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China 2015: THOUGHT LEADERSHIP | Going Global

Eden Chen
Training Manager Ogilvy & Mather, China
Jane Liu
Training Manager Ogilvy & Mather, China

They express and export Chinese culture 

Turning the perception of Chinese products from Made in China to created in China
is a key initiative in China’s going global efforts. Some Chinese brands that do well in the international marketplace are already chipping away at the negativities connected to the Made in China image, but some industries and brands will be more convincing than others. With China having ranked number one in textile and garment export since 1994, and accounting for a one-third share of the global market, the fashion and apparel industries can tell an appealing story about an innovative and creative China. In a recent example, Peng Liyuan, the First Lady of China, showcased Chinese designer clothing in her international state visits, drawing much media attention to Chinese creativity. 

China’s fashion and apparel industries are in a unique position to celebrate “Chineseness” and turn Chinese creativity from a perceptual weakness into a conceptual advantage. Chinese designs and motifs express the ideas and spirit of a nation that is full of creativity. They convey the intangibles, such as China’s culture, lifestyle and the diversity of its people. China’s heritage in silk, embroidery and other crafts also provides a solid foundation for fashion and apparel brands to move toward the high end of the value chain. Fashion and apparel, being at once a theme of the national story as well as the means to tell it, are emblematic of the national brand.

At its essence, the Shangxia brand creates a twenty-first century lifestyle founded on the finest of 5,000 years of Chinese culture. It promises an encounter with balance and harmony that is unique to Chinese design philosophy. Jackets from Septwolves, tailored with Chinese- style collars, are often given as state gifts to extend friendship to foreign dignitaries. Metersbonwe applies different lifestyle themes to various flagship stores around China to provide consumers with unique Chinese experiences.

This marketing strategy will be extended to overseas retail stores soon. Then there is the formidable line-up of emerging designers, such as Guo Pei, Laurence Xu, and Ji Cheng, who often deploy Chinese motifs, directly or indirectly, in their designs.

Given the huge quantity of Chinese garments being sold in the international marketplace, fashion and apparel brands can play a strong role in enhancing the created in China image. In order to accelerate overseas market expansion, here are a few things that are worth considering when Chinese fashion and apparel brands go global: 


Chinese values embodied in design elements are well positioned to meet global consumers’ needs for balance and harmony, health and wellness, and a holistic lifestyle. Fusing Chinese designs with western elements is one way to facilitate the international growth of Chinese fashion brands. This ability to harmonize the East with the West is also a message that Brand China wants to send out to the world. Since we are
in an experience economy, creating lifestyle stores, such as what Shangxia is doing, also allows overseas consumers to experience the essence of Chinese culture. 


Millward Brown’s 2013 Going Global survey found that a high percentage of overseas consumers are willing to consider Chinese brands when purchasing IT and apparel products,

77 percent and 62 percent, respectively. That ranks both categories in the top five of the 16 categories surveyed. Applying digital technology on clothing design or manufacturing, and making it a part of the brand’s story, offers many possibilities. Qingdao Unique Products, a technology brand, has developed a multi-function 3D printer that can scan the consumer’s body shape and then print out a garment in soft fabric that fits the body shape perfectly. With wearable technology just around the corner, crossovers between IT and apparel brands will be win-win for both categories. The use of digital technology in retail stores to create new shopping experiences for consumers is also worth exploring. 


Internet and ecommerce produced new opportunities and threats for all brands that seek
to expand beyond their national borders. In that sense, these factors created an equal playing field. Chinese marketers can now sell to the world from home instead of setting up distribution channels in overseas markets.
For example, Chinese emerging designer Uma Wang’s collection can be purchased on Farchet.com and shipped worldwide. Alibaba’s IPO at the New York Stock Exchange demonstrates to the world that China has some of the most enterprising and innovative ecommerce business models. This should be a big confidence boost for Chinese entrepreneurs to take advantage of ecommerce. 


Since most fashion and apparel brands are private entrepreneurial endeavors, they typically lack
the government support that SOEs have when venturing overseas. The learning curve of going global is steep and full of stumbling blocks. Joining industry associations such as the China National Garment Association or the China Luxury Industry Association, where learning is fostered, resources are shared and strategic alliances can be formed, will facilitate expansion into the global market. 

Ogilvy & Mather is one of the largest marketing communications companies in the world, providing a range of marketing services.