Feb 25, 2011
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China shifting to no-logo luxury says Chloe CEO

Feb 25, 2011

The tastes of China's wealthy are shifting away from designer goods with flashy logos to more understated luxury brands, the chief executive of French fashion house Chloe said Friday.

A worker cleans windows in front of an advertisement for luxury brand Chloe in Beijing.

That shift has helped Chloe become one of the Swiss luxury goods company Richemont Group's fastest-growing labels in China, its CEO said.

"China has been very fast at picking up the most well-known brands," Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye said in a group interview.

"But they are now looking for the brands that are not necessarily on the top of the radar screen. They're looking for new interesting brands that bring something that other brands don't bring."

De la Bourdonnaye was in Shanghai for a fashion show marking Chloe's fifth anniversary in China, which is expected to become Chloe's number two market after Japan within two years.

China is the world's fastest-growing market for luxury goods and is forecast to be the world's top buyer of such products as cosmetics, handbags, watches, shoes and clothes by 2015, according to consultancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Chloe -- which counts fashion heavyweights Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo among its former artistic directors -- is currently helmed by British designer Hannah MacGibbon, who has assisted Philo.

The fashion house specialises in ultra-feminine, casual clothes in muted colours designed to go straight from the catwalk onto the street.

It plans to expand from 10 boutiques in China to 14 by the end of the year, including stores in the eastern city of Nanjing and the central city of Xian. Its number of employees is expected to soon double to 70, he said.

"We have to be selective. We don't want to over-expose ourselves," de la Bourdonnaye said of the firm's expansion strategy in China.

He said it was against Richemont policy to provide sales or revenue figures.

The Frenchman took over as Chloe's chief executive in September after three years leading London's Liberty luxury department store. Before that, he was president of French couture house Christian Lacroix.

He said Gaby Aghion, who founded Chloe in 1952 -- she turns 90 this year -- stressed the brand's understatedness when they first met.

"She said with a big smile: 'I've always felt women are more beautiful naked', which for a designer of clothes is a very interesting statement. It shows the approach of Chloe is so different from other brands."

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