Numerous articles have reported that China will become the world’s second biggest luxury goods market, overtaking the United States in just a few years. When consumers in the US and Europe are scaling back their spending on unnecessary luxury pieces, China’s rising middle class and nouveau riche are shopping at full gear around the globe for status badges. So how far would luxury brands go to woo the rising middle class and nouveau riche in China?
Hermès, the mother of all luxury bags and the ultimate symbol of status in the minds of many Chinese, gave its answer yesterday. Mao Yuping, currently CEO of Precious Gold Holding Ltd and long-time girlfriend of former Shanghai real estate guru Zhou Zhengyi, posted a picture of a custom-made Birkin bag – a Birkin embossed with China’s national flag – on her Sina Weibo account, China’s most popular microblogging service. The picture soon went viral with almost 20 thousand reposts and some 4 thousand comments so far.
“It was so kind of Mr. Pascale Mussard, the global Art Director of Hermès. I received this custom-made Christmas gift from him earlier than expected. It’s full of Chinese characteristics. The Five-Starred Red Flag [China’s national flag] is always waving in my heart!”
While most netizens thought the bag was ugly and made fun of it being exclusively for the coming 18th Congress, some others pointed out some serious problems. First, Pascale Mussard isn’t a Mr, she is the heiress of Hermes. Secondly, China has National Flag Law which detailedly lays out how not to use the flag. Ms. Mao’s national flag embossed Birkin may have violated law…
In fact, this is not the first time when Ms. Mao had problem with law in China. Ms. Mao and her boyfriend Zhou once lived the life of a Chinese dream, starting from a little street noodle shop and rising to one of China’s richest through real estate. Their success was full of Chinese characteristics, too – the once hard-working souls were corrupted by quick wealth. In 2004, Zhou was convicted and sentenced at the Shanghai No. One Intermediate People’s Court for falsifying registered capital reports and share price manipulation. In 2006, Mao was sentenced to 32 months in prison by the Hong Kong District Court on charges of conspiracy of defrauding letters of credits worth 49 million HK dollars.
Mao was out in 2008 and apparently she is still deeply in love with the country that makes it possible for her to throw money on a custom-made Birkin bag.
Stories of Mao aside, the picture may cause a PR nightmare for Hermès. Many netizens made comments that they were very disappointed at Hermès for catering to such bad taste.
婕西卡_JP: “It this is true, Hermès’ image in my heart is forever destroyed.”
风幡心动矣: “All of a sudden, Hermès is no longer brand to look up to. So disappointed.”
怒边阿布: “Whoever made this bag should kill himself afterwards…”
啤啤Danny: “You sure this is not a fake? Looks like from Taobao [China's No. 1 c2c etailer famous for selling fake luxury brands]”
伦敦红: “Now we are 100% sure that Hermès is Made in China.”
大贾茹: “It’s so stupid of Hermès to accept this order.”
蟠大王: “Can I get a Birkin with Chairman Mao’s face on?”
alex小盆友: “Were designers at Hermès got shots at their heads?”