Massification of Luxury: the Chinese Invasion


Analysts world over have been writing about luxury consumption among the Chinese consumers. Few have also discussed the issues of Chinese luxury brands aimed at global consumers including ‘Shanghai Tang’ and ‘LaVie’. However, there is little discussion on how slowly but steadily Chinese entrepreneurs are acquiring or taking over Western luxury brands. This post is an attempt to highlight that.

luxury in china - an old chinese sculpture

Chinese luxury

For the last three or four centuries the Europeans have led the luxury market. The production and marketing of luxury goods were strongly guarded. This led to the emergence of cities across Europe which became global hubs of fashion and luxury including London, Paris, Milan, Rome and others.

After the World War II, a new segment of luxury consumers emerged. This included successful business people, industrialists, artists and those who found new riches in various markets across the world. This nouveau riche had little idea on how to spend their new-found wealth and how to become fashionable. A new service industry emerged due to this: the fashion stylist who helped this nouveau riche look and feel fashionable.

One of the major impacts of this new luxury consumer was that they created a second rung of aspiring leaders, managers and carrier go-getters at large. These middle-class consumers also wanted to consume luxury however didn’t have the means to purchase such goods.

To get out of this market luxury companies came up with a completely new set of products which later on were defined as accessible luxury. It included handbags, scarves, wallets and purses, belts and such other low-price goods. While the new market was lucrative, most luxury companies realised that the production costs didn’t provide enough margins when produced in the European factories.

To improve their financial bottom-line many luxury companies then looked for markets where these goods can be produced for a cheaper cost. China was one of the most obvious choices, however it was a difficult market to build relationships with local manufacturers. Many Hong Kong based traders took advantage of the situation and started opening factories in China which produced luxury goods for many well known firms.

Luxury gown from China

As they gained knowledge and expertise in producing quality high-priced luxury goods many of his Hong Kong traders and their Chinese counterparts realised that the biggest profit margin lies in the ownership of a luxury firm. In the early part of the new millennium the Chinese invasion in the luxury market started.

The Hong Kong manufacturer Kenneth Fang bought Pringle in 2000. The YGM trading company of Hong Kong purchased a French couture house Guy Laroche in 2004. Moreover, the Taiwanese media mogul Shaw-Lan Wang now owns the couture house Lanvin and the Singaporean businessman Cheng Wai Kung owns that more than two century-old Savile Row tailor Gieves and Hawkes.

One of the most successful stories among these is the Chinese entrepreneurs Silas Chou, the President and CEO of Novel Enterprises Limited, one of the world’s leading vertically-integrated textile and apparel manufacturer. In 1984, he actively helped his family in establishing Dragonair, the award-winning airline from Hong Kong. In 1989, he acquired Tommy Hilfiger Corporation silently. He served as chairman and then a call chairman from 1989 to 2002. Within eight years honest in your as a chairman he turned the company from a US$25 million US based apparel firm to a multinational US$2 billion brand. He also brought Pepe jeans London Corporation in 1991. In 2003, he purchased a majority interest in Michael Kors Corporation at which he still serves as a co-chairman.

The above gives us a little idea of how the Chinese entrepreneurs are now stepping up in the luxury business which was predominantly European few decades ago. As the market presence of Chinese consumers grow in the domain of luxury, the other side of the trend also is going to grow only. Certainly some food for thought for the European luxury manufacturers and marketers.

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17 Comments to “ Massification of Luxury: the Chinese Invasion”

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

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  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paurav Shukla, john perks, Gutsatz, john perks, LuxuryBrandBuzz and others. LuxuryBrandBuzz said: Massification of Luxury: the Chinese Invasion | Paurav Shukla: Analysts world over have been writing about luxury … […]

  3. Katelin says :

    I’m agree with you, the Chinese will ruin the luxury market.

  4. jude mark says :

    The way the Chinese are moving in each market (including luxury) is worrying as you rightly say. However, I believe that European luxury brands will give them a good fight as they understand the luxury market far better than the Chinese do. They have survived the American onslaught, let the others try and do it…

  5. Stephan Durham says :

    WOW! I I never thought Chinese would actually think about getting into luxury business. Are they going to ruin the quality there too or what?

  6. Maria Chen says :

    I somehow disagree with other commentors. While Chinese companies are slowly growing in the luxury business the Chinese themselves still look for European luxury. Added to that, luxury requires a different mindset and don’t think Chinese still have that with them. Being one I can see that. 😛

  7. Martin says :

    The Chinese invasion can be observed in all the other areas so why not luxury. The example you have given are so pertinent. Time to wake for European luxury manufaacturers.

  8. Mary Illanova says :

    Hello, I’ve been lately on the blog once or twice lately. I just wished to say hi and many thanks for the information offered. The discussion on luxury is really good and I hope you can share more of your thoughts here.

  9. Kathy Andrews says :

    Amazing 🙂 I can very well see how chinese will steadily take over European businesses, keep the brand names so no one will know they are owned by chinese (like the IBM-Lenovo) and make profit out of it.

  10. Abdel Hassan says :

    I stumbled onto your blog and read a few post. I like your style of writing. On the massification of luxury I completely agree with you. We also see a lot of Chinese in Middle-East who are trying to buy businesses. Their power is growing.

  11. Shana West says :

    I was looking at your luxury society article and the views seem so very pertinent. I believe if the European houses won’t wake up soon, the Chinese entrepreneurs will silently take over. The start of an interesting trend indeed as you said…

  12. Amy says :

    Amazing 🙂 I can very well see how chinese will steadily take over European businesses, keep the brand names so no one will know they are owned by chinese (like the IBM-Lenovo) and make profit out of it.

  13. Emmett Hayes says :

    This is bound to happen though, isn’t it? The Europeans are not doing to anything but actually helping the Chinese learn their tricks by manufacturing there. Just that old pure greed taking over by producing it cheaper without realising it’s long-term effects.

  14. […] Massification of luxury Paurav Shukla – I am a management educator, researcher, consultant, entrepreneur and thinker […]

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