SHANGHAI — When it comes to fashion in China, the focus tends to be on foreign brands entering the market and quickly expanding here. They tend to overshadow China’s own crop of homegrown brands — some of which have thousands of stores but practically no name recognition internationally.
In many cases, Chinese textile manufacturers “who cut their teeth” making apparel for Western retailers decided to start their own fashion lines for the domestic market, according to Torsten Stocker, a Greater China partner at the consulting firm Monitor Group.
These players were able to expand at breakneck speed by working with diverse networks of distributors, franchise partners and business partners. “Basically, [the brands] didn’t have to invest their own capital,” Stocker said. “That is how they managed to scale up so quickly.”
Yet many say there are signs that the initial boom for domestic retailers is coming to an end, especially as consumer tastes become more sophisticated, exposure to foreign brands in smaller cities increases and China’s economic growth slows.
Now simply opening stores and selling products does not work. “Very few have merchandisers who can put together a real look and feel for the season. There are very few people who can manage the retail shops at an operational level. There are very few people who can actually build a brand,” Stocker said. “The slowdown in demand is just exposing some of this.”
Analysts say they expect some domestic fashion brands to fail while others will close stores, streamline operations and adapt to a new, more competitive marketplace. Nevertheless, the sheer size and wealth of many of China’s big brands means they likely will be around for a while, and perhaps even become household names in markets beyond China.
Here are seven of China’s biggest fashion brands worth watching:
Metersbonwe is China’s answer to Hennes & Mauritz. Founded in the mid-Nineties by Zhou Chengjian, an entrepreneur from Zhejiang Province, the brand is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and has more than 4,500 stores on the Mainland.
Known as one of China’s most famous casualwear brands, the retailer is popular for its affordable fashion targeting young customers. The company’s revenues for the third quarter ending Sept. 30 were 2.6 billion yuan ($416.3 million at current exchange), a 13 percent decrease from the same period in 2011. Profits for the third quarter were 319.7 million yuan ($51.3 million), down from 369.2 million yuan ($59.2 million) in the third quarter of 2011.
Metersbonwe is gearing up for international expansion within the next several years, according to a company spokeswoman, who said the retailer is eyeing North American and European markets. She could not confirm any plans for specific store openings outside of China.
While Metersbonwe is the company’s main brand, parent company Metersbonwe Groupalso has a number of other smaller labels, including Me & City, which targets young white-collar workers seeking fashionable clothes, and urbanwear brand Tagline.
According to Jeff Zhou, an associate with Mandarin Capital Partners in Shanghai, Metersbonwe is beginning to struggle as it faces stronger competition from brands, like H&M and Zara, that are expanding in China. “I don’t think Metersbonwe will disappear, but in the short term, they must figure out what to do. The next decade could be very difficult for them,” he said.
A new Joan Rivers coffee table book, titled “Joan Rivers Confidential,” gives readers never-before-seen photos and letters of the late comedian throughout her life. “Because of her drive to always be fresh, she kept records of every appearance, every performance, all the jokes that were used on TV, all the clothes that were worn,” said Rivers’ daughter Melissa. Here, Rivers poses at the “Tonight Show” in Tracy Mills in 1985. Read more about the book and see more photos at WWD.com. #wwdeye
After a career at New York hot spots like Narcissa, Dovetail and Nix, @chefjfraser has expanded to the West Village with The Loyal, a modernized take on an American brasserie. “And as I’ve gone through my career I’ve felt some departure from that kind of simple, straightforward [cooking]. This is meant to take on the idea of ‘what if the American brasserie was invented today?’” #wwdeye (📷: @chinseephoto)
@bellahadid and @lilyaldridge at @bulgariofficial’s celebration on Friday night, toasting the brand's new Peter Marino-designed flagship on Fifth Avenue. The two-part event included a cocktail party at the store followed by a dinner at a mystery location — the Met Cloisters. #wwdeye
From overseeing America’s fastest-growing speciality retailers to codifying cool, WWD talked to the women who are leading the way for the future of beauty. Check out our Instagram Stories to see how these women built today and are creating tomorrow. (📸: @hannah_khymych) #wwdbeauty
For @laperlalingerie's spring 2018 show, the brand chose to host their event at @thevenetianmacao. With Chinese megastars @bingbing_fan and @hubing in attendance, La Perla debuted a rock ‘n’ roll-inspired collection. The show marked the start of Sands Macao Fashion Week, which runs from October 19 to 24 — the city’s first such event. Pictured here are models backstage with glimmering eyes. #wwdfashion (📷: Cheuk-Yin To)
Trending for spring 2018: top stitch design. Gone are the days of stitch just for seams — designers are using the once-minimal detail to create strong decorative elements. (📷: Paola Testa; Styled by @andrew_shang) #wwdfashion
@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