Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Paris Wearing Asian, Not Asians Wearing Paris

Paris Hilton goes Malay
Milan? No. Seoul.

For years, Asians have rabidly chased logo-emblazoned European luxury goods. Asia now represents 50% of luxury goods sales globally. 94% of Japanese women in their 20’s have a Louis Vuitton handbag. There are more Gucci and Hermes stories in Hong Kong than Paris. As a result of this consumption fever, the top end of the market has skyrocketed in price. US$10,000 paid for a handbag? Ten years ago, that idea dropped jaws. Now, it happens at the drop of a hat (brand not relevant).
However, there is a trend emerging that hopefully won’t be a flash in the pan: Asian luxury brands. Asian consumers are starting to look for something a little different, a little more individual, a little lighter on the wallet. They are finding it comfortably close to home. There’s Farah Khan from Malaysia (hey, if it’s good enough for a limelight-hogging hotel heiress...). Couronne handbags from Seoul, which look they could have tumbled off a runway in MIlan. And Exception de Mixmind, which was launched into fashion stardom in China by the country’s dishy-looking first lady. Materials are first rate – leather is purchased from the same Italian or French houses who supply the major brands. Workmanship is top-notch – why not, most of the goods are made in Asia anyway. And design ideas are fresh and reflective of home grown cultures.
With global demand for luxury products slowing, the major European fashion houses have reason to be concerned about maintaining attractive growth rates. Asia has long been their Shangri-la, even though the region has also posed threats to their brands from counterfeiting. A new threat may be emerging. However, if that trend gives more choice back to the consumer, it’s one that might be just lovely, dahling.

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