Popular Media Figure’s Store, Located In Beijing’s Sanlitun Neighborhood, Sells And Promotes Local Brands
We’ve been watching the growing number of domestic Chinese luxury upstarts with a great deal of interest in recent months, from Hermes’ upcoming created-in-China sub-brand Shang Xia to jade and jewelry brands like Zhaoyi, Qeelin and LAN to fashion houses like NE-TIGER and independent designers like Zhang Binqiao. Though local designers and brands are fighting an uphill battle against the Western brands that dominate the Chinese luxury market, this week these newcomers have a powerful ally on their side: Hong Huang (洪晃), a popular media figure, publisher and blogger who has just opened the made-in-China boutique Brand New China (BNC) in Beijing’s swish Sanlitun neighborhood.
A Wall Street Journal profile of Hong and her new store notes that BNC will stock clothing, accessories and furniture by more than 100 designers, which will be sold on consignment at the 540 sq. meter Sanlitun location. Naturally, Hong’s promotion of local brands and designers is not without minor ulterior motives: since many of the designers will be featured in Hong’s magazine iLook, “there’s a potential pay-off for the magazine if local designers grow and have bigger advertising budgets.”
From Hong’s WSJ profile:
[Hong] calls the relationship between her company and Chinese designers a weak-weak alliance. Unlike the Chinese editions of Vogue, Elle and Cosmopolitan, iLook doesn’t have access to globally franchised content or long-established ties with luxury brands. The designers are young, creative talents who lack the funding and experience to build businesses and brands. “[The Western fashion magazines] eat the meat, and we get the soup,” she says.
But the soup might turn out to be pretty meaty. China’s luxury-goods market is expected to grow by 15% in 2010, leading the global market, according to a report by consulting firm Bain & Co. Big fashion brands like Chanel are using more Chinese models at their runway shows, and Liu Wen, a Chinese model, became the first Asian face of Estee Lauder earlier this year. Many believe the timing is ripe for China to have its own Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo, the Japanese designers.
Ms. Hong became fascinated by Chinese designers about five years ago when she saw fashion designs by Wang Yiyang. Branded as “Chagang,” or Tea Mug, Mr. Wang’s designs use elements from the much simpler era of the 1970s, such as a white enamel mug with thin blue rims and tote bags with large print characters such as “Shanghai” or “Beijing.”
“This designer managed to bring the fashion sense of my childhood to the 21st century. I was deeply touched,” she writes in the Editor’s Note in the March issue of this year, which was dedicated to Chinese designers.
Though it’s unlikely that many of China’s most devoted luxury consumers — who have proven themselves thus far to be fixated upon European brands — will flock to BNC, it seems that Hong is actually making a smart move by throwing her weight behind local Chinese designers, who would otherwise have trouble finding a platform for their products. With so many newly-minted Chinese design and fashion graduates returning home from Europe or North America with dreams of establishing their own brands, and many “post-80s” white-collar workers interested in fashion but hamstrung by tight budgets, Hong Huang’s new store could be the perfect meeting place.