Monday, 14 December 2009

go east where the skies are blue

.: zara flagship, tokyo / :.

last friday, inditex group, home to zara and spain's biggest fashion export, reported a 6% rise in third quarter sales this year. it was widely reported that their growth in asia more than offsets the slump in retail sales elsewhere on the continent. in fact, they were all gushing about asia in their financial press release:

"key highlights... openings in asian markets... 90 new establishments... store openings reflect the strategic importance of asian markets... robust growth in china, japan... high points of store launches include flagships in japan and mainland china... in japan, zara now has 50 stores, including a second flagship in tokyo’s shibuya district, which is a must-see global fashion destination... enhances its excellent retail presence in tokyo’s four key shopping areas... in beijing the group celebrated the opening of a flagship in one of the chinese capital’s busiest shopping hubs... number of stores in china to more than 60... the company’s firm commitment to expansion in the chinese fashion market..."

it was like a gushing love letter with no mention at all, about the european, US or middle east market. which all the more makes me curious, just how terrible were the non-asia financials to result in a complete omission. on the same day of zara's financial results release, there was a very interesting article on bloomberg titled "european luxury goods risk cachet with china focus". in it, tyler brule, editor of monocle magazine, expressed his rather interesting view points about the shift in global luxury sales.

.: gucci shanghai bag / :.

"many brands added a little bit of jingle-jangle to their bags and a few shiny zippers and buckles to their shoes, which was not core to their aesthetic before. some of these companies now are putting out products that europeans would not touch.” tyler said in an interview with bloomberg.

to be fair, the gucci bag above with dragons embroidery is made for the opening of the shanghai flagship, and is exclusively available in that store only. perhaps not to everyone's taste, but shockingly i do like it, perhaps in part to my heritage.

i do agree with tyler to a certain point, where certain brands are indeed shifting their design focus. a certain french label totally went harajuku with their spring 2010 offerings, i thought for a moment gwen stefani was one of their latest collaborators. i think it will go down a storm in asia, but will that do as well in europe?

.: exclusive products for chanel shanghai launch:.

chanel travelled to shanghai to showcase their latest collection, and to open a flagship in one of their most important markets. exclusive products include very oriental inspired accessories. doing limited product offerings for a specific region, like gucci did with the special edition bags for their global store launches, makes a good change as they cater to the different tastes, and speak to the various regions in their language.

however changing the whole design focus, adding pink hearts, animated characters etc to products to appeal to the disposable income rich youngsters in asia, somehow neglects their audiences elsewhere. the recession will end someday, markets will pick up, don't be too quick to change your hearts. creativity thrives on adversity. rather than chasing new horizons, maybe some could think about how to gain market share where others have lost.

another thought provoking quote from tyler brule: "i don’t think it’s because people aren’t spending. brands may be consciously deciding to 'show growth' in china at the expense of europe." i agree with him on that. it takes two hands to clap: with neglected investment in europe you can't expect this region to flourish. perhaps it's a combination of a mature market, plus the unwelcome recession.

.: neil barrett flagship store in tokyo :.

growth and investment in asia during the recent years have been widely documented. look at the amazing interior of neil barrett's store in tokyo, designed by the most talked about architect of the moment, zaha hadid. we don't get that anywhere in europe nor the US. is the far east more appreciative of the arts, or has the european market really matured?

.: paul smith tokyo / :.

i read from somewhere, paul smith now has over 200 stores in japan. do we even have that many h&m stores in the uk? one of the projects he did a few months back, was to design 138 bags for 138 stores in japan, each design limited to 10 per store. the bags retail for about £500 each, and were selling like hot cakes. much as i would like him to do something similar here, i think there just isn't an appetite for it.

which goes back to the simple economics logic: demand and supply. there's new found wealth in asia and that brings about considerable demand. it will be a fool to not acknowledge that market. but is it a bubble, will it burst? i find it interesting to watch.



  1. This is my first time to leave a comment (certainly not my last). I have to say the luxury retail in Asia is absolutely phenomenal! Have you all seen the quenes outside LV, Prada, Gucci etc in Hong Kong? When the company CEOs talked about the rise in Asia, they really meant rise in the Chinese markets. I have to say one of the most unforgettable experience of "Crazy Shoppers" is probably the time when I worked for Harvey Nicks...ummm 26th Boxing Day sale... 00o00 you must know. :D

  2. Very interesting post. I believe many Luxury brands have abandoned their core values in the pursuit of the new Asian and Middle Eastern markets. The population alone seems to justify their efforts. However, I do think that long term they will damage their brands. Instead, they should be educating the new consumers with good taste and quality, rather than lowering the quality and taste level for the new market. The new markets may prove to have better taste than the brands assume and they may also prove to be quite fickle.

  3. really like the last 2 sentence

    "The new markets may prove to have better taste than the brands assume and they may also prove to be quite fickle.

  4. Great article : ) and thanks for the quote ; ) that would be great if you could link to in your blogroll : ) thanks !

  5. Great article indeed, 00o00!

    A more journalistic format, one that I would appreciate, if you were to do more of these. :)

  6. i think the reason why there are hundreds of PS in japan is Japanese PS has its individual designs and is not available in UK or international market. Japanese Burberry also owns its individual design as which is not available outside Japan as well. If i am not wrong, i could be Blue and Black lable. it seems like Johny Walker right? Lol.
    p.s. i'm sorry for grammar since English is not my first language nor second.

  7. hmm i would tend to disagree. i don't believe luxury brands are abandoning their core values or damaging themselves. goods that were supposedly catered towards asian tastes were largely limited-edition (and limiting damage if any). asian consumers do not want goods that have been 'orientalised'. this was a trialled and failed method as admitted by tom ford in the past. now how about think why there exists a large amount of oriental-inspired goods, and seemingly more in the west, (look at the latest kate moss topshop)... i hardly believe it is asian consumers buying into them!


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