Anatomy of a Chinese Luxury Fashion House

Episode 11: Tiffany Ap

Source: Luxuo

There’s a whole lot of talk about Made in China 2025, but will that rhetoric apply to the idea of Chinese luxury?

On the show this week we had Tiffany Ap, China Bureau Chief of Women’s Wear Daily. Tiffany was particularly well versed in everything at the intersection of retail, luxury, and Asia. After meeting up at WeWork in Wanchai, Hong Kong, I couldn’t stop obsessing over the potential future of a Chinese luxury house. This may be far in the future, considering there isn’t even the same notion around American luxury yet as European luxury.

Chinese consumers are attracted to foreign brands precisely because of who they are — an aesthetic, essence, and culture that screams desirability and exclusivity. Brands with stories, craftsmanship, and creative points of view seem to be successful with millennials in China.

The Chinese consumer is nothing to scoff at. 46% of all the world’s luxury goods are bought by Chinese shoppers. Western luxury brands have invested heavily in the Chinese market, employed Chinese-speaking staff at retail locations, and dedicated significant promotional efforts.

I don’t think I hit this point home hard enough during the interview — if China consumes and produces most of the world’s clothing, why are Chinese people still wearing clothes primarily designed in America, Europe, and Japan?

I asked Tiffany, ‘what will the vision and anatomy of a Chinese luxury house look like?’ It’s a difficult question to grapple with and she provides a satisfying answer during the podcast. It would be too easy to fall into step with what Western brands are putting out there, but Chinese designers need to tell their story — one with ancient history bound in materials and design that evoke Chinese culture.

One thing I am keeping my eye on is the development and rise of young Chinese designers. These are likely going to be the force behind a future luxury house.

In particular, NYFW spring ’18 featured an uncharacteristic level of Chinese influence. Of the 140 designers that showed at New York Fashion Week, 20 are either from China or have Chinese heritage — that’s 14% of the total line up! When including shows not on the official calendar there was a total of 31 Chinese designers, a 200+% increase from prior years.

China’s domestic market hasn’t fully come around to the idea of local brands, but there is an emerging shift by millennials to develop their own fashion voice.

Referenced Readings:

Ta for Ta is a new bi-weekly podcast dedicated to capturing the narratives of women in Greater China at the top of their professional game. Ta for Ta, is a cheeky play on the Chinese spoken language demonstrating equality between the sexes. Ta 他 is the word for “he”, and ta 她 is also the word for “she”.

Listen to Episode 11: Tiffany Ap wherever you get your podcasts. Ta for Ta is powered by the Sinica network and SupChina.

Questions, comments, general musings can be directed towards ta.for.ta.china@gmail.com.