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China Daily Website

Interview with president of LV China

Updated: 2012-06-04 18:21
( chinadaily.com.cn)

In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Christopher Zanardi-Landi, president of Louis Vuitton China, talks about bringing luxury to the Chinese market, building world-class stores and creating personal relationships with Chinese customers.

China Daily (CD): This year marks LV's 20th year in China. What would you say are the company's biggest milestones during these years?

Christopher Zanardi-Landi (ZL): From the first day, we decided when we entered China we wanted to do it exactly the same way that we would do it anywhere else in the world. So we came with a store, which at that time was state-of-the-art of Louis Vuitton, exactly as if we were building a store in Paris or in any other major city of the world. We ran it ourselves, trained the staff, created the customer experience. Of course today that seems normal. But 20 years ago that was really a revolution in China because no one was doing that.

One that, of course, I remember very strongly because I was here in 2004, when we opened our first global store in Shanghai at Plaza 66 … There was a trunk on the front that was the original facade of the store while we were building it. That photograph went all over the world and was published in magazines and newspapers all over the world as, I would say, a sense of showing how fast the Chinese economy was growing, how fast things were changing in China. And I think at that point Vuitton also became very much a reference and a market for the extraordinary economic success of China.

CD: So you would say that Louis Vuitton in the past two decades in China has helped set the tone and trends for the luxury market?

ZL: To all the people I've spoken to in the last months about the 20th anniversary of Vuitton here, the comment I get most from people is very interesting, which is that, "You know, 20 years ago I didn't know anything about luxury brands. I'd never heard of Louis Vuitton or any other luxury brand. Of course, today things are very different, but yours was the first luxury brand that I ever came across. It was the one that touched me first, and I feel I grew up with your brand. Over the last 20 years I've watched myself grow, I've watched Louis Vuitton grow, I've watched the economy in China grow, and I feel there's a synergy in that, that we’ve all grown together to some extent."

I think that is unique because of our time here and the energy that we've put into China in the last 20 years.

CD: How much do you attribute LV's success here to the brand being one of the first luxury brands to enter China?

ZL: It's always important to be one of the first. Louis Vuitton has a philosophy of "pioneer spirit" … Every year we're always looking at one or two new countries that we will enter into, because it is very much the spirit of travel in the sense of enrichment. But what I think is also very important and that is being the first is not everything. What is very important is that once you're in, if you enter a market, is to be very consistent with what you're doing and to be sure that you continue to develop.

Something that we understood very, very early on is that Chinese people, when it comes to purchasing, have a very strong sense that everything outside China is better. One of the things that we wanted to change, and it was really a goal, was to say to Chinese customers, "No, that's not true. What you find here in China is as good or better, because it's probably newer than anything you can find outside." So we went with a philosophy of building stores and building our brand here in a way to say that, when you go to your store in Beijing, in Dalian, in Qingdao, in Urumqi, you will find a Louis Vuitton store that is as good as anywhere else in the world, with a choice of product that is as good as anywhere else in the world. Products that are available in Paris are available here the same time.

CD: A lot of Chinese are doing their shopping for luxury products overseas. How are you bringing home the message that you don't have to do that, because everything you can find there you can also find here?

ZL: In each city that we have a Louis Vuitton store, what we try to do is to have a very close relationship with our customers in that city. And of course for customers, it's very important to have a personal relationship. They may love our brand, but also they love to be in the store and they know the staff and the staff know them by name and recognize them. Of course, when you travel overseas, it's different, because you arrive in a different city that you may not be that familiar with. You don't know the staff in the store and the staff in the store don't know you. It's a fact of life. We try to overcome that as best as we can, but it's clear that if you're at home and you walk into the store where everybody knows you and greets you by name, that's a very personal experience and can't be matched anywhere else.

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Videographer: Lou Yi & Cong Ruiting

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