It is with pleasure that I welcome Laurence Ouaknine on BrandWatch. Laurence is the creator of "Au Coeur du Luxe" ("At the Heart Of Luxury"), a company specializing in luxury brand retail based in Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai. "Au Coeur du Luxe" is one of the partners of The Scriptorium Company - and an important associate for the Asian market.
In partnership with the French Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong just hosted the 2010 edition of "Boutique Boulevard: So Lush, So Central" - the rendezvous event of luxury brands in Hong Kong.
From 14 to 23 May, the most famous brands organized a series of encounters with professionals in luxury who were able to display, to their numerous fans in Hong Kong, their savoir faire, and share their exceptional universe with them.
The event that opened with an evening reserved for the happy few, took place in the most dynamic sector of Hong Kong, the Central District. The itinerary, running through the district, linking the various malls dedicated to luxury brands, allowed one to wander from one boutique to the other and watch the demonstrations:
- A workshop (Scents & Sensibility) proposed by Guerlain and conducted by one of the creators of L'Instant by Guerlain, Ms. Sylvaine Delacourte, showed why and how to wear a fragrance.
- A workshop dedicated to the art of shaving (twice), presented by the barber of the prestigious Mandarin Oriental, Angel Gonzales.
- Advice from the French sommelier, Pierre Legrandois.
- Besides which, a number of brands, from Dunhill and Tiffany & Co to Armani, Cartier, Gucci, along with Louis Vuitton, offered workshops in dressmaking and presentation with tips on fashion and etiquette.
This event also echoed the "Savoir Faire Exhibition" held from 30 April to 2 May by Dior in Hong Kong for its new "Rosewood" jewellery collection.
Held for the first time in Paris last year, "the Dior savoir-faire exhibition" helped to firmly establish its unique jewellery pieces as an expression of the expertise and the creative passion of Dior.
Encouraged by the success of the Paris event, three jeweller craftsmen made the trip to Hong Kong this year in order to demonstrate their expertise and display the new Rosewood collection. This collection, designed by Victoire de Castellane, consists of thirteen models and pays tribute to Christian Dior's favourite flowers: the roses from his garden at Milly-la-Forêt.
This type of 'seduction operation' that presents the savoir-faire of the most prestigious brands is very popular and highly appreciated in Asia. Indeed, with the increasing numbers of Chinese nouveaux riches, luxury brands try to teach their current and future clients about the values on which their reputation in Europe is based. Among these values, craft, expertise, and the demonstrations of the meticulous gestures of skilled workers, validate their legitimacy and the prices practiced by the famous houses.
This display of manufacturing procedures and the immersion in the history and the discovery of the universe of the brand go hand in hand. Once the client has been convinced that the product is well made and of quality, he/she has to be persuaded to adhere to the image of the brand, to what it projects. This process takes more time than a simple act of seduction, but if it is successful, the loyalty of customers will surely follow and convince them that they have placed their trust in a quality brand that closely reflects their personal values.
Furthermore, organizing commercial operations of this calibre in a group can also attract considerable media coverage and turn Hong Kong into a meeting point for luxury in Asia. In fact, China and Hong Kong are generally very fond of spectacular promotional events that create a buzz. Luxury brands in Asia in fact try to be more imaginative than their neighbour to offer the most popular show of the moment, where one-upmanship is always present.
But, even though luxury brands do not always attract customers immediately in the aftermath of these events, they still would have initiated a few of them. The visitors who turn up out of curiosity, and who do not correspond to the core clientele targeted by the brands, are likely to be fascinated by the universe of a brand and become its customers as soon as they are able. This preliminary approach to a clientele that is less aware also helps to demystify the access to one of these famous luxury brands, often intimidating and somewhat alarming.
European customers are certainly not excluded from the world of handcrafted luxury brands (as the campaigns launched last March by Vuitton and Gucci show), but the approach is different.
It consists, not of justifying the price of an item because of its quality (seeing that the crisis has curbed the spending of some buyers), but of making them aware of the culture of luxury, which is more often the case in Asia. We should also bear in mind that the Vuitton campaign was considered misleading by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK, which estimated that it could lead consumers to believe that its products were made entirely by hand. One has the impression that handmade is used more as a sales pitch for marketing than as a tool for instruction as it is in China.
© Laurence Ouaknine