Like Kong, a growing number of Chinese consumers, often part of Gen Z and millennial cohorts, are using luxury clothing and shopping to differentiate themselves from their peers. Buying is less driven by the older generation’s ‘status’ paradigm and more influenced by things like ‘statement of identity’, says Federica Levato, partner at Bain & Company in Milan. This shift paved the way for lesser-known, more forward-thinking brands to set themselves apart from the big luxury brands now ubiquitous in the country.
It’s a trend that hasn’t gone unnoticed for Wenyan Jiao, director of Shanghai and Wuxi-based multi-brand boutique Mushion, which stocks brands such as Cult Gaia, By Far and Nanushka. “[Young consumers] in first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are showing more and more personal characteristics in their fashion styles,” she said. “Previous generations may not have that level of acceptance when it comes to trying things outside of their comfort zone.”
Multi-brand independent boutiques, which have developed in the country since the end of the 2000s, have contributed to this shift. Their owners, like Jiao, have often studied abroad and are particularly sensitive to international influences. Meimei Ding, general manager of showroom DFO International, describes a new generation of buyers less attached to institutional logos and luxury brands and more interested in being tastemakers. “They want to be the breeder of what’s cool, rather than being driven by really big brands,” she said.