Would you pay nearly $500 to try on Vera Wang bridal gowns for an hour and a half? That’s what the New York-based couturier, who has dressed noteworthy clients such as Chelsea Clinton, Victoria’s Secret model Lily Aldridge, Hilary Duff, Ivanka Trump, Victoria Beckham and Khloe Kardashian, asked of all potential clients at her boutique in Xintiandi in Shanghai’s Huangpu district, to do (the exact amount was 3,000 yuan or $482).
The brand and the store received such backlash from the Chinese public and worldwide, that Wang announced via official statement to Women’s Wear Daily that, “Upon careful investigation and review of the policies of our international operators, we will be abolishing appointment fees in all of our stores… We wish for all Vera Wang customers to enjoy the same standard of excellence worldwide. Treating our customers in a fair and equitable way remains a priority. The store in Shanghai has only been open to private VIP preview appointments. The official opening to the public will take place on April 29.”
The boutique—the brand’s first in mainland China—opened earlier this year, by appointment only, and a staff member told WWD that, “A lot of high school and college students were coming here and weren’t serious about buying a wedding dress so that’s why we started the fitting fee … We just wanted to make sure we were serving the right customers, and the [fee] is then redeemable off the purchase price of any gown.” The 80 or so custom-made dresses in the store sell for anywhere from 30,000 to 300,000 yuan ($4,280 to $42,800).
The daily China-based newspaper The Global Times observed, “People may complain that if Vera Wang doesn’t trust her Chinese customers, then she shouldn’t be setting up shop here in the first place,” while recognizing, in the same article, that copyright, trademark and intellectual property infringements are rampant in the country. A 2009 study by the U.S. International Trade Commission estimated that, on the low end, $14.2 billion was lost worldwide as a result of intellectual property infringements in China alone.
While the practice of charging a small amount for sessions to try on clothing isn’t unheard of in China, the 3,000 yuan amount is unusually high, and so considered an affront to potential clients. Wang is New York-born but her parents are both originally from Shanghai, so she does have a cultural connection to China and to the city.
In 2012, Italian-based fashion house Dolce & Gabbana physically prevented window shoppers from taking photos of the displays in their Hong Kong store, triggering street protests of more than 1,000 people, causing the store to close early that day. Time will tell if the Chinese public will overlook the initial policy decision and wear Vera for their own wedding affairs.