China’s luxury fashion boom promises to create new opportunities for its designers in the coming years as spending growth by the country’s consumers makes bigger waves than ever across the global marketplace, according to one of the country’s top luxury researchers.
China’s impact will be particularly deep because its consumers are big spenders in so many industry segments and price points, said Pierre Lu, a marketing professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University and author of several books on the business. “That is the beauty of the Chinese market: It demands everything.”
“With improvement in IT technology and infrastructure, China’s economy is integrating very deeply into the world economy and contributing to any brand that wants to do business in China,” he said. The trend underscores how “the fashion industry is now a global industry that is increasingly diversified and multicultural.”
Chinese designers are poised to do well in part because of their relatively close knowledge of local culture and consumers. They will be sought out by multinationals looking to add Chinese feel to their products; they will also find opportunities to develop their own brands or work for domestic brand owners.
The widening room in the world for Chinese designers, Lu said, is apparent at top fashion shows in cities such as Milan and London where Chinese design elements are increasingly visible on catwalks, as well as from the growing numbers of mainland and overseas Chinese working in the industry. “That is a natural evolution and a logical reflection of the Chinese market’s contribution to the luxury and fashion industry,” he said.
Ethnic Chinese designers tend to fall into three categories, Lu said. First: those born into overseas Chinese families, such as Vera Wong and Alexander Wang. Typically, few elements in their work readily identify them as from China, Lu said. “They work with the same approach as international designers from other countries,” he said. “There is a logic to having an international approach.”
The second group is designers born in mainland China that go on to study at design schools abroad. There, they master current design techniques, combine those with their design ideas, and start to produce finished items. “The numbers of this group will increase,” and they will actively join overseas fashion shows in the future, said Lu. Members of the second group include Masha Ma, he said.
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The third group is designers that don’t have international study experience and work at home in the mainland. Their relatively successful members, he said, have more Chinese elements in their designs than the other two groups, though a perquisite for success is picking up international-standard techniques.
“This group more obviously expresses Chinese culture and Chinese elements through their work,” he said. An example of its members is Ma Ke and her brand “Wuyong,” Lu said.