'Italian' fashion is from closer to home

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 March, 2011, 12:00am

The products are not designed or manufactured overseas and are little known outside the mainland- despite being promoted as foreign.

But to the growing ranks of fashion-conscious mainlanders, Gimo Renzi and Kaltendin were the embodiment of international high fashion until a China Central Television expose last week dismissed them as fake global fashion brands.

The CCTV report highlighted shady marketing strategies used by many mainland businesses to project their made-in-China products as international names.

Analysts said the popularity of such products among notoriously brand-conscious mainland consumers underscored a deep-rooted blind faith in foreign brands and the credibility crisis faced by domestic businesses.

Incidents such as the 2008 melamine-tainted baby formula scandal, which left at least six children dead and nearly 300,000 ill, have shaken consumer confidence in domestic products.

The promoters of Gimo Renzi, who claimed it was an Italian fashion house, have opened more than 40 outlets in upmarket department stores in major mainland cities - including at least four in Beijing.

However, CCTV tracked the company that owns the Gimo Renzi brand to a non-existent address in a village in Beijing's largely rural Mentougou district.

CCTV said an Italian law firm that it had commissioned to investigate the Gimo Renzi brand found no record of it with Italian authorities in charge of trademark registration.

It said Kaltendin was also a local brand in disguise, owned by a Shenzhen-based company called Shenzhen Kaltendin Garment.

The company has been promoting Kaltendin as an Italian brand, but it has no factories or stores overseas. However, the Kaltendin trademark had been registered in Italy in January 2001 - some three years after it was registered in Hong Kong.

Gimo Renzi and Kaltendin are among many domestic brands sprouting up in department stores and airport boutiques that CCTV says are being passed off as foreign.

Dr Li Zuming, of the China University of Political Science and Law, said that such marketing strategies were misleading because they played on people's faith in anything foreign. However, such companies had done nothing wrong under the current legal framework as long as they had registered their trademarks overseas.

At the Gimo Renzi outlet at Shin Kong Place, an upmarket department store in Beijing, it was business as usual on Thursday, although no customers were spotted for nearly an hour. Weary shop assistants refused to discuss the CCTV expose or how it had affected their businesses.

The fourth-floor outlet is crammed in among second-tier brands. Prominent international outlets like Dunhill and Louis Vuitton occupy prime locations on the ground and first floors.

Professor Wang Hanwu, of the China Brand Management Research Centre, said most of the second-tier brands were Chinese companies promoting themselves as international.

Such brands could flourish on the mainland because regulators were focusing on the need to crack down on shoddy products.

Wang said the fake brand phenomenon reflected growing brand awareness on the mainland and the fact the businesses behind such brands were trying to cultivate a positive brand image in a dishonest way.

He said the shady branding strategies adopted by Chinese businesses were short-sighted and media exposure would give consumers greater brand know-how and help promote healthy brand development.

'Lying beneath the flood of pseudo-international brands in the Chinese market is the lack of faith in domestic brands because of shoddy products such as the melamine-tainted milk products that have totally crippled consumer confidence,' Wang said.

'Many Chinese love the country, but they just can't take the chance of loving Chinese-made products.'