It’s safe to say that Queennie Yang is an authority on luxury in China. Currently Editor (Asia) of VOGUE International, Queennie’s previous roles include Managing Editor (China) of The Business of Fashion, as well as contributing writer for VOGUE, NUMERO, GQ, ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan, Madame Figaro, Grazia and STYLETV.
Queennie’s own blog has many thousands of visitors each day, and her Weibo has more than 140,000 followers.
We spoke with Queennie to get her views on current trends and the state of play in China at present.
Where do you stand on the balance of luxury brands’ retail vs online commerce? ‘Must’ the brands face reality and appeal to Chinese Millennials’ digital shopping or can it weaken the brand to be too easily available?
I think that it’s fair to say that the digital trend is inevitable. It’s the industrial revolution of our time. Brick and mortar boutiques should still be a mecca for your loyal audience and provide an overall experience, while you still need to accept the most efficient channel possible to communicate and sell to a much wider audience.
Consumers shouldn’t need to choose between the two, as they want O2O, they want omni-channel services. It’s now time to not only invest in digital just as fully as the brand invested in physical stores in the past, but to invest in integrating the merchandise, logistics and so on together.
What do you think about Chinese luxury consumers and sustainability? Do you think they care? Or is this just about large corporations ticking a box of CSR?
If you asked me three years ago, I’d say that ethical fashion or sustainability is just a corporate gimmick. But this year, I’ve felt differently about it. Perhaps it’s the feeling that younger customers do have this in their mind, and can be attracted by something that has a cool design and the idea of sustainable brands.
For example, Kering’s fur free policy has had a good reception among young customers, and the sneaker brand Veja is very popular with its ethical feature. But in any case — the cool design still comes first.
Who are the Chinese talents/brands that are catching your eye these days?
I always admire Uma Wang and Yang Li’s work; they each have unique aesthetics and a world-class quality. Also, I found Xu Zhi, Shu Shu/Tong, Pronounce and Ryan Lo making their progress season by season, with balanced mix of in creative and business nouse. Wanbing Huang is another case — she is more conceptual, artistic, and I can’t wait to see what’s her next step.
EPO’s Mo&Co. Edition 10 and Common Gender alongside with Peacebird, set a very good case for Chinese brands who wants to transfer themselves from clothing-making to branding. They learned how to communicate with young consumers in a very short time. I also think that JNBY and Zuczug have successfully established their own design philosophy and CSR system. They even have a wider age range of loyal fans.
Do you see big companies/brands still making ‘mistakes’ in appealing/selling to Chinese customers?
Yes, indeed, I found China is still a mystery for a lot of people and companies here. I do believe if you want to do well in China, you can’t just resort to opening up a few branches — the key is to hire Chinese staff, or those who have vast working experience in China, and they need to have roles in HQ. Cultural understanding and knowledge of the society is the key.
You’re an expert on localising to the Chinese market. How would summarise the key areas that companies must look at as they plan their China entry or growth?
Before you judge anything, please listen to the local experts for their insights and rationale. Spend more time communicating with them, give them more respect. Please remember China is as big as a continent, it is not only a country with one culture. People in different provinces have various differences. For example, don’t assume that one office or one staff in Hong Kong will also be able to well-understand all of China. Time and integration is needed through all of the various cultures and areas.