Paul Smith MenÕs Spring 2022

LONDON — Paul Smith is jumping on the Tmall train, soft launching his first flagship on Luxury Pavilion on Monday in a bid to cater to the brand’s “growing Chinese customer base.”

The Paul Smith digital flagship shop for mainland China will stock a selection of Paul Smith spring 2021 men’s and women’s ready-to-wear styles. The linkup with Alibaba’s Tmall will give Smith’s brand access to 900 million Chinese consumers.

In August, the official launch of the luxury flagship will see a wider selection of the new season fall 2021 styles, including informal and sportswear-inspired designs from the recently launched PS Paul Smith Happy collection, which has a distinctive PS Happy logo across separates and accessories designed to appeal to a new generation of customer.

Ashley Long, managing director of Paul Smith Ltd., said the brand was “delighted to partner with Alibaba to launch our official digital flagship on Tmall Luxury Pavilion. This marks a pivotal moment for us as we further expand our presence in mainland China to reach an ever-growing and evolving consumer who is keen to access the rich heritage and craftsmanship of Paul Smith, as well as our diversified core and diffusion lines.”

Long added that the digital reach and “strong digital ecosystem” of Tmall offers Smith’s brand “untapped potential and we look forward to developing our presence through this partnership.”

The British company joins a growing list of luxury and premium brands — more than 200 — that have partnered with Tmall Luxury Pavilion since it launched in 2017. According to Tmall, brands maintain complete control over the look, feel and experience for consumers as well as pricing and merchandising.

The brand, which has a strong presence in Japan — and minority Japanese partners — and South Korea, has made multiple forays into China, first in 2002 and later in 2013.

The first time around, Smith partnered with Bluebell to open stores in mainland China, a venture that lasted five years. Bluebell “persuaded us to open,” Smith told WWD in a 2013 interview.

“They already had a successful business with Paul Smith in Hong Kong and they thought it was time to go into mainland China.” But the stores were done in by larger brands with extensive marketing campaigns, Smith said.

His 2002 venture, he said, “was too early and too secret, in a way,” said the designer, adding that operating in China was challenging for his brand, which does not have any shiny, splashy logos and is not an immediate status symbol.

He made a second foray into the market in 2012 with the distribution partner ImagineX, opening a string of stores in cities including Beijing and Tianjin, which have since shut. The brand has two stores in China, at SKP Beijing and SKP Xi’an.