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The Fortune of China
...all eyes on the Chinese economy
Ten years ago, stores like Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton or Giorgio Armani, were just some mysterious palaces hiding in very limited hotels, where only foreign visitors or ambassadors lived. Their clients were travelers, businessmen from Hong Kong, or people with complex political backgrounds.
As the capital market became more open and lively, Chinese people realized that getting rich was no longer dominated by an aristocratic reign. They also found that one could never get wealthy by working as a blue-collar salary man. Those who were brave enough to try another way of living started to explore operating capital; the development of the real-estate market in China, for example.
Once people conquered these new fields of business, they taught their children a sense of investigation in terms of consumption. This concept towards luxury goods was one that had developed rapidly and drastically. For people who were born before 1975, the idea of working hard for the great revival of Socialism is still ingrained. They tend to live a rather conservative and economical life. The reasons for them to buy luxury leather goods or jewelry are mainly the level of quality and the potential of rising value. However, the younger generations love design, love brands, and love being on trend. Unlike their parents, who will save a Cartier watch in a vault, the younger generations will wear it. They pursue a luxurious and fashionable lifestyle. To them, the best way to show one’s taste and social class is by carrying a Louis Vuitton or Gucci bag. They buy whatever they can or cannot afford to make a certain impression.
Most research on Chinese luxury consumption, finds that the most popular reason for people to buy luxury goods is to give them as gifts, especially for business. Ginny Zhang, the chief PR manager of I.T., one of the biggest fashion retailers for brands like Comme des Garcon, Alexander McQueen and Lanvin, has said that their VIP consumers are basically pop stars and businessmen. Stars buy exclusive, fashionable clothes for themselves, while businessmen always ask for beautiful wrapping and a card attached. Cheeky? Maybe. But it happens everywhere. “Getting along with gifts” is a tradition in China. If one wants to get along well with his business partner, a gift is very essential. The more expensive the gift, the better relationship you will build. If you feel it is too sensitive to give your boss a Patek Philippe watch, just buy his wife an Hermès bag!
International luxury stores are filling with Chinese customers. Retailers in Europe are now hiring Chinese employees to help with service for clients who speak Mandarin or Cantonese. Chinese local designers are also trying to catch the bus. Guo Pei, the Chinese couturier who designs gowns for the wives of government leaders was once featured by renowned Fashion Journalist, Cathy Horyn.
There are many new-generation designers beginning to catch the attention of the western world as well as their Chinese fellows. Masha Ma, Uma Wang, Qiu Hao, Yang Du, are all names that are becoming gradually familiar to people. Ye Qian, a young designer who is gaining a higher reputation these years, said that the biggest problem was not the lack of demands, but to fulfill them. “Like the most adorable coat I designed for 2010A/W, there is only one because I can’t get plenty of fabrics. The fabric is from Italy and it’s very expensive. The craftsmanship and technology in China are also uncompetitive to those in Europe. If I have a generous investor who would like to support me with mass production, it would be perfect. But now it’s too hard.” His new collection was sold to famous Chinese pop stars and some elite ladies right after he exploded in the media.
The Chinese say “Warm and think of lust.” Pursuing beauty is the desire deep in everyone’s heart. When you become rich, you buy plenty of food and a house to live in, and then you naturally spend the rest of the money on beautiful clothes, or things you love to decorate yourself and your life with. To me, it’s no wonder why there is a burst of demand for fashion goods in China. The reason is simple. They have recently become wealthy and in turn, have developed a desire for beauty.