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Behind American Vintage’s bet on the lucrative Chinese fashion market



Behind American Vintage’s bet on the lucrative Chinese fashion market

Having operated in Asia for more than a decade with Hong Kong as its sole market, the French fashion label American Vintage now has larger ambitions. The brand recently opened its first Mainland China store in Shanghai, and it is just the start of its goal to further capture high-spending Chinese consumers in the region. Founded in 2005 in Marseilles, American Vintage draws inspiration from the United States and is known for its T-shirts, knits, denim, and fleece. After almost two decades, the b

e brand has established a strong presence with a network of approximately 213 stores, including affiliates, corners, and outlets, across Europe, the Middle East, North America, and Asia.

“[It has been] a long road, a dream come true, a great source of pride,” American Vintage’s founder and CEO Michael Azoulay told Inside Retail Asia in an interview.

Eye on the prize

With a solid presence outside of Asia and a network of five physical stores in Hong Kong, Azoulay felt it was a logical step to continue the brand’s expansion into Mainland China.

“China is a country that is moving forward very quickly and in record numbers in the fashion industry. As a businessman and leader, expanding into China was a goal because the company holds a great belief in this market,” Azoulay shared.

“It’s a market that we couldn’t see ourselves entering alone and we needed to find the right teams on site to do it. We waited but today we’re ready, more mature and we have found the right partner.”

Azoulay is confident that opening a store in Shanghai will strengthen the brand’s relationship with its Chinese consumer base, which is already well-established in its Asia Pacific stores and other parts of the world. He believes this move will bring the brand’s philosophy closer to its customers.

“In the brand’s business plan, Shanghai was one of the first cities to position the brand in terms of image and initial development. When we started thinking about Mainland China, we received several opportunities and Shanghai was one of the most interesting.”

Azoulay acknowledged the challenges that come with expanding into new markets. The biggest hurdle, he said, is to effectively communicate the brand’s philosophy and DNA while respecting the local culture and market dynamics.

“American Vintage has typically been known for its emphasis on timeless, versatile pieces that blend comfort with style. We are focusing our work on shapes, fabrics and colours. We have an international identity,” he said.

“We have always exported, we are present in seasonal resorts, in countries all over the world. We think and create a product that can speak to everyone and allows people to express themselves. People develop their style through the products they own. It is not the product that makes the person in our country [France], and that is why we are transgenerational and cosmopolitan. Even at the beginning, whether in Southern Europe or Northern Europe, we realised that we had no problems developing, the product works everywhere.

“We try to share our values and our products to provide a complete, urban, fashionable wardrobe that is easy to wear and lasts over time.”

The biggest challenge has been finding local partners to help the brand achieve its goals of global expansion, he said.

Experience-driven store concept

As Azoulay explained, American Vintage designs its stores to be places of interaction rather than mere points of sale, and the same is true of its Shanghai store.

Nestled inside West Nanjing Road’s luxury department store Réel, the 82sqm Shanghai store incorporates a variety of lifestyle spaces, allowing customers to read books and have coffee in between fittings.

“This free time is a way to take the time to talk with our customers. Get to know them, inform them about our product, introduce them to the [American Vintage] lifestyle: through smell, music, reading, entertainment with competitions. A discussion that takes place around coffee and in cosy spaces,” he said. “The spaces are now organised around break areas that encourage discussions in an intuitive and enthusiastic way. As for the service, it goes far beyond fashion tips.”

The store also features a denim bar and a white T-shirt bar. The store’s interiors showcase the brand’s signature neutral colours – white, ecru, grey, and navy – while also offering a range of colourful pieces that align with current trends and seasons.

“The evolution of our physical spaces is continually present and allows us to offer activities to new, loyal customers or people passing through our home,” Azoulay said.

Looking ahead, American Vintage plans to introduce digital innovations across its stores to enhance customer experiences. The CEO disclosed the company would continue its international expansion with more store openings in the region.

“We make sure to remain ourselves and bring what we experience on a daily basis to the brand’s headquarters, to your home,” he concluded.

Anil Prabha contributed reporting.

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