It seems that Bosideng’s PR machine has been working overtime the past week what with the announcement of international expansion and the brand’s supply contract with the English Premier League’s Queens Park Rangers Football Club.
I wrote about the Chinese fashion brand in this blog a few months ago when they launched on the periphery of London’s Mayfair (Bosideng’s showroom is actually just a few meters walk away from Oxford Street, a mecca for middle income shoppers which doesn’t have quite the same luxury cachet – let’s call it snob appeal – as Mayfair).
Two press articles I happened to come across over the weekend reminded me I must revisit the Bosideng website to see whether it has improved upon the rather lacklustre online launch last July. But first, Bosideng’s announcement about the brand’s international expansion that includes a tie-up with an Italian brand and a possible store opening in New York is an unequivocal statement of its intent to create an image of a luxury global brand.
What is now clear, however, is that Bosideng, a Chinese fashion brand, actually doesn’t want to appear too ‘Chinese’ in terms of style or even its brand DNA and image. While Gao Dekang, Bosideng’s founder is justifiably proud of the company’s achievements with circa 11,000 stores in China, his motive in going overseas and moving into upmarket fashion is to get rich Chinese shoppers – enamoured of luxury Western brands – to buy his products. The London store is there to serve wealthy Chinese tourists and build a brand reputation back home in China, rather than cater to the typical British shopper.
This is a difficult balancing act, almost a kind of magic trick. On the one hand Bosideng wants to be seen as one of a few private sector (as opposed to state-owned) Chinese brands to successfully ‘go global’, while on the other it seeks to associate its ‘international’ products with a European luxury heritage. Or perhaps, more ambitiously, to be perceived as an heir (with a Chinese provenance) to the great British tailoring tradition alongside the venerable Gieves & Hawkes or Paul Smith.
As with any high wire act or illusionist’s legerdemain, things could go horribly wrong if the brand positioning isn’t thought through. How difficult might it become for a Chinese company, happy to be thought of as China’s equivalent of ‘Marks and Spencer’ to masquerade as a European luxury brand while strongly associating its product image with a British fashion heritage? In brand management terms it’s a potential nightmare because this type of brand positioning mash-up lends itself to all sorts of mixed messages and brand inconsistencies in future. Yet, as is well known, Chinese companies tend not to take brand management as seriously as we do in Europe.
Anyway, after a quick excursion around the Bosideng website, I’m happy to report that it has marginally upped its game since I visited its launch version over two months ago.
For a start, there’s now a proper ‘hero’ image of its magnificent showroom premises, a truly glorious architectural makeover of a former pub in South Molton Street that I frequented long ago. It is a shame that we still don’t get to peek into the shop’s interior and experience the brand ambience. Nonetheless a quick search of the web has yielded an alternative source for that and the interior design is elegant showing a subtle blending of classic men’s fashion wear amid tastefully discrete arrangements of Chinese-style furnishings.
There are now a couple of videos to enrich the website. I’m not sure that the crows or ravens or whatever they might be (I’m not an ornithologist) are the best metaphors for a Chinese brand that has pretensions to be British. We know that the Bosideng logo features abstract bird wings, but ravens and crows are portents of doom and gloom in Western folklore. And the fierce-looking Golden Eagle – the metaphor for a proud and powerful predator (cue the image of a hugely wealthy self-made businessman) – is a tad laboured. Besides, it strikes one as being more of an American than a British symbol. If Bosideng really wants to use an avian metaphor that employs a genuinely native British species, then why not the Red-legged Partridge or a Black Grouse? I’m half-jesting, of course. Possibly the eagle will work well in its New York store next year.
There is, though, a rather neat ‘the making of’ video featuring a slightly self-conscious production crew while handsome male models strut the pose.
Much as CEMS 360 would like to take some credit in the few upgrades that have been implemented – if you remember, we made a number of suggestions – there is no knowing whether a blind bit of notice was taken of them (full disclosure: we have nothing to do with Bosideng nor they with us).
One thing is certain: Bosideng still hasn’t exploited its Gao Dekang creation story to the full. It would seem strange not to for a brand that has positioned itself on a ‘heritage’ platform, but then again, perhaps not so strange as the brand tries hard to project an image of a classic British brand (or should that be European?) to its wealthy Chinese clientele.
It just needs to clarify what type of brand it wants to be if it’s to carve out a clear, strong and consistent image over the long-term. In so doing Bosideng can differentiate itself early on from the many Chinese imitators who are bound to follow in the brand’s laudably pioneering footsteps.