LOS ANGELES — American Apparel Inc.'s rapid retail rollout is heading to China to coincide with the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
The vertically integrated manufacturer of slim-fit Ts and other perennial basics plans to open stores in Shanghai, Beijing and Suzhou next month.
Fleece hoodies, Tyvek jackets and other items soon to be sold to Chinese youth will continue to be manufactured at the company's downtown Los Angeles headquarters.
The Games, set for Aug. 8 to 24, have intensified foreign retail interest in the rapidly expanding Chinese middle class. American Apparel joins a growing list of foreign companies entering a market flooded with designer labels. With its focus on affordable fashion basics that lack conspicuous logos, American Apparel is a marked contrast to many European brands popular with Chinese consumers.
China has supplanted the U.S. as the top market for retail opportunities, the consulting firm TNS Retail Forward said in a recent report.
Last month, Louis Vuitton unveiled its first TV advertising campaign specifically targeted for fast-growth markets like China, and Fendi is said to have spent $10 million for an October runway show atop the Great Wall of China. Coach, Burberry and Gucci are among the labels that have significant direct retail presence in the world's most populous country.
"We expect to be an anomaly, and we expect it will take time, because we're not interested in chasing the market," American Apparel chief executive officer Dov Charney said. "The [upscale] brands have done well there, because Chinese consumers are a little into the glitz....American Apparel doesn't provide that. There's no status associated with it, so we'll have to appeal to the early adapters who appreciate fit and simplicity."
The brand has proved viable in other Asian markets. American Apparel operates five doors in Japan, three in Tokyo and one each in Osaka and Fukuoka. There are eight additional locations in South Korea.
"Clearly the upscale brands have an advantage in capturing the attention of shoppers [in China]," said TNS senior economist Frank Badillo. "But well-known, midtier brands still have an opportunity, so long as the brand can identify the niche it wants to target."Several foreign midtier brands have already found success in the market, including Swedish retailer Hennes & Mauritz and Spain's Zara, which opened a Shanghai flagship in 2006. It has six doors in Hong Kong and six other locations in Mainland China.
"If you look back 10 years, there was a lot of Chinese government pressure to have foreign companies enter the market via a partnership with a state-owned enterprise," said Doug Hart, a partner in BDO Seidman's retail and consumer products group. "But if the consumer wants certain brands, the government has now realized that it needs to give these foreign companies greater freedom."
However, it is not known whether American Apparel's provocative advertising campaigns will pass muster in China. In September, the government's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television banned TV ads for women's underwear, breast enhancement surgery and sex toys.
Charney said he may use a campaign strategy in China similar to the U.S., with advertisements in a range of publications, from glossy fashion magazines to lowbrow metro weeklies. "I believe Chinese young people will understand the message of the advertising and will connect with it," he said, adding it is possible the brand will opt for a soft launch with little advertising.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast