Chinese designer aims to build world-class fashion empire


AT the early stage of his career, he called himself a tailor. Now he thinks of himself as a fashion brand builder. In two more decades, he sees himself as the man behind a major international fashion house. 

This is Zhang Zhifeng, the 40-something founder of domestic evening gown brand NE-Tiger, located in Beijing. 

Realising China still lags far behind the international fashion industry, Zhang says Chinese high-end fashion players should first have a global strategy. “I only consider the world’s top 10 luxury brands, such as Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, as my competitors.” 

Marketing and branding are part of Zhang’s focus. Since NE-Tiger was established 15 years ago, the company has spent 180 million yuan (US$23.1mil) on promotion, including advertising, exhibitions, catwalk shows and press conferences.  

“We are going to invest much more heavily in the coming few years, since we are reaching a critical time for the brand to become a Chinese luxury icon,” the founder says. 

Zhang, who was born in a small town in Heilongjiang Province bordering Russia, started a process-on-order firm 25 years ago. His company made clothing according to orders and patterns supplied by Russian companies.  

He then exported the finished goods to eastern European countries. 

As his business and experience grew, Zhang found that the same clothing could sell for prices three times higher in the United States, and five times higher in western Europe. 

Realising that his company lacked nothing but a brand, Zhang established NE-Tiger 15 years ago. Now, 60% of the company’s income is from manufacturing orders, and the rest from domestic retail under the NE-Tiger brand.  

The company’s China retail business generated revenue of almost 500 million yuan (U$64.1mil) last year. 

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