Wealthier Chinese consumers have long turned to the West to find the luxury goods they desire. But that could be changing.
To satisfy the cravings of the new upper class in the Middle Kingdom, top-shelf brands made in China that cater to Chinese tastes have begun to emerge as real contenders.
Their market share remains too small to measure, but some experts say it’s the start of a lasting trend.
While you're still more likely to find a Louis Vuitton or Gucci gown hanging in a Chinese wardrobe than an Uma Wang or Masha Ma dress, home-grown brands are taking advantage of a three-fold change.
First, a shift in tastes of wealthy Chinese consumers from big bling to classier offerings. Second, quality improvements have helped nascent brands shed the stigma of “made in China” and put them more on par with global competitors. Finally, a general patriotic sentiment has been brought on by a resurgence of the “Chinese dream” launched by the President Xi Jinping.
“Chinese brands are now coming out into their own,” said Jean-Baptiste Andriani, academic director for the Shanghai branch of IFA, the Paris fashion and design school.
“中国的品牌正不断得到认可，”巴黎时装设计学校IFA上海分校教务总监 Jean-Baptiste Andriani说道。
Some of the Chinese luxury brands and products showing finding appeal with native consumers include The Herborist, Ye Mingzi and Bao Bao Wan.
“Before, people were embarrassed about anything coming out of China. This is no longer the case,” said Shaun Rein, author of The End of Copycat China. “Overall it’s an exciting time for Chinese brands. People are looking for a Chinese lifestyle they can aspire to.”
Take Chinese haute-couture designer Guo Pei's latest collection. Last decade, her extravagant pieces were more about reinterpreting European culture. Now her elaborate red dresses and ethnic designs reference their Chinese roots. Pei said 2008 was a turning point. “I then realised I was proud to be Chinese,” she said.
Despite recent successes, challenges remain for these nascent luxury brands. They don't appear in any of the favoured Top 10 lists of Chinese consumers compiled by research firms and many remain unknown outside of China. Furthermore, they are as expensive as their foreign counterparts, without the glamour to go with the price tag.