INNOVATION DRIVES FASHION FORWARD

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"China Is Becoming The World's Coolest Cradle Of Fashion Innovation!" Dialogue With Coach China CEO

June 11,2021

“Honestly speaking, we see China as a source of inspiration”, Yann Bozec, President and CEO of Coach China, said in an exclusive interview with Luxe.CO.

On Coach's 80th anniversary, the brand launched its new 2021 Winter Collection at Shanghai Exhibition Center. This was not only the global debut of this series, but also the first big show held by the brand on a global scale after the pandemic. It highlighted the core position of the Chinese market in the brand's global strategy, and signaled Coach’s commitment to localization.

Local Team And Stars In-depth Content Cooperation

Coach has integrated local elements into the show and set design for the 2021 Winter Collection launch. According to the brand, 100% of the content was shot and produced by the its local team in China.

While in traditional shows local stars and celebrity guests are in the front row of the audience, this time they were deeply involved, sitting in seven antique cars positioned in the center. They were both audience and actors, adding another perspective and relationship between the brand, celebrities and the wider audience.

The show was live streamed from the official accounts of major social media platforms. Take Weibo as an example -- by time of publication, the number of views of the keyword #CoachShow had exceeded 100 million. Notably, Coach also became the first luxury brand to launch an ecommerce business on TikTok in February.

Luxe.CO: How do you know what culture is popular with young people in China today?

Yann Bozec (YB):Our team is almost all local young people. You know, innovation and modernity are not created in the boardroom. In China, it's even more important that the real innovation is coming from our team in the store or in the office. It is up to them to come up with ideas and it is our job to help them implement them and support them.

When I went to visit a store, I spoke to a sales associate. I was not only speaking about handbags or clothes, but to ask “What's the latest hot news in your city? What restaurant do you like to eat at at the moment? What have you been watching on Bilibili?” And I'm just getting educated by the team.

Two or three years ago, we realized that a lot of store sales staff had started to publish promotional content in the form of pictures and videos on Xiaohongshu. We did not worry or doubt that this behavior would damage the brand image. In turn, we provided them with the greatest support. Now, some stores are hosting as many as 100 live steam shows a month.

Luxe.CO: How are Chinese consumers different from in the past?

YB:Ten to fifteen years ago, Chinese consumers were eager to learn more about the stories behind fashion and luxury brands. According to a survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the average Chinese fashion consumer could name at least ten fashion brands and five designers. This is rare in other markets around the world.

Today, the Chinese consumer community has changed from being one of "learners" to "teachers" and is becoming the growth driver of the global fashion and luxury industry. The Chinese market is becoming the world's coolest cradle of fashion innovation, churning out ideas at a pace far higher than anywhere else in the world.

"China Cool" Is Not Limited To The Chinese

Skiing was chosen as the coolest sport, according to the 2020 China Luxury User Survey by Luxe.CO. In this year’s winter show, Coach launched its Ski Capsule series, which was a quick response to the market's demand for fashionable ski wear.

Luxe.CO: How should overseas brands make good use of Chinese culture to build a localized emotional connection with consumers?

YB:First of all, I think that even customers in the same city have different preferences, so I prefer to use “customer centricity” instead of the word "localization".

Second, as far as I am concerned, it is not our design philosophy to simply and directly copy Chinese elements into our products.

Having lived in China for fifteen years, I have developed a special feeling for the Chinese way of life. But I still find it difficult to describe the Chinese way of life to someone who has never lived in China. It is not as clear as the concept of “Pop culture” or “Drive-in cinema” in the "American way of life". We want to show the cool side of China's modern lifestyle to the world. Therefore, we internally put forward the concept of “China Cool”, hoping to integrate China's cutting-edge art and cultural elements into product design in a more modern way.

Every month we share with our NYC headquarters what's new in the Chinese market, what's happening, who are the hot artists, etc.

In addition, half a year ago, we jointly launched the school-enterprise cooperation project with Shanghai Donghua University, which aims to encourage young students to integrate Chinese fashion elements with the power of international brands through a series of activities including cooperative teaching and design guidance, and stimulate the passion of young talents to explore the fashion industry. We hope to take this project as an opportunity to inspire deeper interaction with young and emerging forces, to convey the brand's unremitting pursuit of classic craftsmanship, and to present wonderful and diverse innovative design concepts.

Luxe.CO: Will the brand set up a team of Chinese designers to develop products for the Chinese market?

YB:First of all, why should designers in a Chinese team develop products only for the Chinese market? I hope that consumers in France, Italy, the United States and all over the world will enjoy products that incorporate Chinese ideas.

Second, we have been actively seeking cooperation with local artistic talents, including the aforementioned cooperation with Donghua University, in order to promote the international exchange of Chinese creative design forces. We look forward to assisting the upgrading and development of China's fashion industry through more exploration and cooperation, so that more 'Chinese design power' can step onto the world stage.

Deep Insights Drive The Market

Luxe.CO: What is the latest development of the brand regarding China consumer insights?

YB:With the insights of Chinese consumers, we are now going one step further, using big data and artificial intelligence to analyze why certain types of consumers prefer certain bags.

Last year, we combined thousands of surveys with more than 600 million data points to analyze consumers from all over China. Taking Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Xi 'an as examples, to our surprise, even the same type of consumers have different preferences in different cities.

Every two weeks, we have an informal round table with at least ten consumers, which is at least 250 samples over the course of a year. Not only do we seek to understand their product preferences, but also to understand the local lifestyle, what kind of service is most popular, and what is the most effective way of communication.

We are now starting to apply these findings to the product design process; for example, by introducing special city models.

Luxe.CO: What is Coach’s plan to open stores in China?

YB:China's middle class population is currently 400 million and the goal is to reach 800 million by 2035.

The growth of China's new middle class gives us confidence in the future potential of third- and fourth-tier cities. Our plan is to open twenty to thirty stores in third- and fourth-tier cities next year. We are now working with more local commercial property developers. We wouldn't hesitate to be the first luxury brand in the business environment if it was in the right location. We are a brand with an inclusive and open mind. We don't label our customers and judge whoour customers should be.

Luxe.CO: A survey of Chinese luxury consumers by Luxe.CO Intelligence shows that people strongly expect brands to hold shows and exhibitions in their cities after the Covid-19 pandemic. Will the brand consider holding shows in other cities in China in the future?

YB:Plans for shows in other cities are not far off. We are confident that in the future, we will hold a major event like a big show in China almost every year to strengthen the interaction with local consumers. There are many cities in China with their own distinct personalities and cultures, and we hope to try to do shows in these places in the future.

| Photo Credit: Coach

| Writer: Jun Liu, Lilian Sun

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