Shanghai represents the third Dunhill Home project and the second Vacheron Constantin Mansion in the world. Vacheron’s first is its Geneva headquarters. The other Dunhill Homes consist of London’s Bourdon House, which opened in September, and a space in Tokyo’s Ginza Chuo Street that launched in December 2007.
The Shanghai project was two years in the making, starting with the location scout. “Two years ago we discovered the place, and when you walk in, there is a spirit about it,” enthused Vacheron Constantin’s Asia-Pacific managing director Yann Bouillonnec. “It is in the center of Shanghai, on Huaihai Lu, which is very busy, but when you walk in [the lane], it is very quiet with a garden.”
Debelle de Montby explained that conventional wisdom directed them toward the trendier, higher-profile, more international retail districts of Nanjing Lu and the Bund. However, after coming to Shanghai in 1996 and falling in love with the city and its history, he held out for the former concession and historic shopping avenue that has the most cachet with native Shanghainese.
Dunhill entered the Mainland market in 1992, making it among the earliest international brands here, and it remains a leader in men’s wear. Dunhill has 100 stores in Asia, spanning Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and, more recently, India.
“We have worked hard at building our men’s wear and leather accessories ranges across China. We have a strong and growing leather assortment that targets both gifting and self-purchase and also allows us the appeal to the rapidly increasing businesswomen sector in China who need to carry serious business cases,” specified Durnin.
Meanwhile, Vacheron has been quietly tapping into the growing Chinese love affair with timepieces. The brand, which first had a presence in China in 1845, relaunched on the Mainland in 1996, and now has 20 doors in about 15 cities. Bouillonnec said the brand is still “very male” in orientation, but women are increasingly interested in timepieces and now make up 30 percent of the brand’s sales in China.
“China is one of the countries with the most numbers of successful women in business,” Bouillonnec said. “Chinese women are strong and work hard to achieve success. We are offering more and more mechanical watches for women.”
Although they were in the works for some time, the Richemont villas are opening at a precarious time, as the global recession begins to hit Mainland China, but company executives stressed the project is about long-term branding, not sales. “If times are difficult, we should provide better products and service, showing what makes us different from our competitors,” Bouillonnec said. “When your brand is 250 years old, you don’t think about daily economics, you think about 10, 20, 50 years into the future.”