The secrets behind Gucci’s continued success in China

Major international luxury fashion houses such as Armani, Dior, Prada or Chanel have been emphasizing their presence in China by reaching out to wealthy Chinese consumers through lavish events and PR. Gucci is among the latest luxury houses to stage a spectacular event in China, this time, in Shanghai, which has also become the location of the headquarters of the house. The event hosted by Frida Giannini at the Peninsula Hotel in Shanghai hosted Bryan Ferry and other local and international celebrities, on show being a repeat of Gucci’s Spring Summer 2013 catwalk collection.

It seems Shanghai, even more than Beijing, is the spiritual home of fashion in China. It has long had a cosmopolitan outlook, and its mix of colonial and European-style architecture is the perfect environment for the Western brands that are building flagships here. ‘There is a lot of competition,’ Giannini says, ‘but we were lucky in that we were pioneering in China so we are still doing a lot, opening more stores, but we are already a well-known brand here.’

Gucci’s first two shops on the Chinese mainland opened in Beijing and Shanghai in 1997, three years after Tom Ford started to transform the brand. Today there are 53 stores across 33 cities, and counting. So it is not surprising that Giannini has decided to spend some time getting to know Shanghai before continuing on to Seoul in South Korea for a store opening there.

While in Shanghai, Giannini noticed a ‘love for bright, vivid colours, so when they are wearing all black or white there is always a pop colour – strong yellow, fuchsia or purple in the shoes or a bag. This is something I need to address in the collection,’ she added. It is no coincidence, perhaps, that Gucci’s collection for spring/summer 2013 was the most brightly coloured ever, with shades of hot pink, jade green, turquoise and mustard yellow all clashing vibrantly on the catwalk. Certainly the appetite for fashion in China is changing. Giannini says that over the past three years there has been a shift from a demand for the logo to more classic leather pieces.

‘I am curious to see what will happen in the next few years. For the moment, of course, it is still a small percentage because we are selling a lot of fabric and interlocking Gs, but it’s a sign of something moving in a new direction. You need to update frequently.’ Gucci’s bestseller is the pale pink Soho tote, which retails at 1.000 euro. Giannini adds: ”They want Gucci because it is an international brand, so if I designed something with a more Chinese attitude, I’m not sure they would appreciate it. Of course I can address, say, the size of the shoes because they have different bodies. But it’s changing a lot – until about 10 years ago the Chinese were shorter, now we have a lot of very tall Chinese coming from other regions.’

Giannini is frank about the counterfeiting industry and how well some fakes are made. ‘Sometimes it’s difficult to fight someone who makes a Birkin bag with a Gucci pattern,’ she says. ‘You see such strange things. But the quality has improved a lot from, say, 10 years ago, when I could spot a fake bag a long way off. Today, sometimes I need to touch, to smell the leather. They learnt a lot from our craftsmanship. The challenge for us is to go higher and higher.’

But for the connoisseur, whatever her nationality, it is all about authenticity. For women such as the Chinese film star Li Bingbing, who features in the Chinese ad campaign for the brand and describes herself as a ‘Gucci girl’, owning a piece of Gucci is a dream that has become a reality. She saved up to buy her first bag when she was at drama school.

adapted from The Telegraph

Gucci flagship store Shanghai