Jessica Michault tweets a photo of the 'future of the fashion world’s front row'
Any show that’s worth going to at Fashion Week is not complete without a star-studded front row, right? Right – but not for much longer, it seems. Following Grazia's report in February on the Rise of the Far-Easteristas, Fashionista reports that China's luxury fashion market is growing stronger still. And Jessica Michault’s photograph of five beautiful Chinese women sitting together in the front row at the Christian Dior show during Paris Fashion Week, which she tweeted with the caption ‘The future of the fashion world’s front row’ proves it further still. The Chinese shoppers are here to stay – and, more importantly, to shop.
Though the five gorgeous girls in the pic may be unknown to us (for now), Chinese celebrities – who make big fashion statements to get noticed - are more known for their style and more popular than ever before. Designers such as Chanel and Dior are paying for A-list Chinese celebs to sit at their front row, since they now attracted as much attention as American stars do from consumers in the US. Since Chinese trend setters tend to stick to shopping at big French and Italian fashion houses, they couldn’t be a better fit for the shows.
And, oh boy, can they shop. When Grazia spent the day with Linxin Deng back in February, we were amazed at her shopping stamina. Just like thousands of other Chinese men and women, Linxin and her friends save their money to spend on extravagant trips to England, where they can blow up to £5,000 – or more – in one trip. With tax on luxury goods like designer handbags in China at an all time high, it’s now 30 per cent cheaper for Chinese shoppers to buy in London than at home – resulting in UK retailers being swamped with Chinese tourists who are spending their national holiday here, sweeping the rails.
Financial services company Global Blue UK is predicting the sudden surge will see an 89 per cent increase in sale from the Chinese when compared to last January. Linxin, 25, whose hometown is Fujian, China, is no exception. Linxin and up to ten friends travel to London two or three times per year to shop at their favourite stores. And we don’t mean a quick scout round Topshop. ‘We spend one day in Selfridges, the next day in Harrods and Sloane Street,’ she explains, inspecting her latest find – a pair of Swarovski encrusted Louboutins that have caught her eye: because, she says, they’re ‘bling-bling’.
‘If I am buying just clothes then I might spend £1, 000,’ she says. ‘But if I’m buying clothes, shoes and a handbag I probably spend about £2,000 or more. There isn’t really a limit, I just save some money and buy the things I like. My favourite is Chanel, and I like Lanvin and Mulberry too.’ But, when you’re shopping in those leagues, why travel to London? ‘We don’t have as much choice in China – I can’t buy my favourite shoe designer, Charlotte Olympia - and the tax over there is much, much higher,’ Linxin explains. ‘I bought my Chanel 2.55 handbag two years ago. It is my favourite handbag – but if I had bought it in China, it would have maybe £1000 more.’ And those £2,095 Louboutins? Shoppers in China would face a similar mark-up. Ouch.
Linxin is far from the only one taking full advantage of London’s ‘reduced’ prices. In fact for some, shopping has become the new sight-seeing with many ditching the obligatory trip around London to head straight to Harrods on pre-arranged tours from China. ‘The trend is for the highly brand conscious Chinese shopper to seek out the very latest, limitededition, and or exclusive products,’ Marigay McKee, Chief Merchant at Harrods says. ‘Fashion, beauty, accessories and fine jewellery from luxury brands including Hermès, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior are amongst the preferences, and Harrods works closely with these brands to provide the exclusive and special edition goods these shoppers desire when they visit. We are also continually tailoring our service offering by working closely with Chinese tour operators to accommodate pre-booked groups.’
Dana Howng, 29, from Taiwan, has also experienced savings of travelling abroad to shop on her three-day trip to New York – another city that has noticed a huge influx of shoppers splashing the cash. ‘There is such a high luxury tax in China and Taiwan,’ she told Grazia during her latest trip, for which she had a £7,000 budget. ‘So when it comes to booking a flight to go clothes shopping, my plane fare is a discount. I actually save money by coming here to shop.’
And Lesley Yu, 30, from Hong-Kong, says that the show-off factor is also part of the appeal. ‘I like shopping, but I’m not as bad as some of my girlfriends,’ she says. ‘They can come for two weeks of solid shopping, every day, from morning to evening, with the aim of hitting every designer and luxury shop. It’s very normal for us women to organise a trip to London, New York or Paris to pick up the new styles and then head back home to show off a little, saying “Look what I got on my trip.”’
Makes you feel a little less guilty about that Topshop payday splurge, doesn't it?