Last week at BNC (a store in Beijing selling Chinese designer stuff owned by yours truly), the highlight was when Victoria Beckham came into the store with her kids and entourage! I was told that she picked up some Tang’Roulou children’s wear for her kids.
Now Tang’Roulou is not designed by Chinese; rather it was founded by a French couple living in Beijing. However, it is definitely inspired by modern China. Today, there are more and more expatriates who start their own studios in major Chinese cities. In recent years, the French have really played a major role in the high-end children’s wear market with three brands: Tang’Roulou, Shanghai Trio and Rouge Baiser. This year, the international brands are all coming to China with children’s wear from Kenzo, Dior and Armani. Classical children’s brands such as Jacadi have been in China for much longer.
Chinese wealth is among the youngest in the world and some of the most wealthy are actually parents to toddlers. That and the single-child policy have propelled retail volume of children’s wear to grow at 21.2 percent in major Chinese cities, according to a report published by China Investment Consultants.
Some of China’s elite are already quite familiar with the three French boutiques where high-end children’s wear is sold. Fei Wang, a Chinese pop star, has also bought Tang’Roulou for her children.
None of the boutiques are set up by industry professionals. Take Tang’Roulou, for example: The founders were charity workers who provided life-skill training for rural women in Northwestern China. They soon discovered that these women can sew, so they designed Tang’Roulou to help them generate income.
Aside from Tang’Roulou, there are two other children’s wear brands founded by French women: Shanghai Trio and Rouge Baiser. Both also carry home furnishings such as table top and bed linen. Rouge Baiser specializes in embroidered material while Shanghai Trio has a range of traditional Chinese cotton bed linens.
Other expat businesses include Mary Ching, a Chinese-American who started her own shoe business in Shanghai. In addition, Suzhou Cobblers is another shoe brand started by a Chinese-American woman living in Shanghai.
The biggest problem setting up your own design studio in China is Fapiao, the official invoice issued by the Chinese tax authorities. Most small businesses in China are not officially registered and therefore cannot issue Fapiao for their customers and wholesalers.
Quite a few young designers will ask friends who own registered businesses in China to issue Fapiao for their merchandise. This is all well and good provided your friend will eventually give you the money.
Still, there are more and more non-Chinese who are starting their own businesses in fashion and design in China. It is wild, wild East after all.