom, a partner with consultants ATKearney who recently wrote a report on the subject.

“This changed in the 20th Century as China headed down a different path. Quantity and cost savings reigned, and materials and craftsmanship, in turn, suffered,” he added.

“However, with China’s economy booming once again, Chinese business leaders are reviving and marketing their centuries of know-how in an effort to create a new generation of luxury brands.”

Riding the luxury wave

Consulting firm McKinsey has estimated China’s luxury market is worth US$10 billion dollars and predicts it will rise to $27 billion by 2015 — representing 20 percent of the global luxury market.

Today, China boasts roughly 15 to 20 brands — ranging from watches, jewellery, fashion or cosmetics — that are riding this wave, hoping to compete with foreign firms in what has become the biggest luxury market in the world.

Brands such as Wenjun, a Chinese spirit-maker, fashion label NE Tiger or cosmetics firm Herborist say they adapt ancient techniques or materials to their products to cater to the tastes of the modern Chinese consumer.

Herborist, for instance, uses traditional Chinese herbs and techniques to make upscale beauty products. It now boasts revenues of US$300 million and is present in 900 Chinese department stores.

The firm has even branched out overseas and has an international presence via global cosmetics chain Sephora.

Moutai, a liquor made from fermented sorghum, has also rebranded its image and its vintage bottles are regularly breaking records at auctions, with some fetching up to 1.45 million yuan (US$227,000).

And NE Tiger is having success with modernizing the traditional Chinese dress.

Founder Zhang Zhifeng travels to remote villages to find fast-disappearing ancient techniques such as the Yun brocade — a combination of gold threads weaved into dresses — to incorporate into cutting-edge designs.

Potential for ‘pride and patriotism’

Chloe Reuter, who runs ReuterPR, a luxury communications agency in China, said there was huge potential for brands that tapped into pride and patriotism.

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