With Tastes Changing, Understated Luxury Stands To Gain In China

More Seasoned Luxury Buyers Moving Towards “Logo-Lite” Brands

Maison Martin Margiela’s first Beijing boutique opened last year
With more Chinese luxury consumers, particularly seasoned “veterans” in Shanghai and Beijing, moving beyond logo-heavy brands and towards less ostentatious niche brands heavy on heritage, craftsmanship and exclusivity, a window is opening in the country for understated labels. This opportunity is reflected by the gap we see between the stores opening in top-tier cities and second- and third-tier cities. While second-tier Nanning recently celebrated the opening of its first Louis Vuitton store, over the past six months Beijing welcomed brands like Alexander McQueen, Maison Martin Margiela, Marni, Lanvin, Alexander Wang and Sergio Rossi. Less well-known (or counterfeited) in mainland China, but popular elsewhere in Asia as well as Europe and North America, these brands have steadily found new fans among the more fashionable Beijingers.
In addition to these brands, interest is growing among a certain subset of Chinese luxury lover for brands like Céline, Valextra, Delvaux, Chloé and Proenza Schouler. They probably won’t cut back on their beloved Chanel or Gucci completely, but they’ll definitely broaden their horizons.
Despite an expected slowdown in China’s luxury sector this year compared to the red-hot tear we saw in 2010-2011, the market is still expected to register nearly 20 percent growth this year as major brands continue their inland expansion efforts and pent-up demand in second- and third-tier cities is tapped. But with many Chinese shoppers looking beyond the Louis Vuittons, Guccis and Chanels of the luxury world, what can we expect to see in the segment over the remainder of this year?

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