“Design in China”​ e09 – HEFANG : An ‘Affordable Luxury’ Designer Jewelry Brand Making Waves

This series of articles named “Design in China” will provide a snapshot of new DTC Chinese brands. I’ll review emerging brands in China and outside of China. But all these brands are designed and created from China.

What does going Direct-to-consumer (DTC) mean? Selling direct-to-consumer, commonly referred to as DTC or D2C, means you’re selling your products directly to your end customers. Sellers bypass any third-party retailers, wholesalers, or any other type of middlemen to deliver their products.

Recognizable examples of DTC brands include CasperWarby Parker, and Dollar Shave Club. However, there are now thousands of sellers undertaking this unique approach. These DTC brands are leveraging mobile and digital channels that are bypassing traditional sales models.

DTC brands are usually sold exclusively online or specialize in a specific product category. However, top growing brands are expanding to other channels like their own storefront or exclusive partnerships with other retailers.

Branding over Sales Performance

China consumption has evolved already. Many start-ups from mainland China experienced new way of purchasing clothes but also electronic accessories and food for years. They’ve already generated high volume of online sales and are now developing more sophisiticated and creative product and online ad campaign to elevate their brand. From a strong product positioning they are creating strong brand to retain existing users and attract new consumers. I’ll comment on the one I found interesting and worth sharing with followers here. #ChineseCulturalConfidence

These brands understand why brands are so important? #为什么要做品牌

“The most important thing really, is this notion that the consumer has changed, and really a lot of retailers are way, way, way behind the curve,” said Paula Rosenblum, co-founder of retail advisory firm RSR Research – source CrunchBase

Hefang – An ‘Affordable Luxury’ Designer Jewelry Brand Making Waves

For the last two decades, international luxury brands have been expanding operations in China owing to the country’s growing spending power. European brands, in particular, have long considered China a key market for luxury fashion. But the spotlight is slowly turning on the local designers who are paving the way for homegrown Chinese luxury fashion. One brand that comes to mind is the brainchild of award-winning designer Sun Hefang. Her eponymous affordable high-end jewelry brand has gained recognition at home and abroad. With partnerships with esteemed retailers like Colette in France and David Jones in Australia, Hefang jewelry is available in several other countries besides China.

China is the biggest market for jewelry and watches as of 2021, followed by the United States and India. But China is also a big player on the other side of the equation: jewelry manufacturing. While China mostly produces low-cost jewelry, its production capabilities for more sophisticated jewelry have increased, thanks to an influx of local designer brands. Sun Hefang studied at the esteemed Central Saint Martins in London and started her brand in China in 2012. The brand produces 18k gold, white gold, Swarovski, and silver jewelry. Unlike designer jewelry brands in the West, Hefang has kept her prices accessible while still giving a taste of luxury to the increasing luxury jewelry consumers in China.

Hefang has struck the right balance between online and offline presence. The brand has partnered with brick-and-mortar retailers in China and abroad while also creating a strong online following with its website, social media, and other marketplaces like Tmall. Like other fashion brands, it has also tapped into celebrity and influencer endorsements with names like Fan Bingbing and Yang Mi.

The success of Hefang can be attributed to a variety of factors. A foreign-educated designer coming up with trendy and edgy designs is one thing, but the brand’s business strategy deserves most of the credit. Firstly, Hefang, unlike many other young Chinese designers, opted to go with jewelry, which is less saturated than the apparel industry. Secondly, the idea of affordable luxury made it stand out from the already strong Western luxury brands present in the country. It catered to a market segment with a penchant for luxury but not the capacity. It also helps that Hefang is not just another jewelry brand run by a corporation but a designer brand from China’s first-ever winner of the Gold Award in the Bright Young Gems competition.

Hefang is also quick to capture trends. Gold jewelry is gaining momentum with young spenders in the country, and the brand is taking advantage of this trend with its 18k gold jewelry. The brand has also entered the duty-free shopping sector with China Duty Free Group, retailing its products in Haitang Bay. The success of this designer jewelry brand is an indication that China is not just a manufacturing hub; it can dominate all segments of the product lifecycle, from design to sale. 

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