Many high-profile fashion brands appear to be ridiculously successful on the surface. Celebrities wear their clothes, their collections make headlines when they appear on the catwalks in Paris and Milan, and yet behind the scenes, not all is as it seems. While it is a pop-culture phenomenon to swoon over celebrities in their couture outfits, when it comes to everyday people looking for additions to their wardrobe, the couture closet is not the first place they shop.
Consumers love high fashion garments, but they don’t love the sky-high prices. If they want party dresses, they don’t go shopping in a Mui Mui store; rather they look online for something that looks high fashion, but carries a much cheaper price tag. It’s a growth industry for the big Asian fashion brands, and according to recent media coverage, many of the best-known Asian brands are giving Western fashion labels a run for their money.
Consumers are becoming increasingly tech savvy. They read the online media, they peruse their Instagram feed daily, and they know what looks are in and what are out. The designer fashion market is very exclusive and most people can’t afford to pay the high prices charged by big brand labels such as Victoria Beckham. If you want one of Ms. Beckham’s dresses, you would expect to pay around US$4,000, which is hardly a throwaway sum of money. Because of this massive difference in price points, luxury brands are losing market share in Asia.
Luxury brands such as Prada have suffered greatly in recent years. Sales have dropped and consumers have grown tired of excessive price increases. Wearing Versace or owning a Gucci handbag no longer has the same kudos as it once did. The Asian consumer’s appetite for high-end Western fashion brands has diminished as a result.
According to McKinsey – a global consultancy – in 2015 about 20% of the world’s luxury brand sales ($27 billion) came from China, as the country becomes one of the most valuable fashion markets in the world. By 2020, Boston Consulting Group predicts China’s fashion market will be worth $201.3 billion, as the country moves away from the factory model and the middle class embraces consumption. In just a few years, China is expected to account for 30% of the global fashion market growth, which is nothing to sniff at!
Asian brands have been quick to capitalize on the loss of interest in mega-brands. Instead of sticking to tried and tested methods of copying catwalk styles, they have started to experiment with new designs, materials and textiles. The cost of manufacturing in Asian countries such as China and Korea is so cheap that Asian brands can afford to price their garments much lower than Western luxury brands.
Asian brands are not just a plan B option for fashion lovers these days, they are a force to be reckoned with, especially given the massive market they come from. China and Korea are emerging as a strong creative force, with popular fashion brands such as Comme Moi, Ms Min, and mother and daughter-run label Woo Young Mi the fastest selling labels in China and Hong Kong.
Asian fashion labels are also fast gaining popularity in the west, with several high-profile celebrities favoring Asian labels. Lady Gaga is a big fan of Japanese label, Roggykei, and Rhianna wore a creation from Chinese designer, Guo Pei, when she attended last year’s Met Gala. This is an indicator of Asian designers and brands making the successful crossover in the Western world.
Several Asian designers are also finding mainstream success in the West. Popular Korean brand, SJYP, sells in Europe and the U.S., while Chinese shoe brand Stella Luna has several stores in Paris. Many Asian designers have won awards for their innovative creations and some have started exhibiting at Paris and Milan fashion weeks.
It isn’t just consumers looking for designer fashion who go online to buy Asian couture garments. Asian fashion appeals to smaller, petite Western women. Garments are easy to buy online and delivery is fast and cheap, and if you want to look a bit different, Asian fashion certainly ticks all the right boxes. So it looks as if the only way is up for Asian fashion.