British designer Paul Smith described the Chinese luxury market as “extremely dangerous” to the Financial Times in 2008. Shoppers in China only “wanted things that say I’m wealthy and I’m fashionable… things with a logo on,” Smith said. Soon after he packed up and left the market.
Five years is a long time in fashion and now he has chosen Shanghai for his new flagship store. “There are a lot of people who are not necessarily looking for the obvious symbols of wealth or fashion. They are looking more to buy things that they know are interesting or special,” Smith opined more recently, again in the FT.
He is not alone. Armani is now heavy on simplicity, easing back on logo-ed shirts and bags. Even Gucci has toned down the visible branding. In fact, industry blog Buy Buy China found 23 per cent of the Gucci bags sold in China this year have no prominent logo, compared to just 6 per cent in 2009.
As a basic example: an image-conscious Shanghai business executive might drive an Audi, but at home he keeps his beer in a domestic brand fridge. So says The Week in China. Such wisdom, says the WIC, has worked well for the luxury retailers, who have focused on selling items such as bags, cars and apparel that announce ‘I’m rich, I’ve arrived’.
But as Chinese luxury consumers become more knowledgeable, it seems they are learning to play it down, too. It sounds very plausible, but as anyone who has been to Macau lately will tell you, news hasn’t yet reached the south. It’s still in- your- face brands’r’us.
Wash and blow for Fido
A washing machine for dogs? Well nothing about Discovery Bay should surprise anyone anymore. (I knew it was time to leave back in 1994 when a sign for the “Best Dressed Golf Cart” competition went up in the Plaza).
But a “launderette” for dogs? Canadian entrepreneur says the uber-sophisticated machine is already polishing pooches across the US, Japan, and Europe. MyPetShop in the DB North Plaza is home to this device, along with “a full grooming experience” – oh please - and posh pet food and all those accessories you never knew dogs, cats and fish needed. More importantly, there’s also self service booze. That’s correct, Morgan has the good sense to offer beer and wine while Rover is rinsing.
The Lavakan Pet Washing Machine uses hydro- massage jets that gently massage the pet. The water is pre-heated and controlled for Bobo’s comfort. The jets are on all sides with the exception of the door side, which allows the pet to find the most comfortable position and avoids any direct spray into the eyes. My mother did not do this when washing my hair as a child. The machine is designed to be self-service, and staff show you how to brush the pet to increase the effectiveness of the cleaning. This pampering process doesn’t end there. There’s cotton for the pets’ ears and drops for their eyes. The wash cycle takes five minutes, drying 15-25 minutes, depending on hound size and length of fur.
But surely the pets become distressed and panic inside? Morgan says they get less stress than with normal washing. “In the machine the vast majority appears totally relaxed – imagine a dog in a car with its head by an open window– and are not reluctant to enter the machine a second time, whereas they are sometimes reluctant to return to a groomers.”
This is a first for Hong Kong. That’s enough about pets. You never need an excuse not to wash the dog again as Morgan also sells snacks, bottled beer and wine, only for takeaway purchases, of course. There is also seating, with an 80-gallon fish-tank for a coffee table.
So what’s the biggest hound he’s washed? Two standard poodles. Does it also wash dirty children? Oh yes, he says, he puts his own in to convince nervous dog owners. For HK$100 a go it’s almost worth it for entertainment value.