A new policy at the iconic wedding dress designer's brand new first ever Shanghai flagship has, understandably, been met with controversy. It reportedly requires that customers put down 3,000 yuan ($482) just to try on a dress, which they have a limited time of 90 minutes to do. It acts as a deposit--if the customer buys the dress, it's deducted from the total cost. If not, the money's lost.
According to the original report in Global Times, this is the only Vera Wang store that imposes this rule, meaning Wang's Chinese customers are being treated differently than Vera Wang customers in other locations. Um, explanation please?
The Global Times cites a Vera Wang press release stating, essentially, that the policy is in place to prevent copyright infringement, meaning the company likely has reason to be concerned about faux customers coming in with the intention of copying Vera Wang designs. As we've learned, the majority of design piracy is taking place in China.
The situation recalls last year's Dolce & Gabbana controversy--the brand infamously banned onlookers from snapping photos of the exterior of its Hong Kong store, claiming it was trying to protect intellectual property. Reports alleged that only Hong Kong locals were stopped, while foreigners and mainland Chinese tourists were welcome to snap as they pleased. The discriminatory policy incited outrage and full-on protests.
It's also not the only instance of bridal stores charging customers to try on dresses--a Telegraph Australia article from 2008 details bridal shops in Australia that have done the same to deter women who just want to try on wedding dresses for fun.
One thing that maybe makes Vera Wang's case different is that Wang is first generation Chinese American and her parents were born in Shanghai. Shanghaiist, a Shanghai-based blog, goes so far as to call this fact "the very worst part."
Shanghaiist also asserts that many consider Chinese customers to be "unsophisticated" and that luxury brands are taking advantage of them--"doing their utmost to squeeze every last drop out of" their wallets and that, "While brides are bribed with wine and flattery in her other flagships around the world, she's expecting the brides to bribe her in China." And despite the fees, the site reports that "the store has gained a large number of visitors, with brides booking months in advance to try on dresses and be taken advantage of."
Perhaps there is something to that exclusivity trend?
We've reached out to Vera Wang and will report back if we learn more.