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Mytheresa Bolsters China Push With Local Designer Programme

The German e-tailer is launching a ‘China Designer Program’ as part of its plans to grow its still-nascent business in the key market.
(Clockwise from top left) Xu Zhi, Susan Fang, Jacques Wei and Didu are the four designers selected for the Mytheresa's 'China Designer Program' debut.
(Clockwise from top left) Xu Zhi, Susan Fang, Jacques Wei and Didu are the four designers selected for the Mytheresa's 'China Designer Program' debut. (Mytheresa)

China’s strict ‘zero-Covid’ continues to damage luxury sales in the country. But that hasn’t stopped Mytheresa from taking a long view and pushing ahead with plans to bolster its nascent business in the key market, where the tightly curated German e-tailer remains under-penetrated.

Since Mytheresa first entered China in 2016, launching a Mandarin-language website, momentum has been modest. It wasn’t until March this year that Mytheresa launched on Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com and has since opened an office in Shanghai and hired a new president of China and Asia Pacific, Steven Xu, to spearhead growth in the market.

Recent investments appear to be making an impact: gross merchandise volume (GMV) in mainland China grew 22.5 percent year-on-year in the quarter ending September 30, albeit on a small base. (The company does not break out revenue figures for the region.)

Now, it’s augmenting its push with a new talent initiative, ‘The China Designer Program,’ conceived to forge closer ties with China’s fashion industry and boost consumer awareness at a time when interest in homegrown labels is heightening.

“Chinese consumers are the largest part of the global luxury market, and I think to really be inside the fabric of the country, of the consumer mind, is something really important for us,” said Mytheresa chief executive Michael Kliger. “We believe that this will give us a lot of opportunity for us to grow the awareness in China,” added Xu.

Peers like Net-a-Porter, Matchesfashion and Moda Operandi have launched similar programmes to secure a supply of fresh new labels to help differentiate themselves in a highly crowded and competitive luxury e-commerce market, offering young designers financial grants, marketing support and even mentoring, sometimes in exchange for exclusive distribution rights.

Mytheresa’s programme is the first to focus on Chinese talent. The four designers selected for the initiative’s debut are Didu, Jacques Wei, Susan Fang and Xu Zhi, who will each design an exclusive capsule collection for Mytheresa to be sold on the site, featured in The New York Times’ T Magazine China and showcased at Shanghai and Paris fashion weeks next year. Mytheresa is also committing to stocking items from their mainline collections for at least three seasons. The designers will also receive mentorship from designer Ye Mingzi, The New York Times’ T Magazine China editor-in-chief Feng Chuxuan, stylist and influencer Fil Xiaobai, and Mytheresa vice president of buying Tiffany Hsu.

China kept the global luxury industry afloat last year while much of the West was still reeling from the impact of the pandemic. But Covid restrictions have hit luxury sales hard this year, and the outlook for 2023 remains uncertain. For Mytheresa, driving growth in the market won’t be easy, even if e-commerce is set to account for a greater portion of luxury sales in the region.

“Mytheresa is still a relatively small player in the China luxury e-commerce market,” said Lauren Schenk, executive director of equity research at Morgan Stanley. “We do believe there is a place for a more narrow, curation-driven model, but the greatest share likely goes to those models that have the widest assortment from a brand and SKU perspective.”

Nevertheless, Kliger and Xu are undeterred.

“We are still a very small player in this huge market,” said Kliger. “It’s important that you show that you’re committed to the market, you show you’re committed to the local consumer and to the local talent.”

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