Strolling through the third floor of the IFC mall, I was surprised to see the denim brands: Evisu, 7 For All Mankind, True Religion, and Lucky Brand Jeans, all occupying the same corner of the shopping center. In a pamphlet nearby I read that this area is dubbed the ‘Denim Zone‘.
In Hong Kong you traditionally have similar businesses clustered together in the same district. This means that lighting stores will be next to lighting stores, restaurant suppliers next to restaurant suppliers, sneakers shops next to sneaker shops, fabric stores next to fabric stores and so forth.
Was the placement of the denim brands here an example of an old technique in a new setting, or something different altogether? If it works for kitchen sinks, will it fly for fashion?
I grew up thinking of the mall* as a suburban phenomenon. I typically picture a setting that sacrifices competition for convenience. Most suburban shopping centers will have one cinema, one home improvement center, one electronics store, one bookstore etc. But that’s not how it works in Hong Kong. Throughout the city you can find shopping centers that specialize in one particular product. There are computer malls, camera malls, video game malls, and toy malls among others.
This being the case, there is no stigma attached to being located next to someone selling the same or similar products**.
Thinking back to the Denim Zone, when consumers evaluate jeans, are they looking at simply the nuts and bolts of the garment, such as the dye of the fabric, or the stitching? Or is part of their purchase based on the perceived value of the brand, the image that the designer cultivates? By lumping brands offering essentially the same product together does it encourage the shopper to become desensitized to the back story*** and think of them as more of a physical commodity?
Should companies that work hard to create a particular image and ambiance be sandwiched together?
Occasionally there may be conflicts. For example, Evisu jeans contain Japanese imagery, so what happens when Lucky Brand Jeans puts their latest line in the window featuring similar patterns or iconography? How about the logos? As a casual passerby it’s difficult to discern where Evisu ends and True Religion begins… the logos are quite similar. (What if this was Nike and Li Ning?)
I can see the issue going in several directions.
People are traumatized by Hong Kong’s retail panorama. Walking with a friend who has lived in N.Y. but is from China, she remarked how she liked things all under one roof because the choice of shops here is simply too dizzying. In a way, this grouped placement provides both convenience and competitiveness. Situating similar shops adjacent to one another might also allow shoppers to become more discerning and begin to have a better appreciation of quality.
Denim jeans differ from one another by fit, so perhaps this formula is genius. Because you can try on many different pairs at once without having to leave the mall, you feel confident that you’ve comparison shopped, thereby upping the chance of an actual purchase! (Perhaps this is the psychology that drives businesses to be clustered together in the first place?)
(* My negative view of malls is the opposite of contemporary urban Asia. People aspire to live above the shopping center. It’s the ultimate controlled environment. Especially for the nouveau riche, high-end, landscaped malls represent picture-perfect modernity. Living there means having escaped the unkempt chaos of the city.)
(** Unfortunately, this holds true in Hong Kong’s restaurant scene as well, with inferior copycats opening up in the same vicinity!)
(*** Perhaps shoppers from Mainland China, where nearly all brands are new, do not have the same hang-ups about a label’s back story. Maybe that’s why even small luxury brands are in a land grab expansion in China trying to establish their names and introduce their heritage / pedigree / provenance.)
The Denim Zone
Evisu, True Religion, 7 for All Mankind, Lucky Brand Jeans, Christian Audigier, Juicy Couture
Podium Level 3 (near the corner of Two IFC)
Shops 3077 to 3085B
8 Finance Street
Central, Hong Kong