Since 1988, Italian clothing firm Max Mara Group has maintained a strong presence in China.
Since 1988, Italian clothing firm Max Mara Group has maintained a strong presence in China. The company boasts 238 stores on the mainland, 36 in Hong Kong, 42 in Taiwan, and 5 in Macau – and they aren’t stopping there. Max Mara’s new Hong Kong flagship location recently opened in the Central shopping and financial district. Its two-story design by Duccio Grassi Architects – described as “tactile and sophisticated” – closely mirrors what the brand sees as key attributes to the Chinese market.
“There are many opportunities in real estate, impressive shopping centers, more and more elaborate and striking as they require ever new unique and awe-inspiring combinations,” noted chairman Luigi Maramotti. Recent expansion by Max Mara and its various brands, including Weekend by Max Mara, Sportmax, Max & Co., and Marella, have included a 3,240 square-foot flagship in the Season’s Place mall in Beijing as well as flagships in Chengdu and Hangzhou. “Max & Co. is our second, most developed brand in China,” he added. “Weekend used to be a collection available at the Max Mara stores, but it is now carried in dedicated units and growing significantly.”
From “a white canvas,” as there is “no urban memory” and historical city centers as in Europe, the Chinese have created luxury shopping locations, said Maramotti. Despite this fresh beginning, Maramotti said, China is adopting many Western models of living. Chinese buyers are not only aiming at luxury spending but also at a corresponding lifestyle. He said, “They have it in them to travel and move, and their desire to replicate models and references is amplified.”
And the chairman dismisses the buzz that growth in China is grinding to a halt, saying, “We have seen an average of 30 percent growth per year in a market that is greatly relevant for us.” It’s no surprise, then, that the new Hong Kong flagship carries the high expectations for the brand. The store has been designed to offer contrast to the busy, intense city outside its doors. “We believe in values that can create a balance in this endless rush, values that are more intimate and meditative,” Maramotti said. “We all are looking for stories. There is a lot of written and visual information in this society, but we have moved away from the oral tradition, and there are less and less storytellers. But relations are what people are interested in. Here, there is a natural discovery of a tale.”
Max Mara was founded in 1951 by Luigi Maramotti’s father, Achille. Last year, Max Mara earned $1.63 million in sales and operated 2,330 stores in 150 countries served by 5,248 employees. By the end of 2012, Max Mara expects to operate 320 units in Greater China.
Despite growing concerns about the Chinese market’s deceleration, it’ll certainly be a while before the market becomes anything near irrelevant. Ranges of style and taste are expanding, and while the growing crowds all want a piece of the luxury market, still others are striving to stay different. The material interests of the populace are branching out and away from requiring society’s constant approval. As the Chinese fashion revolution spreads from China’s elite on down to its middle class, we can expect to see more personal expression and independently creative trends making their way into the market from both outside and inside, making for an enormous array of style that may eventually spread back across the world.