Shang Xia, a Chinese luxury brand backed by French fashion house Hermès, has finally confirmed its grand opening in Paris, which is planned for September. The store will be on Rue de Sèvres, next to a Hermès store. The plan for a Paris store was first announced in December, and then again in February, according to Yicai, a Chinese financial news website.
Founded in 2008, Shang Xia, of which Hermès owns as much as 75 percent, currently has two stores, one in Shanghai and one in Beijing. A store in Paris is a key link in the brand’s development in the next five years. Patrick Thomas, the CEO of Hermès, said the Paris location was planned when the first store opened in Shanghai, and he believes it will put the brand’s global appeal to the test.
Jiang Qionger, the woman behind the innovative luxury brand, said that a Shang Xia store in Paris will necessarily have to combine Chinese culture with the mature commercial system of the West. No one knows for certain how much Hermès has invested in the brand, and despite not having turned a profit, Shang Xia plans to continue with the Paris store.
Shopping in a Shang Xia store is a unique experience. The store in Shanghai resembles a white cave with its dream-like and luxurious decor, while the Beijing store has a Great Wall theme. In both stores, as soon as a customer walks in, a shop assistant brings the customer tea in a small, white porcelain tea cup, and the assistant explains each product’s history and origin. Customized music plays in the background in each store.
Shang Xia sells clothing, jewelry, furniture, artwork and many other items. The products are inspired by China’s traditional handcrafts and the practicality of modern design. The Paris store will carry similar products to those of the Chinese stores, but with minor changes. For example, France bans the use of red sandalwood in furniture making, so furniture originally made in red sandalwood will use a different type of wood. In terms of price, most of Shang Xia’s products will retail for slightly lower prices compared to those of Hermès.
“We are not exactly a luxury brand, and we don’t do fashion,” Jiang said to Yicai. “We try to marry the elegance of traditional life style with contemporary city living.”
Two other brands inspired by traditional Chinese design elements are Taiwan’s Shiatzy Chen, and Hong Kong’s Shanghai Tang, but unlike them, Jiang is not interested in trying to get into fashion week. The brand does not advertise -- its only promotion thus far were two three-week-long showcases featuring live demonstrations of how its brands are made. This type of promotion targets consumers who value quality over a brand name logo, the company believes.
This may be a risky move in China. Chinese consumers at the moment are still purchasing luxury goods as a status symbol, but investment in art has been on the rise, Chen Kan, an executive director in luxury spending at TNS, a market research firm, said. “Chinese buy what others approve of,” Chen said. “Consumers from other countries may be more willing to pay for traditional Chinese design elements.”
About 85 percent of Shang Xia’s shoppers are in Beijing, and 60 percent of the shoppers in Shanghai are Chinese. “It’s interesting for us to know which shoppers buy Shang Xia,” Thomas said. Thomas described its customers as those who “have certain ideas of quality and design, and are interested in specific styles,” Yicai reported.