BEIJING — Demand for branded luxury goods may be slowing in China in part due to President Xi Jinping’s extended campaign against graft and extravagance, but small, artisanal companies that offer limited or bespoke products are hoping they can step into the gap.
Gorreri, an Italian handbag maker that specializes in the use of crocodile and snakeskin, has sent its head of sales, Laura Cadei, to Shanghai and Beijing four times in the past year to introduce the brand’s products and she said she is starting to see a response after selling in the country for a year.
“I believe a lot in this market,” she said at the third edition of the Luxury China Expo in Beijing, a trade show that capped its three-day run here last week. The expo attracted about 300 exhibitors including luxury goods companies, sports-car manufacturers and wine makers.
“Our bags are about the materials and design, not the logo and I think people here increasingly appreciate that.”
Another Italian company, Tasselli Cashmere, a producer of fine, logo-free knitted goods, also sees huge potential in China. The company, which exhibited at the China Expo, has opened an office in Shanghai to help win more clients among China’s discerning rich.
Tasselli’s head of Chinese operations, Enrico De Luca, said the brand’s existing Chinese clients behave much like European customers — choosing designs and colors from a look book — but first-time buyers often need educating about the product.
“People don’t really know what artisanal products like ours are. For example, they are surprised when they learn they have to wait up to two months for us the make and deliver the product,” he said.
A Gorreri bag costs between 10,000 yuan, or $1,620, and 80,000 yuan, or $12,961, at average exchange. Tasselli sweaters and jackets range in price between 2,600 yuan, or $421.25, and 25,000 yuan, or $4,051.
“Our philosophy is to make something different, for people who don’t want to be part of the masses, for people who want something excellent,” Cadei said.
She lists politicians, film stars and entrepreneurs among her clients here and says her business is growing despite the crackdown on graft and gift-giving.
“The very rich, the rich and even people from the upper-middle-class buy our bags,” she said. “I am very satisfied with how we are doing.”
Like Tasselli, Gorreri is an older brand, looking for a new lease of life, or at least new customers, in China. Founded in Parma in 1963 by Gino Gorreri, it designed and made one-off handbags for private clients across Europe and took on manufacturing contracts from some of France and Italy’s best-known fashion houses. It fell on hard times as its founder aged, but Cadei says the legacy of excellency persists. To this day, it still buys its leather from Hermès.
Similarly, Tasselli was founded in 1970 in Bevagna, Umbria. It claims 5,000 customers around the world and sees China as the logical next step.
It could be an opportune moment for Gorreri and Tasselli to target Chinese consumers. Analysts and executives have said Chinese consumers have grown tired of obvious logos and ubiquitous brands.
Similarly, I&C, a new Paris-based fashion house, is making China a key part of its strategy. The brand held its launch at the Beijing Expo.
Founded by Pascal Songo, a former footwear designer for Nike and Adidas, the label aims to grow in China before trying to crack the European market.
“It would take us years to break though there,” he said. “By manufacturing in Paris, but designing with the Chinese customer in mind, we hope we can bring something unique to this market,” he added.
The brand, which makes heavy use of patent snakeskin leather and bright colors, makes shoes, bags, trainers and dresses. An I&C bag will retail for about 2,000 yuan, or $324, and a pair of evening shoes for about 1,500 yuan, or $243, he said.
Of course bringing new brands to China is not easy. The premium and luxury market is already very crowded and Chinese customers are increasingly showing an interest in high-end domestic labels.
And while the size of the market is what makes it attractive, it also means it can be hard to find the customers, agents and partners.
“I find out of the hundreds of contacts I make at a show like this, only one or two will be useful,” said De Luca.
Cadei, who lives in Italy, said she is also eager to make contacts in China.
“I am looking for someone, a shop, a VIP shopper, who wants work with us,” she said. “China is the market I am putting all my energy into.”
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye
Did you know: @carlychaikin of "Mr. Robot" has been painting for about a decade? The actress, who plays Darlene on the show, is a self-taught artist who lists Salvador Dalí and Chuck Close as some of her idols. Chaikin told WWD that painting is a form of meditation for her — A much-needed one given the intensity of "Mr. Robot." See a piece Chaikin is working on at WWD.com (📷: @jilliansollazzo) #wwdeye