The Chinese middle class is not so different from its American counterpart after all.
That’s the conclusion of Huang Hung, chief executive officer of China Interactive Media Group.
Much of that is due to the changing face of China as a country, impacted in part by the leadership transition last fall.
When Xi Jinping took over as General Secretary of the Communist Party, his first edict centered on changing the government’s image via a ban on extravagance and a crackdown on corruption.
That has meant “no more bling,” according to Hung, a nod to past government officials’ ostentatious habits where luxury gifts to them — the favorite being watches — often gave rise to speculation about corruption. One government official was dubbed “The Watch Man” for his predilection for expensive watches, which was shown all over the Web in China. His exposure resulted in a downturn in luxury watch sales in China, Hung said, and, now, “if you go to a meeting in China, you realize everyone is wearing long-sleeve shirts to cover their watches.”
The ban on bling also has impacted the “mistress industry,” the giving of gifts by corrupt officials to their mistresses.
While the stance has resulted in a damper on the luxury industry, the face of e-commerce in China has been booming. Government may put restrictions on media, but it seems to want to promote e-commerce and the growth in small mom-and-pop businesses selling online. That has impacted the changing consumer tastes in China, particularly among the middle class.
On Nov. 11, a quirky online shopping holiday in China called Single’s Day, where some merchants promised discounts of 50 percent for items bought by singles, resulted in what may be the busiest online shopping day in the world.
Hung said that the Taobao site, Alibaba’s consumer-oriented e-commerce platform similar to eBay in the U.S., took in 19.1 billion yuan, or $3.03 billion at current exchange. She noted that’s “more than double 2011’s U.S. Cyber Monday sales in volume.” The dollar amount is also “equal to three weeks of Hong Kong retail sales” based on the average daily sales volume in August.
“The highly educated are already on the Internet,” Hung said. There is also increased penetration of online usage with those age 40 and older, as well as in rural areas.
Compared to when she was growing up, the “next generation grew up with more choices.”
The change in politics has helped, she said, explaining that in the new model, it’s OK to want to be educated and a successful businessman, whereas before the focus was on the red guard.
Homes also are not that different these days from houses in the U.S., giving the younger generation a different lifestyle. That’s compared with when Hung was growing up and a family was expected to live in a dorm room where her father was teaching, as well as share communal space.
On the entertainment front, the availability of material such as television dramas and even pirated DVDs of current movies “flattens the taste of Chinese consumers.”
“The next generation of Chinese consumers are so globalized that the American market can transition to the next generation of Chinese consumers,” she said.
There’s still some paranoia regarding showcasing women in politics — so don’t expect a rush to dress the first lady of China — a leftover stigma attached to Chairman Mao Zedong’s widow, Jiang Qing, who committed suicide while serving a life sentence in prison.
That hasn’t applied to women’s fashion in China today.
“Fashion [in China has] changed because the government has allowed it to change,” Hung said, noting that its stylishness today is an evolution from the traditional drab of Mao suits worn by women in the Seventies.
The future consumers of China are of the Internet generation, and their buying decisions are different from their elders. While the older generation’s early successes had them identifying first with luxury brands as a symbol of having made it, that’s not true of the new generation.
“They don’t need it. They don’t want it. Their buying decisions are more sophisticated than their parents,” Hung said, adding that in China, this group is called “the Eighties and the Nineties” after the years they were born.
Being a part of the age group that easily adapts to modern technology, “the young fashionable Chinese [called the] rich second generation are comfortable buying online,” Hung said.
But she stressed that online shopping is still done “the Chinese way,” showing a slide of a disorganized warehouse with packages strewn all about. Hung admitted logistics remains a major problem in China, saying most e-tailers in the country get around the problem by owning their own logistics companies.
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews