5 Questions With: Lu Yan, Founder and Owner of Comme Moi. “You can’t establish a brand just by being able to design”

Comme Moi, meaning “Like Me” in French, is a contemporary designer label founded in 2013 by one of China’s most famous super models – Lu Yan. Lu Yan has her reasons to name the brand “Like Me”.

As a young Chinese girl from a small remote village of Jiang Xi, Lu Yan ventured out of the country at the tender age of eighteen and made her way to the international fashion metropolis Paris, after being scouted by two modeling agents in Beijing.

Now thirty-six, married and with one young son, Lu Yan truly represents the modern generation of Chinese youth – hard-working, determined and willing to learn.

Even though she has already accomplished great success in her modeling career and paved the way for other young Chinese women wanting to work in the competitive industry, Lu Yan wanted to further make her mark in the industry.

Thus Comme Moi was born; a brand for cosmopolitan women with designs that makes a sophisticated statement and is created with quality, style and luxury in mind. Today it is arguably one of China’s most buzzed-about independent designer labels, with a strong retail, online and social presence across Greater China.

We spoke with Lu Yan to get her first-hand thoughts on business in China.

 

Chinese customers have high expectations. What changes have you noticed in the last season? How do they want to shop/buy?

This is very true [that Chinese customers have high expectations]. Chinese customers are now increasingly concerned with the characteristics of fabrics, such as its comfort, provenance and quality. Our customers in particular are quite practical; they are aware of what’s trending right now, what suits them or looks good on them, and they care about how versatile a garment can be. Our customers are split into two main types: a portion of them are more keen on our fashionable statement pieces; that is, “it” pieces that are worn by models on the catwalk or celebrities on the red carpet. Another portion of our customers prefer some of our more classic, timeless pieces that are representative of the brand’s wearable style.

 

Where are the best places or platforms on which to sell?

For a young brand, it’s important to save costs where possible and so it’s always a good idea to start by entering multi-brand boutiques or selling online, which is how we started. However once a brand develops to a certain degree, it’s imperative to open up your own store, reason being that it allows you to collect more accurate customer feedback and data, in addition to letting your customers get a full brand and physical retail experience. It’s the ideal way of having your customers get the best customer service as well, resulting in a real understanding of your customers’ preferences, lifestyle, profile, etc. This is what we are achieving with our flagship stores in Shanghai and Beijing, as well as through our official online store.

 

When you travel for work overseas, what misconceptions do they have about Chinese designers, or consumers?

Sometimes there’s still the misconception that there aren’t any established or successful designers coming out from China; that Chinese brands or designers only tend to copy big brands. As for consumers, there’s still the misconception that they are conspicuous consumers, that they will blindly buy what a brand promotes even if it’s not that suited to them, or that they only care about wearing famous luxury brands with attention-grabbing logos.

 

What advice would you give your younger/studying designers before they enter the commercial world?

Young designers should first spend a few years working in large companies in order to gain more business savvy and a clearer understanding of the fashion supply chain. You can’t establish a brand by being able to just design – this is only a small part of it – and a lot of people don’t understand this fresh out of university. To really build a brand you must first understand all the operations, management and administration involved, and you must be able to form a team that you can work with and truly rely on. Working in the industry for a few years’ first means that you will gain invaluable experience and knowledge as well as meet like-minded people who may inspire you and help you along the way. All of this leads to a greater likelihood of success once you do venture out on your own.

 

What do you see coming in 2018 that will change the market in China?

The market will become increasingly segmented, and brands must continue to experiment, innovate and integrate their online and offline experiences to stay ahead of the competition and capture the interest of consumers.

 

Lu Yan was speaking to Holly Ho