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Chinese Brands, Re-Branded

February 2014

By Noch Noch Li, Beijing

Can Chinese-made products destroy the stereotype of being the world’s factory, and rather become associated with quality and individual taste? Whilst Beijing might not have fully accomplished this goal, it certainly is in progress. Consumers want to be different, to stand out and to be seen as having tasteful choices instead of the image of the nouveaux riches, who wear only logos, or buy imported goods. Beijing, as the capital and a first-tier city, wants to be seen as more advanced than some of its second-tier cities counterparts, such as Chengdu, which is also flourishing with money – and businessmen wearing a loud “H” for Hermès belt buckle, prominent on their bellies. Whether those buckles are real or fake, the brand truly profits from free Chinese advertising!

In the past few years, Beijing has seen an increase in local brands and small businesses surfacing. Some developed by local Chinese, some by foreigners, and some jointly between the two. The mix of cultures brings in widespread of palate for the Chinese too, with new restaurants developing in clusters, showcasing an explosion in cuisine variety: Korean, South African, BBQ ribs, Japanese and more. Great Leap Brewery, known for brewing its own beer in the alleyways of Beijing’s hutong, has opened up a burger joint in Sanlitun, while Slow Boat brewery partnered with El Gran Bocado, is a  homey Mexican restaurant.

Chinese brands are also expanding overseas. Bosideng, an established Chinese fashion company specializing in winter wear, opened its first flagship store in London. Huawei, an electronics and technology company, has been active in sponsoring sporting events, with its latest partnership with Arsenal FC, to make its brand name more known to overseas consumers.

Back at home, local brands are keen to be seen as luxury goods with quality design and workmanship. Hong Qi is re-launching its branding as a luxury car, associated with not only wealth and power, but also with design and safety. China is not only a factory these days. Chinese made products are slowly equated to quality, and people flock to Beijing to soak it in. Even Mario Testino, a renowned US photographer who shoots celebrities, could not stay away from China for the last few years – he came to Beijing on dedicated to trips to shoot Chinese models for Vogue China and Vogue US. Indeed, there is an increase in the number of Chinese models walking runway shoes in Paris, New York and Milan fashion week, also a Chinese export!

In terms of fashion designs, there is a return to Chinese roots. Guo Pei and NE Tiger are both known for the delicacy of Chinese embroidery, with Guo designing haute couture wedding gowns, and NE Tiger taking a spin on the traditional qipaos (long dresses) that women in China used to wear. Woo, a Shanghai based scarf brand, has expanded into Beijing, and is known for hand painted Chinese designs on cashmere or silk scarves.

The younger crowd prefers to express themselves through fashion. P1, a Beijing-based social media company, recently exhibited the development of street wear, using their photo archives from the last few years. There are still the flamboyant few, who like to dress up their cars with stickers in chrome blue or leopard skin, for changing car color in China is illegal, thus the decals are a smart way around regulations. But be it via beer, wedding gowns, cuisine, or automobiles, the relationship between import and export is definitely going through great change in China.

Retail & Dining
Liquor, Beer & Wine
Food & Drink
Fashion & Style
Chinese haute couture roots in traditional design
Street fashion emerges in Beijing, displaying itself as a global culture capital
Craft breweries make a splash in Beijing

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