Ask any fashionista in China about the latest local buzz, and chances are they’ll give you the same answer: café Maison Margiela, which opened its first global branch in Chengdu in June before launching a pop-up Expanded presence to Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Located in Chengdu’s luxury shopping landmark Taikoo Li, the cafe is part of Maison Margiela’s new flagship building, which is divided into a store, a lifestyle showroom and an exhibition area. Visitors will find every photo-worthy detail they need to create the perfect social media post: large branded coffee cup installations, sleek interiors that reflect the label’s minimalist aesthetic, and cakes shaped like the iconic Tabi boot and of the square logo embroidery. Since opening in June, the cafe has amassed over 7,000 jobs in Xiaohongshu and long queues that have often exhausted the store’s printing papers, officials at the local newspaper said the dam.
“Maison Margiela has really taken the brand experience to a new level,” says Qirui Chen, a Chengdu-based freelance fashion reporter. “The coffee cup installations in front of Chengdu’s traditional architecture are instant social media hits. But other than that, they’ve curated every detail in the cafe to be Margiela-esque. It’s now become the hottest hub for local creatives and fashionistas.” Prior to this café venture, the group had collaborated with hip local coffee chain Seesaw on a pop-up project in 2020 to promote their ‘Coffee Break’ perfume.
Margiela’s café venture may not be groundbreakingly new to the luxury and fashion industry playbook — but its huge popularity in China today has pointed a new direction for the industry to connect with the country’s recession-weary consumers.
Other luxury brands have accelerated the opening of branded cafes in China’s up-and-coming shopping districts this year. In April, Cartier brought its first tea house to its newly renovated flagship store in Chengdu, serving coffee, tea and desserts to VIP customers from the region. In addition, Ralph Lauren opened APAC’s first Ralph’s Bar in Chengdu. And in October, Dior will open two Dior cafes in Chengdu and Shanghai, it said local sources.
“With a slowing economy and massive layoffs from high-growth sectors flooding the headlines today, many young professionals are shifting their consumption habits from luxury goods to eating and drinking. They are looking for small, concrete happiness,” explains Chen.
The café + restaurant formula has been tried and tested in luxury’s lifestyle extension models, but what’s new here is the role these cafés play in mainland retailers’ strategies. Corresponding bath, homes should expect a reduced pace of growth in 2022 due to weaker spending in China amid an ongoing zero-COVID policy. With consumer confidence and demand softened, selling $5 (RMB 35) cappuccinos and $10 (RMB 70) cakes is proving to be an effective way to lure visitors back to businesses’ brick-and-mortar locations and with a wide Mass contact series of brand pendants.
China’s booming coffee market also provides the perfect opportunity for luxury brands to democratize brand codes into a premium yet socially shareable experience. according to a report According to local research firm Qianzhan, China’s coffee consumption has grown by an average of 15 percent over the past five years, faster than the world average growth of 2 percent. Average Chinese coffee consumption also rose from six cups a year in 2018 to over 10 cups in 2022. Younger urban generations no longer see coffee as an occasional indulgence, as it did a few years ago, but as a lifestyle staple, that one can enjoy during a typical work day.
Domestic luxury resale stores were among the first to recognize this opportunity to appeal to the young consumer. In the past year, some of China’s best-known luxury resale brands, including Hangzhou’s Rea Vintage and Chongqing’s Shenglan Vintage, began serving “luxury ladies” latte art with big brand logos. After shopping, customers enjoyed an additional photo opportunity by ordering a latte with Chanel’s double C logo and an LV trunk cupcake.
On Xiaohongshu, over 14,000 posts under the hashtag “中古店咖啡” (vintage shop luxury coffee) describe the various logo coffee experiences of China’s luxury retailers, helping to reinforce coffee’s association with emerging lifestyles — Establishment of a café-centric social currency.
With China stagnating and a global slowdown, the country’s Gen Z consumers will increasingly demand entry-level brand experiences that offer storytelling and convenience. For Maisons, this means going beyond product desirability to deliver novelty and leverage hyper-local touchpoints to meet consumers who are still unable to go abroad due to the travel ban. A new wave of brand experiences is warming up with logo coffee and tea.