Norma Kamali

Norma Kamali is no stranger to the Chinese market. But to get her designs in the hands of the growing female middle class there, the traditional route of selling in stores wouldn’t do.

“There’s a difference between the customer who may be in a cosmopolitan city and what she can afford and what her lifestyle is,” Kamali said. “When you go more into mainland China there’s a working girl who I’m very interested in and I think she has a budget. She has responsibilities to her family. She may not be traveling as much as the Hong Kong customer or the Beijing customer, but she is becoming more and more empowered. Career is a very big part of her identity. And I’ve never had the opportunity to reach out to her even though I’ve thought about it for a long time.”

The designer has expanded her distribution channels for the Chinese market by now selling on the Moonbasa platform.

The online marketplace carries fashion brands mostly from China. In 2015, the company — with U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles — began looking to position itself as a platform to U.S. brands looking to expand into the Chinese market. Kamali is a big win for Moonbasa with the line representing the first U.S. designer brand to join the marketplace of American brands on the site, according to U.S. managing director Barbara Graff.

“Moonbasa has been repositioning itself to appeal to the growing middle class [in China] by offering aspirational luxury,” said Graff, who added the company is in talks with other brands in the same category.

The designer took pieces from her Kamali Kulture and wardrobe essentials Solutions lines and put together a special collection for Moonbasa aimed squarely at the Chinese consumer. Kamali Kulture features a variety of machine washable separates such as stretch jersey dresses, joggers and jumpsuits.

“I created the Kamali Kulture line as a result of my experience in learning how to make clothes and market them through e-commerce for a large audience so I really wanted to take a look at China in that way and create a collection that would connect to that consumer that most Americans don’t get a chance to reach,” Kamali said. “I feel I have something to say to her and that I have a product for her. So we’ll see what happens. We’re feeling confident that we will learn a lot about what products do well and what price range does well.”

The designer said it’s too early to assess how the line on Moonbasa is doing and that the main focus in the near term is about marketing the brand to this new group of customers.

“We want to know more than anybody what feedback there is,” Kamali said, “but a lot of what we have to do is build brand awareness and make sure we connect with the consumer so she knows what’s available to her.”

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