A shake-up in China’s luxury market is just within reach.
SHANGHAI – As the world anticipates the extravagant Shanghai Expo 2010 next month with awe and, in places, bemusement, Bund18’s CEO Vanna Teng has designs on using this limelight to propose her vision of what luxury in China can – and should – become. For the uninitiated, Bund18 is something of a trailblazer, bringing well-heeled Shanghainese an impeccable combination of luxury brand retail, world class art and fine dining all housed within a UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award-winning site. According to Teng, Bund18’s recipe for luxury goes something like this: combine top-level brands with a creative atmosphere, coupled with a dash of old and new Shanghai, and an experience that balances the best of East and West.
But Teng believes that attitudes to luxury – both towards and within China – must evolve for the industry to truly blossom. She wants to replace the “me-too” consumer and brand mentality with a more considered appreciation of quality and design.
For Teng, much of the international luxury industry is yet to hit the target when it comes to capturing the Chinese consumer’s imagination. She bemoans the ignorance that persists around Chinese artists, Chinese brands and Chinese food and plans to promote these on the international stage.
This desire for a new luxury future in China has proved a decisive influence on Teng in her role as CEO of Bund18. Teng joined the company at its conception in 2003, rising through the ranks to take the top position last year. Design and craftsmanship lie at the heart of her vision of luxury – and she wants her customers to feel the same. This means keeping Bund18’s offer at the top of the spectrum and, so far, it’s an approach that has stood her in good stead. A focus on “investment” watches, jewellery and fine art during the global financial crisis led Bund18 to emerge relatively unscathed, she says . This strategy continues with Bund18’s sponsorship of the Shanghai Fine Jewellery and Art Fair, which coincides with the launch of the Expo.
With a budget rumoured to be nudging $4bn, Shanghai’s 2010 Expo certainly won’t be short of opulence. Will it demonstrate the kind of future luxury market that Teng has in mind for China? Perhaps not yet, but for Teng this is just the beginning.