Chinese labels flock to Paris to go global in haute couture

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PARIS, October 6 (Reuters) – Chinese fashion brands including Shang Xia, Icicle and Fosun Fashion Group are embracing Paris as a springboard for their international ambitions, opening flagship stores in the city and hiring French designers to hone their credentials.

Chinese buyers are the biggest buyers of luxury goods in the world, including those of big European players like LVMH (LVMH.PA) and Kering, owner of Gucci. But China also has its own fashion companies that are growing rapidly in their country and are now targeting the global market.

Chinese brands are looking to expand overseas, triggering a trend of establishing new brands in the country with the aim of international growth, said Yishu Wang, co-founder of Half a World, a company that offers marketing advice to brands looking to expand overseas.

“The Chinese market is very saturated and its growth has become very, very expensive,” she said, noting that it is easier to find support from investors when you have a big picture.

But in the upper echelons of fashion, Chinese companies, including those that have bought established European brands, have so far struggled to take off in Western markets.

Shang Xia, founded ten years ago by Jiang Qiong Er and the French luxury group Hermes International (HRMS.PA), both of which remain shareholders, began as a lifestyle brand focused on enhancing the Chinese craftsmanship, then developed into ready-to-wear.

Although the label is well known in China, it has yet to achieve the wider commercial success that many in the industry have come to expect.

“Chinese luxury brands are still quite niche,” said Kathryn Parker, luxury industry analyst at Jefferies.

Shang Xia showed his commitment to Paris when he held his first fashion show on the official Paris Fashion Week calendar on Monday, sending a range of models in brightly colored polished suits along a circular runway.

With the support of a new majority shareholder, the family holding company Agnelli Exor (EXOR.MI), the brand recently created a design studio in Paris to complete production in Shanghai.

“It’s a very bold move to do a show at Paris Fashion Week,” said Exor CEO Suzanne Heywood, who is also president of Shang Xia.

FRENCH INFLUENCE

“We are being watched closely,” said Isabelle Capron, international vice president of ICCF, owner of Chinese label Icicle, noting that Chinese companies have so far had limited success in setting up top fashion companies. range with international reach.

The French luxury executive was recruited in 2013 by Shouzeng Ye and Tao Xiaoma, founders of Icicle, who bought the historic French fashion house Carven in 2018 and created the ICCF group in July.

Icicle, with a turnover of 334 million euros in 2020, up 12% compared to 2019, has 270 stores in 100 cities in China. The brand caters to urban professionals with earthy-toned overcoats and suits in high-quality materials, often made with natural dyeing techniques.

The founders of Icicle chose Paris over London, New York and Milan for their investment, the creation of design studios and the recruitment of talent among French luxury brands.

“It’s in Paris that you find the talent to raise the level of the collections so that the brand can reach an international level,” said Capron.

THE RENAISSANCE OF LANVIN

Fosun Fashion Group has strived to revive the historic French brand Lanvin with young international consumers in mind and hired Bruno Sialelli, French designer of the Loewe brand owned by LVMH.

For the spring 2022 ready-to-wear show in Paris, the designer showed fitted evening dresses, worn by models in towering platform shoes with flared heels, as well as a range of handbags and a new pair of futuristic sneakers – accessories are essential for the label’s growth strategy.

Top model Naomi Campbell closed the show by sweeping the podium with a long cape.

Shang Xia executives said they are looking to expand their customer base among younger consumers, add new stores in Asia this year, and go digital beyond China next year.

“We are looking for new ways to embrace digitization,” said Jiang Qiong Er, founder of Shang Xia, who came from Shanghai for the Paris show.

Shang Xia’s new creative director, Yang Li, said he seeks to apply Asian and Oriental design principles to products, highlighting a bag from the collection in the shape of a triangle.

“In our culture, when we define shapes, they are absolute and pure,” he said.

“What I want to do here is say that China is not only a market, but also a creative force,” Yang Li added.

Reporting by Mimosa Spencer. Editing by Jane Merriman

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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