Prada latest label to target China market
Miuccia Prada has already won plaudits for her spring/summer 2011 collection -- simply-cut dresses and suits in a quirky mix of stripes and solids, with bold splashes of orange, violet and electric blue.
But by displaying the clothes on a runway in Beijing on Saturday evening, her first catwalk show outside Europe, and adding a few looks from her spring menswear line, the Italian designer signalled her focus on China's huge market.
Actresses Gong Li and Maggie Cheung added a bit of high-wattage star power to the show at the Central Academy of Fine Arts museum -- a surefire way to maximise local media coverage and get the Prada message to the masses.
China is the world's fastest-growing market for luxury goods and is forecast to be the world's top buyer of such products -- cosmetics, handbags, watches, shoes and clothes -- by 2015, according to consultancy Price Waterhouse Coopers.
Sales of luxury goods in mainland China totalled $10.3 billion in 2009, up 14 percent from the year before, according to Bain and Company. When purchases by Chinese citizens abroad are factored in, the market was worth $23.7 billion.
Like many Western fashion brands, Prada is already established in China, with at least 15 stores in operation and plans for nearly 30 more by the end of 2012. It has also announced it will open a design studio in Hong Kong in 2011.
But luxury goods analysts say foreign firms have only scratched the surface of the market's vast potential, which is based on the country's population of 1.3 billion and the mounting wealth of an ever-growing middle class.
"In China, we consider that luxury is still in a pure recruitment phase," HSBC analyst Erwan Rambourg told AFP, explaining that 90 percent of Chinese buyers are newcomers to a brand, while the rest are repeat customers.
"It is still a very underpenetrated market."
The Milan-based family-owned Prada, which is rumoured to be considering a market listing in Hong Kong, is of course not the first fashion powerhouse to stage a major event in China to lure more customers to the cash register.