It's time for Chinese apparel brands

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Shoppers at a La Chapelle store in Fuzhou, Fujian province. Chinese high-end women's apparel designer brands, such as Koradior, La Chapelle and Exception de Mixmind, are among the best performers in the domestic fashion market. [China Daily]

At a time when Chinese sportswear and casual attire makers were busy clearing their inventories due to a less clear-cut brand orientation, China's domestic high-end designer brands seem to be enjoying better fortunes.

Chinese high-end women's apparel designer brand Koradior is one of the best performers in the market. Taking up 1 percent of the Chinese high-end women's apparel market, it was rated as the sixth-most popular Chinese women's apparel brand by global market consultancy Frost & Sullivan in 2013. It was successfully listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in June last year with a listing price of HK$5 ($0.64). So far, the price has increased to more than HK$9 per share.

During the fiscal years between 2011 and 2013, the company's compound annual growth rate reached 46 percent. By the end of 2014, Koradior had a total of 337 stores in China. Its net profit in the 2014 fiscal year is expected to increase 50 percent to reach 80 million yuan ($12.75 million).

Hong Kong-based financial service provider Sunwah Kingsway Capital Holdings Ltd holds a positive outlook for the company's growth in the upcoming few years if Koradior can control its inventory, quickly adjust to consumers' needs, achieve a higher brand value with a larger number of followers on the online marketplace Tmall and, more importantly, faster like-for-like sales growth.

Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan's choice of outfits during a trip to Russia in 2013 created a nationwide frenzy for domestic apparel brands, helping Guangzhou-based high-end brand Exception de Mixmind achieve instant fame. Bags and coats were soon sold out on the Chinese online marketplace Tmall just a few days after the visit. Retired Chinese tennis queen Li Na and renowned Chinese film director Jia Zhangke are also both strong supporters of this brand.

Before establishing Exception de Mixmind in 1996, Mao Jihong, its founder, conducted a thorough study of the Chinese garment market. He came to realize that, even though the market looked prosperous with a plethora of brands, few Chinese brands were making original designs at the time. Originally designed clothes were priced at a lower level. What's more, there were hardly any high-end brands in China, which meant that this market was virgin territory at the time.

After making a clear brand orientation, Mao set up five studios under the Exception de Mixmind brand in 2005, the only way he believes he can enhance the quality of his products and the credibility of the brand.

As opposed to Chinese sportswear brands, which have been aggressively opening new stores all over China, Exception has only added some 40 new stores in the country since 2005. Mao said that the company's annual sales revenue is around 1 billion yuan.

His confidence probably comes from the decision to double all the clothes' price and to shut 40 stores in 2008. All the products sold in Exception de Mixmind are now priced between 1,000 yuan and 1,500 yuan at the moment, up from the previous 500 yuan to 800 yuan.

"If we do not go high-end, we will be swept away like garbage," said Mao.

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