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Rebirth of an old Shanghai icon

The history buff in me is intrigued by the recent rebirth of an old Shanghai icon – Shanghai Vive. Banking on the glamour of old Shanghai, the great grandson of the late Chinese President, Chiang Kai Shek; Demos Chiang is reviving this cosmetic brand of choice of the society ladies of 1930’s Shanghai.

 

Shanghai Vive or literally, “Two Sisters” (双妹, pronounced as “Shuang Mei”) in Chinese, is vowing successful ladies in their mid-30’s with its retro chic and clean cut contemporary look.  Set in the equally legendary Peace Hotel, Shanghai Vive is making a comeback after an absence of half a century.

 

No expenses have been spared on its re-launch.  French creative firm Cent Degres, was commissioned to design its product packaging and stores.  Demos’ firm, DEM, is responsible for its restructuring and marketing strategy.  Infusing the spirit of the swinging 1930’s with a modern feel, the logo bearing the “Two Sisters” has been updated with a streamlined look.  Its sleek perfume bottle is designed to resemble a lady in a long dress, wrapped with a fur stole.  Complete with an old-fashioned atomizer pump, this perfume bottle is vintage at heart with a contemporary beat.

 

Born in 1898, this century old brand first gained international recognition when it won the gold medal at the 1915 Panama World Expo for its “Radiance Restorative Cream.”  Following that, it slowly expanded toParis and even gained a small but loyal following there.  And this was at a time when big and successful brands like Shalimar, Mitsouko (Guerlain) and the iconic Chanel No. 5 were all the rage then.  No small feat for a small, China-made brand.

 

The rejuvenated Shanghai Vive has added jewellery and accessories to its line besides its staple of cosmetics and skincare products.  Drawing on its heritage and expertise in cosmetology, Shanghai Vive has modernized its 100 year-old beauty formula to incorporate cutting-edge technology. Instilling the essence of East and West, Shanghai Vive’s jewellery design brings out the best of both worlds, with a quintessentially Asian spirit.

 

State-owned chemical consortium, Shanghai Jahwa Group (which owns the brand) plans to spread the magic of Shanghai Vive across Shanghai with more than 20 branches in the next 2 to 3 years.  It is confident that the brand would be profitable in 7 years’ time.

 

Having successfully revitalized another old Shanghainese brand, Herborist, Shanghai Jahwa is lending its Midas touch to Shanghai Vive.  With is smart positioning and slick marketing, Shanghai Jahwa is just the company to breathe new life into Shanghai Vive.

 

However, sceptics are unsure if Chinese consumers would bite given its high price.  Unlike the mid-priced Herborist, Shanghai Vive is marketed as a high-end luxury good.  Price-wise, it is competing head-on with well-known foreign players.  At RMB $1,000 per bottle of 50ml perfume, this places it in the league of Chanel and Dior.  In fact, these established brands cost even less, at between RMB $500-900 per bottle. So, is Shanghai Vive pricing itself out?

 

Price aside, brand worshipping Chinese consumers typically turn their nose up at local Mainland products, preferring well-known foreign brands.  It would be a real challenge to get them to pay a premium for a Chinese brand.

 

Are chic design, sleek packaging and smart marketing enough to convince the well-heeled 30-something ladies to part with their money?  This is a group that cares for the quality of their beauty products more than brand stories.  Perhaps Shanghai Vive should rev up the marketing of what’s in their secret formula, making it a must-buy for the ladies.

 

While it would take more than nostalgia to sell to the Chinese, the romance of 1930’s old Shanghai has great appeal to Westerners.  Retro chic is hip and there is a genuine appreciation of quality Chinese products in the West.  So, perhaps Shanghai Jahwa should consider opening a branch in USA and Europe as well?

 

Whether Shanghai Vive eventually endears itself to Chinese or Western consumers, it is heartening to see an old Shanghai icon being given a new lease of life.  Trying to make its mark among the big boys of international luxury brands, makes you want to root for its success.  Somehow, you wish to see it return to its former glory and be the darling of high society ladies again.

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