Dov Charney, CEO and general class–act behind popular clothing manufacturer American Apparel, has cited Chinese consumers’ love of high-end labels as the reason his anti-logo brand hasn’t expanded rapidly in China. Comparing Chinese consumers to American Jews of the 1950s, Charney said that soon “They’ll learn it’s a little déclassé to show the brand,” according to QZ.
“China consumes 25% of the world’s luxury goods; this surpasses every country, even the US,” according to the New Zealand/China Trade Association. “Statistically, 64% of Chinese equate luxury brands with success” (see: China’s fuerdai).
That’s why China’s wealthy tend to gravitate towards such highly distinguishable exterior brands as Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and Rolex, which Dov Charney says is “one of the points against [his company]”.
Charney’s California-based clothing line is known for its simple, logo-less (yet, arguably, just as distinguishable) wares that are controversially paraded around in ads by scantily-clad models.
Charney has high hopes that China’s wealthy will soon lose interest in high-end labels, as has happened with the fashion tastes of the nouveau rich in Japan, Europe and the US. “They’ll learn it’s a little déclassé to show the brand. As people mature and become more comfortable with themselves… they’ll become more interested in design and the cache of the brand,” he said.
Charney likened the situation to that of the newly wealthy Jewish communities in Canada and the US after World War II. “You see that with the Jews in the 1950s. At first, they want to show they got the money… over time people reject brands,” he said. Growing up Jewish in Canada, Charney learned from his mother that it was “classless” to show exterior branding (Dov is an expert on “class“).
According to QZ, many Chinese shoppers are already shunning luxury brand Louis Vuitton because of overexposure, and “China’s youth are also gravitating toward fashions that speak more specifically to their unique identity,” which is why American Apparel’s store in Beijing is reportedly one of the company’s most profitable.
But for China’s youth, the company’s signature nylon body suits and shiny hot pants are not cheap. In fact, the wares sold in China are nearly 50 percent more expensive than in the US.
“In my unofficial survey of American Apparel in China, it is still super niche,” says Philana Woo, associate publisher of Jing Daily, which tracks China luxury news. “The same hipster subset that could afford American Apparel in the US could not in China,” she says.
[Image credit: American Apparel]