Posts by barbara

China Still Untapped for Active Brands

A shift in beauty standards, increase in sports participation and a desire for fashionable athletic attire drives a new generation of Chinese women.

This fitness boom among women in China marks a departure from the country’s long-held beauty standards of extreme, waif-like thinness as the ideal to an acceptance of more defined and shapely figures.

It has been spurred, as with many other trends among the country’s growing middle class, by a national obsession with sharing an aspirational lifestyle on the country’s most prevalent social networks, WeChat and Sina Weibo, as well as the influence of celebrities and key opinion leaders, commonly called KOLs here.

Accordingly, the number of marathons organized in China increased from 22 in 2011 to 123 in 2015, with over a million participants, according to statistics from the General Administration of Sports of China.

According to data from Euromonitor, China’s health and wellness boom has driven sportswear growth to a point where it threatens to overtake luxury goods by 2020.

Euromonitor estimates the sector will reach a retail value of more than 300 billion yuan, or $45.85 billion, by 2021, up from 187 billion yuan, or $28.58 billion, in 2016.

One thing brands can’t count on from Chinese Millennial consumers is loyalty. A 2016 UBS survey showed the under-35 set in China to not only be less loyal than the previous generations but also less loyal than their Millennial counterparts in the U.S.

It’s not just smaller international sportswear brands poised to take market share from the sector’s major players.

International fast-fashion retailers such as H&M and Uniqlo are also proving popular with Chinese sportswear consumers and are likely to pose the biggest threat to the likes of Nike and Adidas. There is room for smaller US brands in the activewear category like Lulu Lemon who has been very successful entering the market with it’s multi pronged approach to engaging this customer.

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Chinese Consumers Are Driving the High-End Athleisure Market, Which Is Poised to Overtake Luxury by 2020

Maia Active founder Lisa Ou remembers a time in China, just five years ago, when exercising was an all-out event. Getting a workout meant buying all the right gear, piling into a Jeep and driving to the side of a mountain and doing a day-long hike. It also meant big-name, all-encompassing sports brands, like Nike and Adidas, were front and center for consumers.

China’s health and wellness boom has driven sportswear growth to a point where it threatens to overtake luxury goods by 2020, according to a Euromonitor International report. In many cases luxury brands like Chanel and BMW are even beginning to embrace it. In response, the activewear market is rapidly starting to diversify, making room for smaller brands hoping to capture an increasingly discerning group of Chinese consumers. For these activewear shoppers, working out is less of an event and more of a lifestyle.

Ou knew this when starting her brand last year. With a fashion background—she graduated from Parsons School of Design and did a stint with J. Crew—she noticed a major gap in the market when she came to China. Simply put, she couldn’t find gym clothes she liked.

She noticed many of the international brands’ clothing weren’t well-suited to Chinese body types or to the climate. So she set off to create a higher-end, functional, stylish brand that would appeal specifically to Chinese consumers, with quality fabrics and a price tag that would be competitive with some of the leading international fitness apparel brands on the scene.

“Everybody can see that this market is going to be one of the biggest, and people want to have options,” Ou said. “The market is shifting in that consumers really want to express themselves and not have the same item as everyone else.”

The proof so far, is in the sales. Since launching Maia Active in June 2016, Ou says Maia Active sales have grown five times from February to July, and she expects growth to continue at this rate. Most of her sales are currently through online channels, including Tmall. But, being a premium brand, she also does pop-up shops at luxury hotels and sells at boutique gyms. One such gym is Space Cycle, sandwiched between shops like Christian Louboutin and Kenzo in Beijing’s upscale shopping center Swire Taikoo Li.

Space Cycle, which is less a gym than it is a platform for fashion and fitness experiences, is one of those examples in China where luxury and fitness markets seem to collide. The gym claims to boast a membership portfolio that includes famous Chinese fashion KOLs and CEOs of big-name brands, who enjoy events and collaborations at the gym with brands like Mercedes-Benz and Armani. It’s here that Chinese activewear brands like Maia Active and Particle Fever are finding a market, and Ou said she believes it has a lot to do with how the definition of luxury is changing for China’s rising middle class.

“In the past you see people who want to buy luxury goods because they want to be seen carrying something that represents them, and they need the item to prove their status,” she said. “The shift of mentality that I personally see is people are more willing to invest in themselves, such as by traveling, going to cooking classes, or exercising. It’s not about a bag you wear everyday to show that you have money, but more about mental enrichment.”

Supermodel He Sui (right) with Lane Crawford stylist Lando (left) wearing Helen Lee at the Lane Crawford pop-up. Photo: Courtesy of Lane Crawford
China’s leading luxury department store Lane Crawford is also recognizing this shift in attitude and how it plays into fashion. Lane Crawford has a whole roster of international boutique sportswear brands and collections in its stores, ranging from Perfect Moment and Live the Process to Adidas and Stella McCartney.

But in a sign that things are diversifying even further, this month Lane Crawford hosted its first fitness apparel pop-up featuring local designers. After receiving positive feedback from The Fit Room, a section of the department store that debuted last year, it launched Fitness x Fashion, featuring collections Chinese designers Helen Lee and Particle Fever, which was a winner in Lane Crawford’s Creative Call Out last year. The designers worked with Woolmark to launch two trendy, sustainable, and stylish capsule collections featuring Merino wool. Chinese supermodel and fitness enthusiast He Sui was the feature KOL for the collections.

Lane Crawford is well-known for its support of local designers, but its China VP Irene Lau said its decision to feature ones that focus on activewear was a move that reflected the shift in health and wellness as a lifestyle choice. Lau said it’s social media that largely drives these trends as young consumers are increasingly exposed to fitness and lifestyle icons both local and international.

“[These consumers] are looking for brands that successfully mix the sense of fashion with fitness,” she said. “The pieces that can easily work with their wardrobes are preferred.”
Particle Fever, one of Lane Crawford’s featured brands whose co-founder worked with Lady Gaga on her album ARTPOP, is finding a huge fanbase on social media for its eccentric, artsy, and fashionable spin on technical sportswear. Their collections are primarily unisex and offer the wearer multiple styles and ways of wearing one garment. Co-founder 9JIN says she is confident that as Chinese gym-goers become more educated on the possibilities for quality fabrics and style, they are increasingly ready for something a little more unconventional.

“Chinese consumers are very smart and international right now, and sometimes, they are under-estimated,” she said. “We have launched so many very edgy pieces at the very forefront of sportswear design, and they are all being well-accepted.”

 

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Norma Kamali Photoshoot in Shanghai for us.moonbasa.com

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What China’s $1 Trillion New Silk Road Spells for Fashion

What China’s $1 Trillion New Silk Road Spells for Fashion
Beijing’s ‘One Belt One Road’ is a highly ambitious attempt to shake up the global economic order with major implications for the fashion industry.

BEIJING, China — In January, the first train from Yiwu — a city situated in eastern China — arrived in London after spending 18 long days on the rails, crossing Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany and France, bringing containers filled with various goods including clothing.

Navigating a complex intercontinental network of rails across a grand total of 12,000 km, the ambitious route — less costly than air yet comparatively faster than sea — intends to usher in a new era of freight transportation from China to Europe. As the 15th European city added to China’s international rail network, the Yiwu-London route is just one of many legs of a global initiative that will have a momentous impact on the garment and textile industries.

Nearly 2,000 years since traders first brought silk out of China and over seven centuries since the arrival of Marco Polo, textile and apparel industry leaders across three continents are eager to reap the results of One Belt One Road [OBOR]. But what exactly is this enigmatic plan with the potential to reshape world trade as we know it?

OBOR is a colossal China-led project that aims to become an interconnected network of ports, roads, railways, air routes and even resource pipelines, ultimately connecting Asia with Europe and East Africa. Thanks to existing global supply chain networks, the knock-on effect has the potential to impact economic corridors worldwide.

While some describe OBOR as a Chinese master plan to rewrite the world order akin to the US-led Marshall Plan for Europe after the Second World War, the Chinese see OBOR as fitting neatly into President Xi Jinping’s role as the new protector of globalisation and free trade in the absence of American leadership. Speaking emphatically at the World Economic Forum earlier this year, Xi’s voice was in sharp contrast to President Trump’s protectionist stance.

The sheer scale of OBOR is staggering. According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the aggregate investments related to OBOR are estimated to be upwards of $1 trillion; meanwhile, a 2016 report by professional services firm PwC stated that as of February 2016, a value of $250 billion in projects had already been completed, commenced or signed into action.

Last month during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing, China signed agreements with over 30 new countries – bringing the total to 68 – while Xi pledged to contribute an additional 100 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) to the Silk Road Fund. Yet four years after Xi’s initial announcement, the inner workings of the project remain shrouded in mystery. With a bar set so high, one can’t help but wonder if OBOR will deliver.

Sceptics in the West

In parts of the West, scepticism is running high. In the eyes of many analysts and investors, Xi’s extravagant rhetoric ostensibly diverges from the reality that is. “The impact of the Belt and Road project on the European economy is widely thought to be slight — positive if the initiative is focused on improving transportation infrastructure, modestly negative if trade integration with China reduces European exports to Central and South Asia,” writes Bruno Maçaes, a political scientist and business strategist, in a report for Carnegie Europe.

Some critics are calling into doubt both the viability and reciprocity of Xi’s ambitions. According to a piece in the Financial Times by Jörg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, five trains packed with cargo depart from the western Chinese city of Chongqing for Germany each week, yet only one full train returns with European goods. This inability to maximise the two-way flow of goods is one of the ultimate shortcomings of the project, particularly for fashion.

Today, despite mounting challenges from India — as well as increasing domestic wages — China remains the largest exporter of textiles and garments worldwide. At the bottom segments of the market, European demand for Chinese products far exceeds the reverse; meanwhile, in the premium and luxury segment, Chinese demand for Western goods may not be enough to render the railway economically viable, even if China remains the world’s largest luxury market, accounting for 50 percent of global purchases.

At the more affordable end of the fashion market, attention still seems to be focused on sea transport. According to Iñigo Sáenz Maestre, a spokesperson for H&M, the company “is focusing on efficient and simplified logistics — transport by sea and avoiding air and road transport — whenever possible.” As of 2017, approximately 90 percent of the fast fashion giant’s goods were transported by either sea or rail (the exact breakdown is unavailable), including those headed to China from the company’s European suppliers.

Rail transport to and from China only represents a minor part of overall freight volume, but the benefits are already significant.
Compared to equivalent sea routes, the Yiwu-London train ride takes half as much time; compared to air travel, railways offer greater volume per journey at a lower price. According to SeaIntel, a container shipping market intelligence consultancy based in Copenhagen, rail transport is expected to grow rapidly over the next decade, potentially taking market share from ocean transport in the process.

For brands like H&M, this could mean replacing some of its sea freight with rail transport in the future. And for luxury groups, which tend to dispatch a greater proportion of their goods via air, OBOR provides a direct opportunity to reduce coat and carbon footprint with freight train.

“Over the next one or two years, rail transport to and from China will only represent a minor part of the overall volume, but the benefits from being on board are already significant,” predicts Ole Kehler, route development manager at DSV, a Danish transport and logistic company.

A modest view of OBOR “ignores both the ambition and the long-term impact of the project, once its purpose has been properly understood,” adds Maçaes. The China-Britain Business Council, for instance, expects that major opportunities will arise alongside OBOR, particularly in infrastructure and logistics, as well e-commerce — all of which are intimately connected to the project’s railway initiatives.

To their point, at least one major player — the Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba — is eager to tap the growing rail network. Earlier in January, when the train arrived in London, the Bulgarian government and Xinhua, China’s official press agency, jointly reported that Alibaba was scouting for locations and considering the construction of a European logistics centre in Bulgaria, with the primary intention of backing up their operations in Europe.

This past April, as the London-Yiwu train prepared to return to China, Alibaba began its search for warehouse locations adjacent to the rails of the new route, with hopes of optimising its reach throughout Europe with new hubs, expediting its deliveries. In a certain light of optimism, OBOR has the potential to become Alibaba’s long-sought launchpad into the European market to challenge Amazon.

As for the lack of demand for freight transport by rail from Europe to China, perhaps this too will change as an increasing number of upmarket European brands begin to sell through Chinese e-commerce giants like Alibaba and JD.com.

Transformation and Conflict in Asia

A little closer to home, China’s Asian neighbours are caught in a similar bind between hopeful optimism and intensifying scepticism, as OBOR-related projects such as the Jakarta-Bandung railway continue to be plagued by severe delays and swelling expenses in Indonesia.

Nevertheless, countries like Myanmar, for instance, which reopened its economy in 2012 following intense political reforms, have plenty to gain from OBOR. In particular, with the EU and US lifting sanctions in recent years, “Myanmar is now regarded as a newly emerging destination for businesses on account of its strategic geographical location,” writes Daw Chaw Chaw Sein, a member of the Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies

In terms of the fashion industry, Myanmar’s textile and garment manufacturing sector currently account for approximately 10 percent of the country’s total exports — and the market continues to grow, with a total export revenue target of $12 billion by 2020. In terms of production, the country’s minimum monthly wage in 2015 sat just shy of $70 — a significantly lower rate than neighbouring Vietnam and Cambodia — making the country an especially attractive location for high street retailers like the Gap, H&M and Primark, all of which manufacture in the South East Asian nation.

By opening up new trade corridors to link the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan with South Asia through Myanmar, OBOR provides much-needed infrastructural upgrades for the formerly economically isolated country — all of which are essential for Myanmar to meet its 2020 goals. As part of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, Myanmar’s garment industries can potentially increase productivity and efficiency in supply chains as well, while opening up trade with the rest of Asia, Europe and Africa through OBOR.

But while the plan looks good on paper, several obstacles remain. “Beyond the technical dimension, the problems faced [with regards to OBOR] are of a geo-economic, political and strategic nature,” says Dr Jean-Michel Valantin, lead senior analyst at think tank Red (Team) Analysis Society.

As Sein explains, “Myanmar is important for China’s landlocked southwestern provinces’ market access to Bangladesh and India through transit trade instead of China’s eastern coast.” But although Bangladesh is openly receptive to the initiative, India — notably absent from the Belt and Road Forum this past May — has objected to OBOR altogether on several grounds, citing geopolitical antagonism related to another leg of OBOR: the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, highlighting yet another dimension of challenges for the ambitious project.

Potential Success in East Africa

Despite the mounting scepticism and rising obstacles, China’s ambitions have not been fruitless. Africa has been hailed the next frontier for both fashion retail and apparel sourcing with high street and budget labels like H&M and Primark already manufacturing in East Africa, China’s aspirations are already manifesting themselves throughout the continent by means of highways, airports and high-speed rails — many of which are constructed by Chinese companies and will bear significant consequences for the garment industry. Though officially outside the reach of OBOR, these projects are effectively laying the groundwork for its extension.

“China is a continental-sized economy facing tight resource constraints; home of the world’s largest and an ageing population, its slowing economy offers cheap capital and internationally competitive industrial — including infrastructure — capacity,” explains Dr Lauren Johnston, an academic specialising in China-Africa relations at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. “Africa, in contrast, offers a fast-growing and young population, and relatively high natural resource and arable land levels per capita; on the whole, it is in need of massive infrastructure investment, affordable financial capital and investors with an appetite for risk.”

As Dr Johnston highlights, while the 2016 minimum wage in China’s manufacturing cluster in Guangdong province is approximately $300 per month, in Ethiopia’s Hawassa Industrial Park — one of the country’s premiere industrial areas centred on textile and garment products — workers’ wages average merely $50 monthly, amongst the lowest in the world. Already, the budding manufacturing hub has attracted the attention of Western operators such as PVH and H&M, both of which intend to source from the park.

Chinese firms like Wuxi Jinmao, which produces garments mainly for export to the US — occasionally for brands under PVH’s umbrella, as well as Huajian, a shoe manufacturer for brands like Clarks, Calvin Klein, and even Ivanka Trump — have already invested heavily in the area.

Major opportunities could arise alongside OBOR, particularly in infrastructure, logistics and e-commerce.
“In essence, countries like Ethiopia stand to benefit from China’s fading demographic dividend and rising wages [and] level of development, and use related labour-intensive textile manufacturing and light industrial opportunities to ultimately realise a similar gradual industrial transformation [as China’s],” adds Dr Johnston.

Through an interconnected Africa via OBOR, presently nascent garment manufacturing hubs on the continent are breaking down some of the general barriers in place, expediting their evolution into international factories. Indeed, many local businesses have already begun to reap the rewards of OBOR as well.

“It’s important to note that China is not just investing in trains connecting Ethiopia to other African nations but has also built the rail link from Ethiopia to the port [in the neighbouring country of] Djibouti,” says Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, founder and chief executive of the Ethiopian footwear brand SoleRebels, referring to the $3.4 billion China-built electric railway connecting Ethiopia — an otherwise landlocked country — to the ocean, which launched earlier this year.

A logistic upgrade of this magnitude, Alemu emphasises, will bear significant consequences for her budding business, which produces its own inputs locally through small-scale local facilities and exports worldwide. “This will have a major impact on transit time and transit flows reducing them from two to four days to just under ten hours to deliver goods from Addis Ababa [Ethiopia’s capital] to the port.”

“To give a very vivid example, one of the shoe factories in our ‘Made by Ethiopia’ programme [of which Alemu is the chief executive] is situated one kilometre from the start of the rail line. This means that they can have goods out the factory door and on the way to port within 25 to 45 minutes of being packed out at the factory. That’s a paradigm shift for delivery and one that is in line with how global consumers want and need products to flow.”

In nearby Kenya, China’s reach is continuing to expand, with locals hopeful that the economic initiative will yield similar upgrades, which are much desired in the region. Currently, infrastructure upgrades include the China-invested standard gauge railway in Kenya, scheduled for completion by the end of this year. The $3.8 billion and 609 km-long railway will connect Mombasa’s ports to the capital of Nairobi, bearing the potential to impact both textile imports and garment exports.

“Most of the manufacturing units for apparel are in Nairobi and its environs, and most fabric for those factories arrives by ship to Mombasa, so [this route] will be convenient,” says Ann McCreath, the managing director of KikoRomeo Africa and founder and chairman of the Festival of African Fashion and Arts. “I assume the more standard items are also sent [out] by sea, so again the route to Mombasa is critical.”

In spite of such infrastructure groundwork and China’s recent commitment of $60 billion in development aid to Africa during 2016-2018, most of which are in the form of patient capital, critics believe that China’s relationship with Africa is not as mutually beneficial as it should be.

What’s Next?

Despite early signs of OBOR’s success, as critics continue to lament, four years have passed since the global initiative was first cast under the spotlight. Today, the official plans remain still fragmented and murky at best. Admittedly, the pace of development of OBOR does seem slow, but perhaps that is the point. As some scholars of China are quick to point out, unbarred by the relatively short nature of Western political terms and regular elections, President Xi does not need to produce immediate effects in the same way that Western leaders do.

But regardless of whether Xi’s initiative is the manifestation of a geopolitical “will to power” or a genuine economic partnership in good faith (in reality, most experts believe it is a mix of both), no one can deny its potential to send shockwaves across sectors, directly influencing the future of the garment and textile industry on three different continents and act as a competitive advantage to trade with the other two continents — precisely the way Xi intended it to.

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China KOLs are ‘a true media vehicle’

China’s key opinion leader economy is forecast to top Rmb 100bn next year as brands flock to influencers to promote their products.

“More than in any other country, [KOLs] have taken the lead to be a true media vehicle,’ according to Greg Paull, principal of R3, a global marketing consultancy.

“Much like you would use a TV campaign or other promotion, most marketers in China have a KOL strategy,” he told the Financial Times.

That’s true of all categories, from FMCG to luxury. And while it’s not necessarily cheap – luxury watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre is reported to have paid “at least” Rmb5m ($731,000) to run a campaign with girl-next-door vlogger Papi Jiang – it can be very effective: Jaeger-LeCoultre’s brand awareness more than doubled.

And when designer Michael Kors threw a birthday party for actress Yang Mi, she shared it with her 72m followers on Weibo and received more than 12m comments and likes.

“We have clients who move all of their advertising online and KOL endorsement is the primary driver outside of Baidu search,” said Brian Buchwald, cofounder and chief executive of consumer research company Bomoda.

“They are trying to put as much money into KOLs as they can.” The KOL economy is projected to double in two years, from Rmb 53bn in 2016 to Rmb102bn in 2018, according to consultancy form Analysis.

And ever-increasing amounts are being devoted to livestreaming, which has taken off in a big way, with more than 200 livestreaming apps available, including Weibo, although there is always the threat of a crackdown by government authorities seeking to control the dissemination of online content.

From an advertiser’s point of view one of the attractions of livestreaming, according to Buchwald, is that “a lot of platforms have a greater level of interactivity between the KOL and the watcher. They encourage live engagement . . . with the KOLs.”

Advertisers also need to remember that viewers themselves are generally platform-neutral and follow the person.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff

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Chinese Millennials Evolve with Desire for Self Actualization

How Self-Actualization Became the New Luxury for Chinese Millennials
Jasmine Bina July 3, 2017

Jing Daily

As generations evolve, so too do their markers of luxury. Price points, heritage and access barriers that once defined luxury along a clear spectrum have given way to something more multi-dimensional for Chinese millennial consumers. Whether post-80s, post-90s or even post-95s, this powerful demographic is redefining what affluent consumerism means, and just as they seek more latitude in their personal identities, they are also expanding the definition of new luxury.

Much like their western counterparts, Chinese millennials are supporting a much more fragmented luxury ecosystem than ever before, creating room for new brands that don’t fit the typical narrative. Brands like Thom Browne, A Bathing Ape, Sandro and Vêtements are capturing affluent dollars that may have otherwise been spent on traditional names like Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

Unlike their western equivalents, however, Chinese millennials have created a value system of human intangibles that speak to their own unique needs and experiences. It’s those nuanced intangibles that underlie the emergence of new luxury today—a new luxury that creates connection on multiple levels.

Mining the value of today. There’s a growing need for self-actualization among affluent Chinese millennials, evidence of which is popping up across the luxury sector. From travel to apparel and business, realizing one’s potential in the here-and-now is becoming more and more important.
This is the first generation to widely accept short-term debt in exchange for instant gratification, placing less emphasis on long-term financial planning than their parents did. A combination of relaxed policy and easy lending options, along with near-ubiquitous mobile purchasing power, is only feeding into a larger mentality where the perceived value of tomorrow is shifting to the immediate value of today.

Upticks in custom ‘off the beaten path’ travel, heavily tribal brand experiences and the growing transformation economy show how this mental shift is creating a new norm in luxury behavior. These are experiences that force a present mindset that indulges in today – an indulgence that goes beyond merely showing off one’s wealth or seeking immediate gratification.

For Chinese millennials that have felt heavy pressure to invest in tomorrow or reflect on yesterday, today is a space they have reclaimed as their own. Having grown up in a time of tremendous cultural and economic change, connection to the here-and-now provides a sense of safety, freedom and meaning where the rewards are tangible.

Freedom to move between spaces

Mining the value of today points to something even deeper for Chinese consumers. Yes, they embrace the historic social and cultural systems they were raised in, but at the same time, they eagerly move toward a more global vision of the future. These are consumers who both honor their heritage (with a special connection to parents and grandparents that doted on them as golden children) and simultaneously find it important to act as global citizens.
Reconciling the past with the future is in some ways a new interpretation of luxury for many Chinese millennials. In an emotional economy where purchases are less about the product and more about how those products make one feel, it’s no wonder that these same affluent consumers look for brands that can help them not only focus on today, but allow them to move between yesterday and tomorrow without friction.

It’s why those same consumers who seek “off the beaten path” travel experiences often turn their trips into multi-generational excursions. It’s part of the reason why nostalgia marketing is having a moment, and why a brand like Nike can smartly adapt it’s Just Do It message to bridge a millennial’s past to their future. And perhaps even more telling, it’s why an established brand like Victoria’s Secret’s can seem tone deaf when it sends models wearing dragon-themed get-ups down the runway.

Today’s new luxury brands help reconcile the tension many young Chinese feel when moving between these spaces. It’s not about preaching a new ideal (a thin line that a brand like SK-II carefully straddles), but rather freeing millennials to connect with both the past and future… without breaking ties to either.

Finding a higher value system

The freedom to move between spaces takes a literal shift with travel. Experiential, custom and adventure travel is becoming core to the luxury experience for China’s wealthy millennials, and it signals a special perspective that is starting to emerge.

These travelers are better English speakers, becoming more sophisticated in their tastes (increasingly seeking out better quality and more innovative brands), and educating themselves in the constructs of luxury on a global level. Travel, for Chinese millennials, means empowerment.
But with that empowerment comes the very unique luxury of being able to see oneself outside of typical cultural constructs. Millennials who may feel limited when seeing themselves through the eyes of their parents, grandparents and community peers, feel a unique freedom when seeing themselves through the eyes of the global community instead.

Travel creates a connection to something bigger than culture or expectation. It is a connection to the world that in many ways supersedes all else. It is the new luxury of being able to create one’s own value system.

Searching for a higher framework – one with perhaps more latitude and room for exploration – is one of the highest life changing elements of value for Chinese millennials. In luxury, it is the stepping stone to self-actualization.

The luxury of connection

As fragmented and diverse as Chinese millennials may be, this group shares one thing in common – the perceived luxury of connection.
It poses a huge shift from traditional luxury norms that pervaded even a decade ago. As consumers become more educated and empowered, luxury brands must consider whether the old model of authority will continue in the long term.

The post-80’s, 90’s and 95’s don’t wholeheartedly accept the notion of compromise. It’s clear they believe in living multi-dimensional lives, embodying multiple mindsets, beliefs and connections. This is their new luxury.

Jasmine Bina is president of Concept Bureau in Los Angeles, CA. Reach her at jasmine@theconceptbureau.com.

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Social Media Usage Gains in China

eMarketer Bumps Up Estimates for Social Media Usage in China
More than 80% of internet users will use a social network regularly
June 27, 2017 | Social Media

More than eight in 10 internet users in China, or 626 million people, will access social networks regularly in 2017, according to eMarketer’s latest forecast.

eMarketer has raised its previous estimates for social network user growth in China by more than 4%, mainly because of older users increasingly using homegrown messaging platform WeChat to perform a myriad of tasks that reach far beyond messaging. For example, 62.0% of internet users ages 55 to 64 in the country will be social network users this year—equating to 28.8 million individuals.

Mobile Phone Social Network Users and Penetration in China, 2016-2021 (millions, % change and % of social network users)

WeChat’s popularity, coupled with rising smartphone adoption, has also helped to drive the number of mobile phone social network users in China. In 2017, just over 483 million people—or 35.0% of the country’s population—will access social media via that device.

Since its launch in 2011, WeChat has evolved into a must-have app in China, via which users can perform numerous activities like shopping, having food delivered, booking a doctor’s appointment and paying bills.

“WeChat’s further expansion into the areas of payments, shopping and general utility have proven fruitful for China’s social networking and messaging giant,” said Monica Peart, eMarketer’s senior forecasting director. “And it will only increase the attraction for new mobile users and older users, as WeChat increasingly has something for everyone.”

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What you need to know to reach Chinese Consumers

4 Findings on the Digital Habits of Chinese Consumers that Luxury Brands Need to Know

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Chinese Digital Influencers Fuel Massive ‘Fan Economy’

Chinese Digital Influencers Fuel Massive “Fan” Economy

All Indicators Point to China as the Market to Target

Fashion blogger Mr Bags is among the rising band of Chinese entrepreneurs converting digital influence into sales, and attracting the attention of luxury brands eager to cash in on the huge “fan economy”.

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