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'Luxury' eyes China as market and future competitor
Updated: 2004-11-17 09:36

China and other emerging market countries offer new markets for the luxury goods industry though they are likely in time to themselves become competitors, according to industry experts.

China has "a considerable speed of technical assimilation", Hubert Vedrine, a former French foreign minister and now director at the world's leading luxury goods maker LVMH, said at Monday's "Summit of Luxury" here.

"With time, the new emerging countries are going to produce and become competitors. They began with copies, but nothing is stopping them from upgrading the quality of products," he said.

Dedicated to the future of luxury items, the fourth "Summit of Luxury" in Paris also pondered new forms of luxury and reconciling both the need for worldwide distribution by big groups with retaining the essence of luxury that implies rarity.

Participants included executives from Thierry Mugler Perfumes, furniture designers Hugues Chevalier and fashion designer Sonia Rykiel. But French designer Pierre Cardin who was at the event commented: "Multiplication allowed luxury to exist."

"If I had not had the idea 40 years ago to do ready-to-wear, I would not be here," Cardin said.

Marie-Claude Sicard, an expert in brand strategy, also seemed sure that China would get into luxury article production and probably along the lines of Europe's way of working, based on small-scale craftmanship.

"The Chinese invented silk, porcelain well before us," she said adding: "They are rediscovering their traditions in cosmetics."

"One of the great surprises of the 10 to 20 years to come will be the emergence of luxury Chinese brands which will be successful here," Sicard said.

A fascination among consumers in emerging market countries for luxury European products in particular is another factor in the equation, Vedrine said referring to the "psychological dimension".

President of the "Summit of Luxury", Jacques Carles, also said he foresaw change ahead for the new luxury markets.

"New territories for luxury which have already opened up such as India and China are going to fundamentally change in the next 20 years, the geography of the clientele but also the power of investment and above all the sources of inspiration," he said.

"Why would these countries deprive themselves of the possibility of seeing their craftsmen and designers emerge endowed with a worldwide talent?" he added.

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