According to the LBSI survey, Giorgio Armani is the brand most likely to be chosen by men in China for their next luxury fashion purchase. “Armani is well-established, and it’s all about who gets to China earliest,” the Luxury Institute’s Pedraza said. “It’s also about the personality of the founder. There is a halo effect on the brand.” Earlier this year, actor Takeshi Kaneshiro became the first Asian male to appear in an Emporio Armani advertising campaign in China. An Emporio Armani flagship opened in Beijing in 2008, adding to a portfolio that includes six A|X Armani Exchanges, two Giorgio Armanis, two Armani Casas and one Armani Collezioni in the region.
“Louis Vuitton is considered a pioneer in China,” Pedraza said. This month, Vuitton opened a Maison in Macau, the brand’s seventh Maison and fourth store in the former Portuguese colony, WWD reported. A dark, lounge-y area on the ground floor is dubbed Men’s Universe, and is made up of areas for shoes, ready-to-wear, accessories and the first men’s Bag Bar. The three-story unit is connected to One Central Mall, a new retail development with Gucci, Hermès, Tod’s, Kenzo and Ralph Lauren, among others. There were more than 30 million visitors to Macau in 2008, with more than half from Mainland China.
Dior Homme has boutiques in eight Chinese provinces. “Dior as a female brand entrenched itself first,” Pedraza said. “It’s a world-renowned female brand that gained share of mind with men later.” Dior owes much of its success to the deep pockets of parent LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. “They invested heavily in the brand. LVMH understood the market quickly,” Pedraza said. “They have used their firepower.” The label has 35 freestanding men’s stores and accounts for 12 percent of group sales. Christian Dior president and chief executive officer Sidney Toledano said Dior Homme is “growing” and has “great potential,” especially in Asia, WWD reported.
“Paul Smith had early entry into China and good marketing,” Pedraza said. “The British brands also have a great Savile Row reputation.” The label ranked second to Louis Vuitton in the survey for making the customer feel special. The brand opened its first Hong Kong franchise shop in 1990 and is sold at wholesale in 35 countries worldwide, including Singapore, Taiwan, Korea and Japan, which has more than 200 Paul Smith shops. But Smith has closed his stores in Mainland China, which were underperforming and uneconomic.
“Younger men look at Italy as the cornerstone of fashion,” Pedraza said, accounting for the brand’s popularity with the under-30 crowd. “They are willing to dress more trendy and wear boutique brands that give them the opportunity to shine.” More than 23 percent of the 300 men surveyed had purchased Versace in the previous 12 months, making it third in popularity behind Louis Vuitton and Dunhill. In November 2008, Versace presented its first runway show in Beijing, re-creating the fashion house’s Milan event, and used only Chinese models. Actor Jet Li was host of a live auction at the show, which raised $100,000 for earthquake relief work.
YVES SAINT LAURENT
“Gucci Group invested heavily in China despite the [economic] meltdown in the Western world,” said Pedraza, linking YSL’s success to the strategy of its parent company. More than 60 percent of the Group’s total expansion investments are to the Asia-Pacific market, and China, in particular, WWD reported. Gucci Group operates 38 stores in Mainland China. In the first nine months of this year, overall sales of Yves Saint Laurent declined 14.3 percent on a comparable basis, hampered by the slowdown of its traditional markets, which account for 75 percent of sales. In Asia-Pacific, where 14 percent of total volume is generated, sales grew almost 22 percent. Sales of leather goods and shoes remained solid.
Asia was Prada’s largest business in the first half of 2009, representing 25 percent of global sales. In October, the brand unveiled a 13,000-square-foot unit in Singapore’s Ion Orchard mall, its largest flagship in the Asia-Pacific region. The label has seen strong comps across the region, with men’s wear, which accounts for 30 percent of global Prada sales and more than 30 percent in Asia, leading the way, Prada Group chief operating officer Sebastian Suhl told WWD last month. Prada also is looking at new territories, such as Mongolia.
Respondents gave McQueen high marks for uniqueness. “In the case of the Chinese, they are willing to recommend Western brands that are individualistic,” said Pedraza, adding that Chinese men are not purists about luxury. “In the past, luxury goods were a way to fit in, but now it’s a way to differentiate,” said Patricia Pao, founder of New York-based fashion consultancy Pao Principle. “Mainland China was the dumping ground for merchandise, and Hong Kong got the stars. Now it’s about limited edition merchandise. The Chinese also love a deal and a discount.”
Ermenegildo Zegna opened a 7,300-square-foot global concept store designed by Peter Marino in October in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, an urban area in Southern Kowloon popular with Mainland tourists. The brand, which operates 75 stores in 35 Chinese cities, plans to open its second global flagship in China on Shanghai’s Huaihai Road in the spring, along with flagships in four or five key cities. In the LSBI study overall, Pedraza was surprised more Italian brands did not make the cut. “To be candid, they should have been first,” he said. “They have a global reputation as being the best brands, but they came to the party late and underestimated the huge significance of China.”
“They established themselves in Asia through Japan selling classic, American, conservative suits,” Pedraza said. “They have built a solid foundation.” American brands “are seen as more hip and as value for the money,” Pedraza said. “They are fundamental and attainable.” Brooks Brothers opened its first Hong Kong store in 1998 at Windsor House Seibu. Brooks Bros. merchandise can be found in 24 Mainland China locations and 11 locations in Hong Kong.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"