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Lane Crawford's Ongoing Pursuit to Nurture Emerging Talent

With 160 years in the business of fashion, Lane Crawford understands the key to a leading shopping destination lies in the ambition of fresh young designers

  • I-Am-Chen AW'18
  • I-Am-Chen AW'18
  • I-Am-Chen AW'18
  • Angel Chen SS'18
  • Angel Chen SS'18
  • Angel Chen SS'18

With a colourful and enduring history beginning in 1850, Lane Crawford has consistently reigned against the odds and established its prestige as a premiere luxury destination in the global retail landscape. Today it has over 10 points of sale across Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, with over 600,000 square feet of retail space. The mega retailer launched its digital flagship in 2011, which deemed it China’s first luxury omni-channel fashion retailer, serving up an expertly curated selection of menswear, womenswear, accessories, jewellery, beauty, homeware and lifestyle from more than 800 international brands.

With carefully manicured spaces, their unique brand selection is not the only thing setting them apart from competitors. Lane Crawford places emphasis on its in-store visual merchandising, often merging fashion, art, design and music. This business model sees direct brand partnerships and exclusive collaborations with some of the most sought-after names in the industry including Manolo Blahnik in 2012, Philip Lim in 2014, Swarovski in 2015, and The Woolmark Company - which saw two wool-rich athleisure capsule collections by Helen Lee and Particle Fever. Most recently, designers like Sonia Rykiel, Thom Browne, Proenza Schouler and Orlebar Brown were asked to create exclusive capsule collections to be featured in store.

In recent years, the store's buying strategy has also evolved: now they seek out more up-and-coming labels, and are launching numerous initiatives in an effort to give emerging talent more exposure. Their social responsibility programme, Platform, provides scholarships, ongoing development projects and financial support for emerging designers. “We noticed that there is a growing appetite for nicher and smaller brands," chief brand officer Joanna Gunn tells ORDRE. "Our buyers from our newly launched Next New department are going to be traveling to markets other than New York, London, Milan and Paris to discover these interesting and emerging brands." 

For Lane Crawford’s 165th anniversary in 2015, their Shanghai outpost hosted an exhibition in collaboration with Swarovski, Visions From A New Generation. It featured up-and-coming designers from China and Hong Kong including Shu Shu/Tong, Benwu Studio, Naihan Li, Sky Yutaka, Wan Hung-cheung, The Fabrick Lab, Ejing Zhang and Angel Chen. 2015, also marked the launch of Lane Crawford’s talent search, Creative Call Out, calling on emerging designers to be featured in outposts across Hong Kong and China – Shanghainese designer Angel Chen was named winner of the first edition.

For the 2017 Creative Call Out unveiled in December, fashion winners included UNCENSORED and knitwear label i-Am-Chen, who will both design special collections to be sold exclusively at Lane Crawford. Designer Zhi Chen launched I-Am-Chen shortly after graduating in 2017. In less than a year, the label has gained considerable traction and support from top retailers like Machine-A in London and Desperado in Tokyo. “This coming March, the recent Creative Call Out winners will be featured in an 8-week long thematic programme," adds Gunn. "They will design our in-store window installation and merchendising displays, as well as create globally exclusive merchandise and artworks for sale in-store and online.”

Taking place outside of China for the first time, Lane Crawford brought the Creative Call Out initiative to Los Angeles in January 2018. "It's a chance for Lane Crawford's buying team to connect directly with designers and brands who do not show or present their collections in traditional markets, showrooms and fashion weeks," Gunn explains. Going forward, Lane Crawford will continue to expand its worldwide reach with the next edition set for Sydney. “We are offering an opportunity to let young designer's showcase their work on a global stage," says Gunn. "Through these new opportunities, we continue to inspire our customers with unique product unavailable elsewhere.”

The retailer is providing a much needed launch pad for young, ambitious designers, particularly in the Asia Pacific market where there are considerably less opportunities for emerging talents. With these fresh initiatives, Lane Crawford hope cement their position as one of the world’s leading department stores, offering an ever-changing point of view on fashion.