Tailored homes

Armani’s latest business: Chinese real estate

Italian designer Armani poses for photographers as he leaves the opening ceremony of the Armani Hotel Milano in Milan

Homing in on Chinese real estate

Giorgio Armani got the start-up capital for his fashion business by selling his Volkswagen car in 1975. Since then, the Italian designer has gone on to build an empire that spans several labels (five, to be precise), as well as non-apparel arenas like cosmetics and even a nightclub (under the brand Armani Prive).

But the Italian designer wants to reach out even further – namely, to the living room. Recently Armani announced plans that its interior design division Armani Casa will partner with Chinese property developer Mind Group to design a high-end residential project in Chengdu in Sichuan province. The move marks the first entry of Armani Casa into China’s luxury property market.

The project – called L’Art Residence – will comprise 65 units housed in two high-rise towers. Armani Casa has designed the public spaces and the apartments, giving them its signature sleek, luxurious aesthetics (as well as other feng shui-enhancing elements, no doubt).

The project is scheduled for completion in 2016 but the apartments are set to go on pre-sale later this year. Chengdu Business Daily says the starting price of L’Art Residence is Rmb40,000 ($6,500) per square metre, while the most luxurious set-up, which features custom-made Armani furniture, could fetch as much as Rmb85,000 per square metre (or roughly $3 million each, based on WiC’s calculation of the likely floorplan).

“China is a fascinating country and continues to be full of dynamic energy and promise for the future,” Giorgio Armani told fashion journal WWD. “I am delighted to be creating luxury residences in Chengdu, bringing a remarkable living space imbued with the spirit of modern elegance, to this vibrant city, which, while it is truly of the 21st century, also has deep roots stretching back into the country’s fabled past.”

It is not the first time that Armani has dabbled in property. The company has previously designed the interiors of luxury hotels in major shopping destinations like Dubai and Milan. It is also involved in Asia-based luxury mansion projects, including Century Spire in Manila in the Philippines and Mumbai’s The World Towers.

But why Chengdu? In fact, Armani is not the only luxury brand moving into the city’s property market. In 2012, Singapore-based hotel group Banyan Tree also announced that it would open its first Chinese residential project in Chengdu, revealing plans for a 333,350 square-metre site in the city’s suburbs. Forbes reckons a key reason is that Chengdu is catching up on its first-tier urban peers in terms of its spending power.

Although it is too early to tell whether L’Art Residence will strike a chord with Chinese homebuyers, Armani is already working on furnishing another major real estate project. In August, it announced that it will team up with Greenland to co-develop a luxury apartment complex in Beijing. But the competition to decorate the living rooms of China’s super-rich is getting heated. Austrian crystal brand Swarovski is working on similiar joint ventures in Beijing and other cities, says China Business News. The developments will feature Swarovski objects in prominent public spaces as well as within the apartments themselves.

For China’s property firms, analysts say that joining hands with luxury brands makes sense. With a glut of housing nearing completion, new developments have to stand out.

“There are clear advantages to partnering with luxury labels in the property market. That’s because many of them have a cachet and brand recognition that many developers covet,” Zhang Jianhua, an industry observer, told Chengdu Business Daily.

It is also an attractive proposition for the luxury brands. Nadja Brakonier, head of Swarovski’s property development arm, told CBN that venturing into the high-end property sector will enhance Swarovski’s brand value. Swarovski has never been just about promoting crystal jewellery, she claims. The brand also promises a high-end lifestyle. To be involved in the design of a luxurious living experience is totally in line with Swarovski’s brand values, she adds.

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