Last week, protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong for the first time since plans for a new national security law were announced. They targeted I.T, one of Hong Kong’s most established multi-brand fashion shops and retail conglomerates, and specifically the Comme des Garçons and Bathing Ape outlets in Causeway Bay.
The protesters did not reply to anything the Japanese avant-garde label and regular Paris Comme des Garçons fashion week, but the protesters targeted the label’s local partner – the IT group, and specifically one of its founders Sham Kar Wai, like this yarn detail, because of his presence at the police officer’s dinner earlier this year.
Although luxury malls have become venues for pro-democracy singing together and scenes of police violence, until now the international luxury brand storefront remains original while protesters are targeting banks, ATMs and Starbucks outlets for various pro-government alignments.
But now, for the first time, a globally known fashion store is a prime target; Prestigious labels are being drawn into potential cultural and political mines because of the actions of their local partners.
I.T is a cultural heritage brand made in Hong Kong, a local success story in many ways. Sham founded I.T in 1988, as a small boutique targeting younger consumers who wanted to buy edgy and avant-garde labels. The store broke away from luxury rivals Lane Crawford and Joyce, and found success developing into the Mainland China market.
Today, retail conglomerates offer a mix of multi-brand stores such as IT, it and ete !, more than ten in-house and licensed brands including b + ab, Chocoolate, Izzue, and various mono brands. stores include Comme des Garçons.
According to the group while report 2019-2020, the group now offers around 200 stores, and total retail sales in Hong Kong and Macau have decreased 6.2 percent to HK $ 1,463.3 million.
His network including many world-famous brands including Ann Demeulemeester, Junya Watanabe, Fred Perry, Simone Rocha, McQ, C-O White-White Virgil Abloh and Nanda Style.
If protesters decide to target each outlet, this could mean hundreds of locations damaged throughout Hong Kong, and given the damage to the Comme des Garçons store, most of these global brands will surely enter another stage in crisis management – what to do if you are a local partner force you to enter politics?
Hong Kong has positioned itself as a luxury retail center for decades, offering a glamorous base for expansive major Asian stores from international brands and then offering some of the highest retail rental in the world.
Wealthy consumers from China have driven global luxury consumption and brand growth for years; for many brands, the financial rewards for being apolitical outweigh the implications of taking a stand or sharing support.
This is very important at this time because the global fashion industry faces huge challenges during the post-coronavirus recovery era, after market disruptions and store closures.
In Hong Kong, it seems consumers are using the power of their wallets and award-winning companies who take a pro-protester attitude, referred to as the “yellow economy,” in line with recent global trends toward more conscious luxury consumption.
The protesters not only bought yellow as an act of consumer activism and to reflect their unique Hong Kong identity, but the protesters also conducted in-depth research on their brands and owners.
Brands that are considered “blue” are avoided and boycotted and the strategy of bringing the name of apolitical fashion into an impactful political situation. It makes international news and forces wealthy decision makers to take a stand.
Until now, I.T has not issued a statement in response to the damage to the store, but its social media channel continues to be inundated with comments calling for brand boycotts, reflecting deep dissatisfaction with the company.
Brands such as the cult fashion clothing Comme des Garçons are being drawn into a highly politicized situation whether they want it or not. Interestingly, Lane Crawford and Joyce’s multi-brand stores have not been targeted, despite Peter Woo Kwong-Ching link to Lane Crawford Joyce Group, in public is stated defending Executive Chairman Carrie Lam and presence at a pro-police rally.
So will this be another nail in the coffin for Hong Kong’s reputation for ease of doing business? On top of the high rental rates and the lack of mainland Chinese consumers, international brands will now certainly ask if it is worth the high cost of having a Hong Kong location.
As consumers continue to value brands that reflect their values, and punish those who do not, consumer activism not only paves the way for a new face of Hong Kong retail, but also a different Hong Kong identity – an identity that values freedom of financial gain and where to put on yellow is always a trend.
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