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Fashion & Accessories December 2012

2012 has been a difficult year for many luxury brands in China, particularly those in the fashion and accessory sector that have been here for a long time. As we reported in last months Luxury Insights China, some of these brands are suffering from over-exposure particularly amongst the more experienced consumers who are now looking for more personalised products and services. 

A stitch in 2012 starts a trend

For many of these long standing brands, they must continue their steady store expansion across central and western China, having already exploited the East, North and parts of the South, but how do they keep the existing customer base in these areas engaged? Consumer loyalty in China is generally poor, and their competition is growing, so for many, they need to leverage their existing brand status somehow. The ‘bespoke or customisation’ of clothing appears to be one such lever, although acknowledged as not being a money-spinner for the brands themselves.

Since 2005 Ermenegildo Zegna has been providing a customisation service in its larger stores, the price ranging from 20,000 to over 200,000 RMB depending on consumers’ demands and the materials they select. Customers finally receive their ‘customised’ products directly from Italy approximately 45 days later on their doorstep. Dunhill to has become known for its bespoke and made-to-measure service among Chinese consumers since entering the market. Like Zegna there are two different levels of tailoring services for customers, made-to-measure and bespoke. According to store staff, the price for made-to-measure suits start from 25,000 RMB, while the wholly bespoke suits range from 47,000 to over 200,000 RMB.

In 2012, we have seen the introduction of a ‘customisation service ’from a number of other luxury brands with high profiles in China that would not have offered such a service before.

The Prada stores in Shanghai Plaza 66 and Beijing Shin Kong Place have begun to offer a made-to-measure shirt service for their male customers. They limit the service to 3 different designs, classic, slender and slim fit styles, which are then tailored to the customers’ size. Cuffs with buttons or cuff-link holes, and embroidered initials are also available.

In April this year, Gucci started to offer a made-to-measure service to customers in 11 cities globally. According to their store in Shanghai, all the stock suits, shirts and jackets and shoes can be tailored according to the customers’ measurements, at an additional cost of 10,000 to 20,000 RMB.

In July 2012, the Louis Vuitton Maison reopened in Plaza 66 in Shanghai, the largest flagship store in China. At this time LV launched its hand made customerisation business in Mainland China, they planned to roll the service out across the rest of the country later in 2012. As of writing this piece, the service has not progressed elsewhere beyond Shanghai, perhaps a sign of the take up. According to a senior executive quoted at that time. “In the western world, it would take 20 years to develop the bespoke luxury business, but in China, development of this trend needs only five years”, he considered that the Chinese luxury market has matured enough, and this was a good time to promote its custom business for the second half of this year.

In November this year, Bund 22 opened in Shanghai, a property that has attracted several top boutique luxury brands specializing in bespoke tailoring products (over 80% are virgins to China) demonstrating what it regards as the ultimate luxury lifestyle for the local consumers. It is too soon to know how well it will perform, and we will revisit them in mid 2013 and report back.

This trend is interesting to observe, Zegna and Dunhill have offered the same thing for many years, and it is recognised that as a service, tailoring of this type is not a big money generator, so are LV, Prada and Gucci offering it purely to extend the brand and deliver something new to the consumers that are becoming tired of them? The offering although called customisation, is relatively simple, but the fact that the service is executed overseas allows them to charge significant money for it. Are experienced consumers ready for such a service, or will they see it as a ploy, and ignore it?

Perhaps a customisation service is a too little to late, and they are underestimating consumer sentiment? Perhaps it’s too soon to know, but we hope they are not pinning their success in 2013 on it.


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