Tory Burch waited for the China market to develop before expanding

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 November, 2014, 10:53am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2015, 1:48pm

A terrace of The Peninsula hotel in Shanghai had been converted to look like the inside of Tory Burch's spectacular Hampshire estate dining room.

The details were followed to the letter, and the terrace included the books she has in her home, her Moroccan mirrors, elaborately printed wallpaper, and white and blue tablecloths.

Burch sat next to Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, and the tables were filled with mainland VIPs, press, and celebrities. Chefs from cooler-than-thou New York restaurant The Fat Radish were flown in to cater for the occasion, and US dancer Lil' Buck performed. Celebrations that night in Shanghai certainly had some style.

With the high-luxury slowdown on the mainland, more affordable and accessible brands are making headway, and a more price-conscious and choosy client base is developing. "Affordable luxury" brands such as Tory Burch are becoming a threat to the grand European heritage houses.

Burch, an intuitive businesswoman who has built a billion-dollar empire in just 10 years, opened her biggest store Shanghai's Jing An Kerry centre.

The 9,000 sq ft store, decorated in Burch's plush signature style with personal interior touches and decorative influences taken from exotic world travels, lies on prime Shanghai real estate. It ironically sits right opposite a competitor, Michael Kors.

At the opening, we saw an entire room dedicated solely to her China exclusive collection. These sort of exclusives are now becoming commonplace in fashion, as brands aim to vie for fans with limited releases that pay homage to their countries.

The 22-piece capsule collection is not available outside the mainland and features specialist luxe fabrics such as silk georgette, leather, shearling, fox and kalgan lamb. Prices reflect these special materials aimed at Chinese clients wanting a sense of elevated luxury from the brand.

Obviously, Burch has understood China's love for expensive animal pelts, as these items are falling out of fashion in many American and European markets.

Cool urban separates in concrete greys, navy and blacks are meant to reflect New York's low-key fashions, and bolts of deep burgundy are meant to conjure Central Park in autumn. The burgundy fur gilet and two-tone-collar leather jacket were eye catching, and those metallic flats rather covetable.

The line felt sophisticated rather than tokenist, like many China exclusive ranges seem these days. The appeal to the Chinese client is there.

The brand is demonstrating a long-term commitment to China. It has opened 10 stores in three years, although it avoided the earlier rush by other luxury labels, preferring to watch the market develop. They say that timing is everything, and Burch's couldn't have been better.