Lane Crawford, Hong Kong and China’s version of Bergdorf Goodman, has been in the fashion and retail business for the past 160 years. Now more than ever, the spotlight is on this luxury emporium because it serves as the litmus test for what sells and what doesn’t in the fastest growing luxury retail market in the world.
Here is an interview with Lane Crawford’s fashion director Sarah Rutson — a much-photographed street style blog star — on the evolving taste of the Chinese consumer, the brands they favor, and her role in the global fashion community.
How has the taste of the Chinese consumer changed over the years?
The Chinese customers fall into two groups: the sophisticated and the ones who travel to Hong Kong and Paris frequently. The former is very much in line with the rest of the world and the fashion industry. The latter is very quickly catching up. Since we opened Lane Crawford Seasons Place in Beijing in 2007, the brands the customers are opting for have moved from the very well-known ones to more insider and fashion forward names such from Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy to Rick Owens, Haider Ackermann and Dries van Noten. Their desire for less obvious designer brands shows the speed at which they are catching up with American and European consumers.
What labels/designers work best for Hong Kong and China?
We are finding, since the Beijing store’s opening in 2007, that our customers have a growing interest for insider designer brands. We have seen growth in brands such as Azzedine Alaïa in China.
How is Lane Crawford addressing the aspirations of the Chinese consumers?
At the moment, the Chinese consumers are extremely easy to service in terms of wants and needs. They get excited in the Lane Crawford environment because of the broad selection of designer labels plus new and harder-to-find brands. Going forward, we realize the speed of the fashion education and desire is moving so fast. This will only make our jobs more exciting. To push the envelope even more.
Do you get preferential treatment over other buyers/fashion directors because you come from Hong Kong/China?
There is no preferential treatment, however, our expert and long term insights into the mainland China consumers and market is very interesting for everyone to watch and see how and what we buy.
What are your future plans for Lane Crawford? What exciting things can we expect?
The growth of Lane Crawford stores, the expansion of our contemporary fashion business, the opportunities to grow and pick up new designers for the ever-demanding fashion consumers.
How do you feel about being photographed by so many street style bloggers like Tommy Ton of Jak and Jil and The Sartorialist? Did you ever think that you were going to be such a fashion “star”?
I am flattered to get such coverage. I have been doing this job for about 25 years, 20 years of which I was totally unknown. All this publicity is to due to the importance of online media such as bloggers and the real time access during fashion shows. Would I say am a star? No, not at all. I am just doing my job, sometimes surrounded by a lot of cameras!