Byline: Robert Murphy

PARIS — France and China have sealed a bilateral initiative pledging to foster cooperation between the two countries’ garment industries.
Signed Monday evening in Paris between the Chambre Syndicale president Didier Grumbach and Wang Qing, president of China’s National Garment Association and China Fashion Designers Association, the accord marks the first step toward China opening to greater penetration from French fashion houses.
Grumbach said the pillar of the accord was China’s promise to crack down on rampant product counterfeiting.
“If French designers can rest assured their products will not be copied, then they will more readily jump into the Chinese market,” said Grumbach.
Another key point of the accord, which at present remains largely a letter of intent, is “intensifying communication between [China and France] to advance better understanding.”
“China is a very complex market,” said Grumbach. “Without proper guidance, a European designer is lost. This accord maps out a plan to provide guidance and counsel to those interested in China.”
Wang said: “This accord signals the beginning of close cooperation between France and China. France is home to the best-known fashion brands in the world. Paris is the capital of fashion and we want to open China to that market.”
Wang added that the accord also calls for work at the government level to alleviate trade barriers, including quotas and levies, that have traditionally hindered business between France and China.
“We want to diminish obstacles and build bridges,” said Wang, pointing to a clause for Chinese fashion students to study design and production in France. The accord also calls for the Chinese Federation to promote French fashion brands and designers in its official fashion industry publication, Fashion China.
“We will strive to organize visits for Chinese and French designers and manufacturers to each respective country,” Wang said. “There are differences and they must be understood for the relationship to bear fruit.”
Grumbach said he was prompted to seek an accord with China because the country “will one day be the biggest market in the world.”
“Demand is high for French products in China,” added Grumbach. “But a brand must tailor those products to the Chinese market.”
Grumbach said he envisions French designers setting up licensing agreements in China as a result of the initiative.
“This doesn’t mean creating products that have no integrity,” he said. “Rather, it should be more like a secondary line, geared towards the Chinese market, that reflects the designer’s personality. I can even see a product created for China, with time, being rolled out internationally.”
The accord should improve luxury distribution for French products in China, too, said Grumbach, adding that currently, most luxury products are limited to distribution in five-star hotels for lack of a reliable alternative.
This is the second initiative by French fashion’s governing body in less than a year designed to fight product copying. Last June, the Chambre Syndicale and Italy’s National Chamber of Fashion signed an agreement to cut down counterfeiting. As reported, that accord also laid the framework for Milan and Paris to work in concert to smooth over fashion show calendar disputes.