Skip to main content

The rise of Chinese luxury brands

By Eunice Yoon, CNN
Click to play
China's love for luxury
  • China
  • Fashion Trends

Hong Kong, China (CNN) -- Shop at any of the high end stores in Hong Kong and it's easy to see why luxury brands love Chinese shoppers.

Mainland Chinese tourists queue outside Chanel, clear the shelves at Louis Vuitton, and show off their latest purchases at Cartier, Gucci, or Ferragamo. They're also buying designs of Chinese fashion label Shanghai Tang. Company CEO Raphael le Masne de Chermont told me ever since the Beijing Olympics in 2008, wealthy Chinese have been flocking to his stores.

"Chinese who used to be a bit shy about their culture, and their economy, all of a sudden they won those medals," he said. "They started to feel proud to be Chinese."

That pride helps to support his company's hopes to conquer markets in the West. Shanghai Tang has stores open in several fashion cities including London and New York. Here are excerpts from a conversation with CNN.

Are your international stores more for your Chinese consumers or international customers?

Le Masne de Chermont: We are mostly focused on the Asian market and more particularly in China, where it is the 'El Dorado' of luxury today. However we ought to be international and we have ventures in the capital cities. First, because it's a business for us. And also because our main target of customers, the Chinese, need some reassurance of our presence in the Western part of the world. If they see Shanghai Tang on Madison Avenue or in Sloane Street in London or in Paris Place Saint Sulprice in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, then they feel proud.

Then are your international stores more for your Chinese consumers as opposed to international consumers?

No. Our international stores are for everybody. But it's a plus that our presence in the international world, in the Western world, gives some reassurance with the Chinese. But of course they are independent business units.

In the international markets have you ever faced any obstacle in trying to convince people that a Chinese brand can also be a luxury brand?

Yes. Of course. This is a main challenge, but they are coming to it. Twenty years ago if you were saying a Japanese brand cannot be luxury, people will say 'no no, Japanese brand is cheap', because 'made in Japan' 20 years ago was cheap. And then since then you had Kenzo Watanabe and you had Comme des Garcons and so on and so forth so it's a question of time, people would be convinced.

Does it hurt you at all that you are from China and a lot of people have these negative associations with China when it comes to clothes, quality?

This is true. That was one of the main challenges that we had at the beginning of the business. There is a lot of cliches about China just because China was quiet for decades. But as we evolve, and how China is becoming the superpower of the world at the moment, and everybody is doing business with China. This China culture and China design is more and more accepted in the West.

And you make all of your clothes in China?

We make everything in China proudly since the beginning.

Is there a stigma?

Made in China' for Shanghai Tang is not a problem because it is a part of our DNA. We have always said loud and clear we're proudly made in China. However, some luxury brands start to produce in China. At the beginning they were shy because they thought it will kill some dream. But today everybody produce in China. Simply because you can get quality in China the same way you can get quality in the Western World. Why? Because the technology and the know-how has been transferred. And honestly Chinese people are very hardworking people and they are doing as well as the Western people today.