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While most companies are rethinking and often retrenching their retail strategies, Jason Wu has opened his first global stand-alone boutique in Shanghai.
Originally slated for last year, the opening at the IFC Mall was bumped due to delays with designs and negotiations for the right space. “It happened to be this season; I have to say we were quite lucky. If we opened last year, it would have been a very different conversation,” the designer said.
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Noting there has been “a lot of very confident shopping in China” in recent months as stores have reopened amidst COVID-19, Wu said Shanghai is “mostly back to normal.” While the pandemic kept him away from last week’s soft opening for friends, family and special clients, Wu said the store was a year in the making. “Having a little bit of good news in 2020 is not the worst thing,” he said.
For what is a new retail concept, Wu collaborated with the architect Andre Malone to create all of the furniture, lighting, display fixtures and the interior of the 2,500-square-foot space. Powder nude, a color that Wu favors in his designs, is the store’s predominant hue and one that is meant to set it apart from other luxury shops. The soft nude, makeup-like pink is also reminiscent of the Fifties, Wu’s favorite era. Malone also developed the bottle for Wu’s fragrance. This time around the idea was to create a jewel box for a wardrobe, the designer said.
Shoppers will find the sportswear-oriented Jason Wu label and the more luxe Jason Wu Collection. The Jason Wu label retails from $300 to $800, and Collection ranges from $895 to $25,000. More than half of the items that are being sold are only available in the Shanghai location. Catering to high-end clients who are keen to special order pieces such as an all-feather $10,000 dress is a key piece of the strategy. A very large percentage of shoppers are looking to do that, according to Wu.
The Shanghai store is part of a joint venture that Wu finalized last year. That deal was separate from the one with the Shenzhen-based Green Harbor Investment, which acquired a controlling stake in JWU last year. In 2018, Zhejiang Senior Garment Co. took a minority stake in Wu’s company, but a spokeswoman for the designer declined to confirm that was an 11 percent stake. In 2018, the business was valued at $45 million.
Visiting China on a monthly basis last year gave him insights into consumer behavior there, he said. And being Chinese helps to enhance that understanding, he said. One point of difference is that luxury customers in China range in age from 20 to 50, whereas ones in the U.S. are mostly 35 and older, Wu said.
To appeal to the younger customer base, there is a good amount of sportswear in the new store. The Jason Wu Collection’s runway assortment is offered as well and available for pre-order. In China, the seasonal collections are more divided than they are in the U.S. market, according to Wu.
While many countries are in various stages of reopening stores, retail has been back up for a few months in China. The New York-based designer said, “We’ll definitely see faster traction there than here, where retail is just starting to resume.”
In China and all around the globe, Wu said the emphasis is increasingly on servicing the clientele. “Stores are beautiful ads for the brands and are a great home. What’s become more important than ever around the world is making it easy for the client. [Creating] personal relationships and sending them things to try in the comfort of their homes is something we’ll have more and more of,” he said. “Online shopping has made it so much easier. To buy luxury, we have to be able to cater to the client in the extra-white glove service kind of way.”
With the Shanghai store up-and-running, Wu is busy finalizing his resort collection. A 360-degree film is being developed and buyers will check out resort next week. He and his team have returned to the company’s Garment District studio in Manhattan with employees working alternating shifts so that only three or four people are in the two-floor office at a time. Masks are a must for all employees on the premises at all times. To try to ensure safety, no one is allowed to remove them while in the studio, the designer said.
”I have [designed] Jason Wu-branded masks so that we all match. We’ve got to make it fashion,” Wu said. “I don’t want to walk around in hospital colors. Plus, they [those masks] should be saved for the hospital workers any way.”
Last month, Wu designed masks to support the “Distance Yourself From Hate” campaign to combat discrimination and to support the GMHC. They have had two sellout runs, he said.