What faces for luxury in China?

The image strategies of luxury brands used in China (both mainland China and Hong Kong) are very different from each other and deserve a closer look. I distinguish three typical cases:

Case 1: Upmarket beauty brands set up shop using European models, thus imposing western beauty standards. In contrast, the mass-market brands chose to use Chinese models – they were obliged to do so considering the specificities of the beauty norms and Asian skin of their clientele. In order to do so, they adopted traditional Chinese beauty standards: oval “porcelain” skin, long and fine eyebrows, small mouth..

Case 2: Fashion brands and luxury accessories, after having also projected an image of Western elegance using ‘Caucasian’ models, deliberately started using Chinese models more and more. Some recent examples are Dior and Coach:

Chinese brands like Chow Tai Fook (jewellery) have followed suit, using ‘idealized’ Chinese models: Chinese with slightly westernized features. This approach is understandable: Chow Tai Fook claims to be (as its name attests) a Chinese luxury brand based on traditional savoir-faire in jewellery whose clientele is essentially Chinese.

Case 3: There remains the case of Chinese brands like Ports1961 that cultivate a thematic that is completely Western. Here again, its image, by and large, evokes the business strategy of Ports: a Canadian brand, acquired by a Chinese family which has been developing it since then as though it were a “stateless” brand, never proclaiming its Chinese mooring (even though today most of its stores are in China). Ports finds itself faced with a major difficulty: the “made in China” label. The brand is afraid that its value will decline in the eyes of its customers if it makes such a claim. I’m convinced, however, that with this approach Ports is heading for a strategic stalemate.

From Brandwatch – Michel Gutsatz – October 28, 2012

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