The logic behind Louis Vuitton’s Hong Kong show

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November in southern China is shaping up to be a tale of two cities.

Earlier this month, fashion insiders gathered in Shenzhen for the re-staging of Chanel’s latest cruise show. On November 30, they’ll meet again for Louis Vuitton, this time in Hong Kong — across the border in China’s Special Administrative Region but just 15 minutes away by high-speed rail — to watch Pharrell unveil his second men’s collection for the house on the avenue of stars of the city. The spectacle will take place in collaboration with local tycoon Adrian Cheng, who owns the K11 Musea shopping center, which is located next to the attraction.

Until recently, few brands in Shenzhen ran local promotions, based on the assumption that the city’s wealthy could easily travel to nearby Hong Kong or Guangzhou to shop. But three years of Covid restrictions that have made Hong Kong off-limits to mainland Chinese and Shenzhen’s growing tech wealth have made the city more important to brands.

At the same time, both Hong Kong’s image and economy have suffered from the crackdown on democracy protests by Beijing’s controversial national security law and three years of population decline, including a wave of locals moving permanently abroad and the exodus of more expatriate talent.

And yet Vuitton is banking on Hong Kong for its next menswear extravaganza. In announcing the show, the brand described the city as “cosmopolitan and vibrant” and “a melting pot of East and West that has produced a thriving metropolis of art, culture and industry.”

But beyond the unique environment that Hong Kong offers, there are also clear commercial motives at play. Luxury is heavily dependent on key global cities: the world’s top ten fashion capitals account for about a fifth of all luxury outlets. And not long ago, according to analysts, Hong Kong alone accounted for more than five percent of global luxury sales, tied with Paris.

Those days may be over, but the city remains vital to the luxury retail sector. Citing Euromonitor data, the South China Morning Post reported in August that Hong Kong had regained its place as the world market with the highest per capita spending on luxury goods, overtaking Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

“I honestly think Hong Kong probably needs a better PR person,” said Kevin Poon, the Hong Kong-born serial entrepreneur behind streetwear brand Clot and retailer Juice. “It’s one of the most underrated cities right now. There are a lot of discerning customers in Hong Kong.”

The city’s seven million residents include a high-performing and savvy clientele who are up to date on the latest trends. As third- and fourth-generation luxury shoppers, many Hong Kong shoppers have had local access to big brands for much longer than their mainland counterparts. Nurturing these valuable customer relationships will be a top priority for brand managers who have been absent during the pandemic.

The last major event Louis Vuitton held in Hong Kong was an exhibition in 2017. By hosting a major show, the brand can now renew its relationship with local VIP customers and pay tribute to its hometown despite the city’s recent problems.

Although Hong Kong has lost some of its luster, it remains a major tourist destination, attracting wealthy visitors from across Asia and beyond. Louis Vuitton’s closure of a store in Causeway Bay’s Times Square shopping center in 2020, at the height of protests in the city, generated numerous headlines about the company’s future. But receiving less attention is the opening of a large duplex store at Hong Kong airport in 2022, part of a broader push by parent company LVMH to use the city for international tourism.

Significantly, Cheng, owner of K11 Musea, also voted for Hong Kong’s resilience as a travel hub. His next project, 11 Skies, is a massive $2.6 billion “retail development” next to the airport. The first phase opened in July, giving the public a glimpse into a fashion insider’s prediction for Hong Kong’s future.

What else to watch out for this week

Monday

Tuesday

VOICES, BoF’s annual three-day meeting, begins at Soho Farmhouse outside London

Wednesday

Farfetch, Foot Locker, PVH and Victoria’s Secret report profits

The Iris van Herpen retrospective opens at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris

Thursday

COP28, the United Nations’ most important climate conference, opens in Dubai

Louis Vuitton shows its men’s pre-fall collection in Hong Kong, Dr. Martens results

Friday

Saturday

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