No slowdown for fashion or luxury brands in China
Jean Paul Gaultier has made his first trip to the Beijing, China to host a fashion show of his fall women’s and men’s ready-to-wear and couture collections.
Close to a thousand people from all over Greater China crammed into the city’s Chaoyang Urban Planning Museum Friday night to get a glimpse of Gaultier’s latest designs. VIP attendees included Miss World Zhang Zilin, actress Jennifer Tse, actor Simon Yam and model Qi Qi.
The crowd was clearly about Gaultier’s style. There were enough striped bodies to command a naval ship, and enough kilts to start a ceilidh. And in a city that doesn’t usually condone homosexuality, and certainly never dressing up in drag, all persuasions appeared to be proudly and glamorously represented.
Two weeks after Gaultier’s 60th birthday and almost 40 years into his career, Gaultier’s visit to Beijing prompted numerous questions relating to his age. Yet the “enfant terrible” seemed unperturbed by the constant reminders of his seniority.
“I don’t feel anything has changed but the color of my hair. I always have the same passion in my work, which I love,” he said. “I’m very lucky because I’m doing the profession I have wanted to do since I was a child.”
The designer gave no sign that he’s considering retirement; instead, he was eager to talk about his plans for the future. Dressed casually in cargo pants and a T-shirt a day before the Beijing show, he talked animatedly. At the mention of Madonna, his enthusiasm doubled.
“It’s like a love story that goes on. I love her and admire her,” he said. “I think she’s a genius. She definitely has a real sense of fashion.”
The two are collaborating on the star’s upcoming tour, MDNA, which kicks off at the end of May. He declined to reveal any details about what he was designing, saying only that it would be seen on Madonna and her dancers in a section of the concert.
Straight after Beijing, it was off to Cannes to join the judging panel of the film festival. And what will his input be?
“Image is important for me. If I have to fight, I think I will not fight, but I think if I have to defend, it will be about the image,” he said.
China is on pace to top Japan as the world’s largest market for luxury goods, according to McKinsey & Co., which estimates sales will surge 18% annually to hit $27 billion by 2015. That’s a fifth of the worldwide total and up from just $10 billion in 2009.
“China’s consumer is still in its infancy,” said Wendy Trevisani, a portfolio manager at Thornburg Investment Management. It’s true that exports and real-estate investment are softening, but Trevisani contends consumer spending is growing “pretty much without hesitation.”
In fact, consumer spending is forecast to account for 43% of China’s GDP growth by 2020, up from about a third currently, according to McKinsey. That’s in line with the nation’s current five-year plan, which aims to help the country become less dependent on exports and investment-led growth.
Prada, which includes the namesake label as well as Miu Miu and others, has also made a big bet on China. Prada’s sales in Asia, excluding Japan, climbed 42% in 2011, and nearly a quarter of the new stores the company opened last year were in the region.
The Italian fashion house also made its public debut on the Hong Kong stock exchange last year, as it continues to expand its international presence.
As China’s economy continues to grow and create more wealth, average household spending is likely to follow, a healthy signal for Western brands. And the outlook is particularly bright for luxury companies, since the biggest increase in spending is forecast to come from the most affluent consumers.