TRANSITIONS:Fashion and Luxuryin Modern-Day China

When President Xi Jinping was named president in March, the Chinese were motivated with the change in leadership but they were just as interested in their new fashion-forward first lady, PengLiyuan.  Conversation on Chinese social media sites went crazy discussing her wardrobe.  The search terms “first lady handbag” were used eight million times the day after the inauguration.  It turns out the stylish bag was from Chinese fashion house Exception.  It was copied a lot and even the copies were sold out on Taobao instantly.
This lesson was the heart of a recent talk China Bridge Founder Cathy Huang gave at the Interior Motiveseventin April during the Shanghai Motor Show.   The talk was entitledTRANSITIONS:Fashion and Luxuryin Modern-Day China.
Gone are the days that automotive designers could take global designs and simply adapt them to China.  Now design is local with lots of personalization options.  Automakers are taking Chinese patterns with deep meanings and adding them to the interior of vehicles.   Things are being created locally with a Chinese touch.
In her talk, Huang used the example of PengLiyuan’s handbag to illustrate that we’ve now entered an era that is not just translating design for China.   We’ve moved past copying foreign brands and are now creating Chinese brands.
With automotive purchasing habits increasing by leaps and bounds, the challenge for luxury automotive brands is to incorporate Chinese cultural nuances into the vehicle, particularly the interior.  Huang used an example of an inappropriate dragon tattoo stamped onto a driver’s seat in an early vehicle in an attempt to make the car interesting to Chinese drivers.  Today, it is now all about stylish neo-Chinese chic in soft patterns on beautiful materials.
Gone are the days where the Chinese needed to show off all the luxury on the exterior.  It now about building lots of comfort and elaborate touches, especially technology, inside.  The wealthy may also have two cars—one for the office and one for going out with friends.
The explosive growth of China’s second and third tier markets require automakers to take a holistic approach to map the journey of generations of Chinese.  Up and coming Chinese executives are all about self-expression while(delete the word early)their parents and grandparents saw luxury as more of a tool.  
For a copy of Huang’s insightful presentation, click here.
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