03
Jul
2013

Even designer fashion should have luxury manners

In the past week, I have started looking at the promotion of designer brands in China, a niche group of businesses that are only now beginning to gather a following. The challenge for any of these names in the past was that they were unknown, and ‘designer’ cloths meant little to most people. But naturally you have to start somewhere.

What is interesting to note amongst many of the mid range designer names is that they have tried to position themselves as attractive to consumers by setting their prices very high, and assuming that the old adage once used in China ‘high price = luxury’ would stick. Should they be adopting the ‘affordable luxury’ position, and not confusing consumers with the term ‘designer’, or does the designers name really add value to Chinese consumers?

The problem for many of these brands is that their target demographic are young consumers, perhaps up to their mid thirties, and in China, many of these people are middle class white collar types who are more likely to spend 6000 RMB on a nice handbag than 3000 to 4000 RMB on a designer dress; the perception of value is different. Those with plenty of money will buy up from this level in terms of clothing and purchase product from recognised luxury brands because it says more about their status than the designer does. In China, these brands are stuck between mass market and luxury fashion, without a clear value or positioning.

So in order to differentiate themselves and not be seen as overpriced fashion by many who don’t yet understand the value of ‘designer’ anything, they need to deliver an experience in the store that engages the customer in terms of educating them as to the value of designer clothing, and services them like a luxury brand. They need luxury manners with a designer twist, explaining passionately about materials and design are great, as is making genuine recommendations to the customer, but in a respectful and proactive manner.

Its very easy, particularly in China for retail staff in this environment to consider that they are just selling expensive fashion, and not understanding why garments are more expensive. If they themselves cannot see the value of the product they sell, they can hardly be expected to communicate this to those who enter the store. I accept that many people in China will buy designer fashion for the name, and appreciate little about the actual design or materials, but unless these brands are able, via the store experience to show that they really are different, they will always loose out to similar looking items at lower prices.

Adopting luxury manners in China is the first step to success for designer brands in China.

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