Cool Asian fashion brands challenge Western labels

Tue Apr 26, 2016 10:10am EDT
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By Astrid Wendlandt and Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) - Fashion brands from South Korea, China and Japan are becoming serious rivals of their Western peers as Asian consumers become increasingly confident in their own style and take pride in buying home-grown labels.

Asian consumers are the world's biggest spenders on high-end fashion, representing around half of total buyers.

Most of them are under 35, Internet-savvy and increasingly on the hunt for small, cool, original brands that will make them stand out and look different from their parents, fashion executives and retailers say.

High quality is no longer the preserve of Western luxury brands, fashion experts say, and Asian brands are attracting attention as they experiment with new textiles and materials, facilitated by their local manufacturing base.

This growing threat from the east is likely to add misery to big luxury brands such as Prada (1913.HK: Quote), Kering's Bottega Veneta (PRTP.PA: Quote) and Tod's (TOD.MI: Quote), already suffering from plunging sales, partly due to excessive price increases, over-exposure in certain markets such as China and mega-brand fatigue.

Chinese fashion brands, such as Ms Min and Comme moi, are the fastest-growing contemporary design labels sold at department store Lane Crawford, which has outlets throughout China and Hong Kong, its Chairman Andrew Keith told Reuters. Lane Crawford also sells Korean menswear brands such as Woo Young Mi and expects to start selling Korean womenswear soon.

"You sense there is a pride about seeing China develop its own creative community and seeing China emerge as a creative force," Keith said in an interview on the fringes of the Conde Nast luxury conference in Seoul.

Lane Crawford has seen its pool of Chinese labels grow over the past four years to more than 30, from just four. Twenty percent of Chinese-designed clothes bought online are shipped outside of China "mainly to Chinese nationals living abroad who want access to these brands," Keith said.   Continued...

Singer Rihanna, wearing a dress by the Beijing-based designer Guo Pei, arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala 2015 celebrating the opening of "China: Through the Looking Glass" in Manhattan, New York May 4, 2015.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo