Lovers of luxury have a big event to look forward to in China. French luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton is holding an exhibition to mark the brand’s 20th year in China. Named the Louis Vuitton Voyages exhibition, the display will include Louis Vuitton’s historic canvas trunks and leather handbags right from the 1860s. The exhibition, which will be held in the National Museum in Beijing, is a clear indication that luxury brands are wooing Chinese customers by linking luxury with art, history and cinema. The idea is to woo the more educated and sophisticated groups within the growing Chinese luxury market.
Louis Vuitton is not the first to have an exhibition in China either. American designer Diane von Furstenberg took the exhibition route earlier this year with “Journey of a Dress” which was held in the 798 art district in Beijing.
Sam Mulligan, director of Data Driven Marketing Asia in Shanghai, admitted that the Louis Vuitton Voyages exhibit is “a clever thing to do” mainly because of the “prestigious setting”. Chinese consumers appreciate businesses with a long history and longevity, so the show should be a good thing for the French brand. Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, also agreed that Louis Vuitton has been “smart” in collaborating with the Beijing National Museum, because Louis Vuitton consumers like brands with a long heritage.
2015 has been earmarked as the year by which China will become the top luxury buyer for handbags, watches, shoes and apparel. So the French luxury brand will be looking to improve its position in this fast-growing economy. And what better way to achieve this than by hosting an exhibition of its most famous and vintage luxury handbags.
In an economy where brand loyalty is largely fickle, Louis Vuitton and other such luxury brands may indeed have to go out on a limb to woo new customers. Rein believes that within the next five years, Louis Vuitton might have trouble holding on to its clientele in China. By that time, luxury buyers will have moved on to their second or third luxury handbag and might no longer be content with buying another Louis Vuitton.
Meanwhile, the National Museum authorities are looking at this exhibit with different eyes. They hope that the association with Louis Vuitton will encourage the cultural design industry in China. The Louis Vuitton Voyages exhibit is sure to infuse a touch of much-needed glamour into the prestigious museum, which abounds in relics from centuries past. However, not everybody is pleased. The Communist Party newspaper, People’s Daily, was critical that the exhibition was “too commercial” for the museum.
However, the mood among potential luxury buyers seems to be upbeat. Most people will be looking forward to this 20th anniversary exhibition with all its luxurious designs and long-standing heritage. The exhibition should provide much-needed good news for the luxury brand after it ran into trouble with the authorities in Shanghai last month. A 20-metre-high suitcase ad in a busy shopping area of Shanghai was brought down because it violated outdoor advertising restrictions.