China turns from imported to homegrown luxury brands

From "Mogaoku in Paris," a jewelry show from Chinese brand Qeelin.
From "Mogaoku in Paris," a jewelry show from Chinese brand Qeelin.

The country is creating new millionaires who are looking "beyond bling." Can Western brands emulate the aesthetic they seek?

SHANGHAI — Selling luxury in China will require getting "beyond bling" and connecting with the cultural zeitgeist of Chinese consumers. That's the findings of a report from marketing consultancy Added Value that looks at how luxury brands of Chinese origin are getting cultural innovation right.

Sales of luxury goods are hitting hard times as brands such as Mulberry, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton reported sales decreases impacted largely by falling Chinese demand and tougher competition.

However China is still producing more private-sector millionaires than the rest of the world, so the country is still a focus for luxury retailers. It's just that the tastes of Chinese consumers are rapidly evolving, according to the report.

In its recent luxury study among 600 luxury targets (see infographic below), the firm found that 84 per cent of those surveyed believe that in the future, Chinese luxury brands will be "just as good" as Western luxury brands. Added Value sees "significant growth potential" for luxury brands with Chinese origin.

Openness to Chinese brands is also reflected in attitudes to purchasing, with 22 percent buying both international and Chinese brands, plus another 51 percent buying Western first and considering Chinese. This percentage may slowly tip the other way, argues the report.

The parameters of luxury in the eyes of the Chinese consumer are authenticity, customer service and craftsmanship, but Western brands have as their defining elements being "expensive, reflecting the latest trends and [being] exclusive."

Chinese luxury brands differ, with "long history, strong heritage and authenticity" standing out. This further reinforces Added Value's belief that Chinese brands will be increasingly successful in the future.

Some keys to the culture:

1. Fusing tradition with modernity: Qeelin, by using a qilin (a mythical animal) as its vehicle of communication adopted into digital formats, acknowledges the respect of tradition combined with awareness of contemporary conditions such as female empowerment.

2. Experientialism: Mixmind’s retail spaces provide a multisensory experience where smell, sight and touch are aroused.

3. Nature branded: The products of Shang Xia use raw, natural materials.

4. Idealized representations: The "models" for Shanghai Vive are perfectly and eternally beautiful; they never grow old, promising those who use it similar long-lasting beauty.

5. Understated minimalism: Moving away from luxury clothing with large logos and shiny surfaces, Mixmind creates products with simple design and almost no branding.

6. The art of luxury: The K11 mall's shopping environment among artworks creates a sense that the purchases borrow some attributes from the artworks themselves and hence higher emotional and aesthetic value.

This story first appeared on

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