Is Logo Mania On the Wane in China?

The western world started tiring of designer logos back in the early 2000's, about the time Carrie Bradshaw was packing away her Fendi baguette for good. But for the last decade, the Chinese--who recently surpassed Americans as the biggest consumers of luxury goods--have picked up the mantle of logo-mania. But that may be changing now as the Chinese luxury customers' taste is becoming a bit more discerning.
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The western world started tiring of designer logos back in the early 2000's, about the time Carrie Bradshaw was packing away her Fendi baguette for good. But for the last decade, the Chinese--who recently surpassed Americans as the biggest consumers of luxury goods--have picked up the mantle of logo-mania. But that may be changing now as the Chinese luxury customers' taste is becoming a bit more discerning.
Photo: Imaxtree

Photo: Imaxtree

The western world started tiring of designer logos back in the early 2000's, about the time Carrie Bradshaw was packing away her Fendi baguette for good. But for the last decade, the Chinese--who recently surpassed Americans as the biggest consumers of luxury goods--have picked up the mantle of logo-mania. But that may be changing now as the Chinese luxury customer's taste is becoming a bit more discerning.

A study by Bain and Company, reported by Business of Fashion, found that Chinese shoppers in the nation's prosperous cities are starting to move away from obvious logos. “Chinese shoppers in Beijing and Shanghai are now truly global luxury consumers," the study's authors note. "They are shifting away from typical emerging market preference for logos and other visible signs of luxury spending, and shifting to a global mindset of uniqueness, high-quality and understatement in luxury items.”

Logos are still popular outside of major cities--the study found that "55 percent of consumers outside of Beijing and Shanghai say they will buy more products showing logos"--but China's cosmopolitan shoppers are looking for a more discreet brand of luxury.

And purveyors of logo-laden goods are taking note. LVMH's Bernard Arnault had already made it clear on an earnings call in January that, in the face of the company's slowest growth of reveunue since 2009, it would "focus on more luxurious materials and reduce the visibility of its monogrammed products," according to Business of Fashion. This is more about maintaining the brand's exclusivity and prestige than it is about making money. “Of course it would be easier for Louis Vuitton to boost its revenue; all it would take would be to launch ten new products with the monogram product, but down the road it’s not a good strategy,” Arnault said.

While Louis Vuitton's spring 2013 runway was one huge homage to the house's signature Damier check, for fall 2013 there was nothing that screamed 'Louis Vuitton'. In the show notes, Marc Jacobs wrote, “The house’s Monogram and Damier canvas are nowhere to be seen on the catwalk.”

Presumably the shift in consumer attitudes in the Far East will provide more opportunities for less logo-dependent luxury brands--like Proenza Schouler--to perform well in China. (On a personal note, my husband thinks the PS1 bag looks like "something the IT guy at my office carries." Doesn't get more stealth-luxury than that!) It will be interesting to see how logos will be incorporated into luxury goods in the next few years.