Liuligongfang is one of the very few Taiwan companies with the necessary cultural heft to become a luxury brand.
It is little wonder that Taiwan, as a relatively recent arrival to the international high-end consumption market, does not really have a major luxury brand to call its own.
Few countries do, in fact. According to an Economist report in December, Europe is still the primary home of luxury-goods makers and accounts for 70% of the world’s consumption. Whether it is cars and yachts from Germany, fashion and fine wines from France, spirits from the United Kingdom, or leather from Italy, Europe tends to rule the roost in this sphere.
The economic powerhouse of the United States has produced fewer luxury goods of note, though its high-end electronics (especially Apple products) are among the market leaders. Where the United States has found a niche is in leather bags, says an Ever Rich spokesperson. Instead of buying Gucci and Prada, the new rich are favoring Coach, Tory Burch, and Michael Kors. “The American brands are producing bags with more flair – exciting designs in vibrant colors that younger people seem to prefer,” notes the spokesperson.
But consumer tastes are constantly changing, providing opportunities for “new-world” countries to make their mark, as Australia, South Africa, and the Americas have done in wines. China is just starting to become an exporter of upmarket goods, while Japan has been doing so for some time, seeking the advantage that comes from greater revenue from less production.
It is not enough to be able to produce an object that is better than the competition’s. The product also needs to be marketed brilliantly and then attain a reputation, which like a fine wine matures with time. For top-of-the-line brands, the goal is to be regarded as a classic, always in fashion.
One Taiwan brand that is striving to reach the pinnacle of international acceptance as a luxury goods maker is Liuligongfang & Co. Founded by actor-director Chang Yi and actress Loretta H. Yang in Tamsui in 1987, it produces artistic glassware.
It works have been exhibited in more than 30 countries and collected not just by the wealthy but also by prestigious galleries and museums, including London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
While Liuligongfang has expanded its operation and now has hundreds of employees around the world, it has also sought to become a lifestyle brand based on traditional Chinese aesthetics combined with a “tactile style of contemporary Asian living.” In addition to opening “lifestyle outlets” in Taiwan that merge culture, dining, art, and lifestyle, the brand’s TMSK Restaurant in Shanghai was singled out by The Times of London as one of Asia’s finest dining establishments.
A recent Liuli event at Songshan Cultural Park called Living Well, hosted by the company’s mini-museum and Liuli Café, showcased the “fresh incarnation” of this emerging style and highlighted the need to sell more than just goods, but also an experience or lifestyle.
“To guide the international development of your brand, you must help your culture to be understood and appreciated by other cultures,” says Nana Chen, head of public relations at Liuligongfang. “Liuli has a unique technique enabling the company to make unique products, which is very rare in this business. Liuli is very well known in China for its products – but the design might look too Chinese for Occidental people. The challenge for Liuli is to find new designs that stay Chinese but appeal more to world culture.”
It is a stiff challenge to become a leading brand, but Liuli has a head start, as was recognized by Vincent Bastien, former CEO of Louis Vuitton and now professor of marketing at the HEC School of Management in Paris when he called Liuli “one of Asia’s most promising brands.”
This is part of a 6-part feature story on luxury goods in Taiwan:
Aiming to be Asia’s Luxury Shopping Destination
From Bags to Riches
The Jewelry in Taiwan’s Crown
Luxury Watches: More Than Just Telling the Time
Upgrading to First-Class
Chinese Aesthetic with a Contemporary Style