Saint Laurent ventures online in China as luxury portals take off

FILE PHOTO: A sign is seen during the fourth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song

PARIS (Reuters) - French fashion label Saint Laurent, part of Kering PRTP.PA, will start selling online in China through a JD.O portal, joining shopping players like Alibaba BABA.N in trying to tap strong luxury goods demand from Chinese consumers.

The French brand created in 1961 by its late founder Yves Saint Laurent, said on Monday it was partnering with Toplife, a platform launched last October by which aims to woo luxury buyers with same-day deliveries and premium services.

It rivals Luxury Pavilion, a similar portal launched in August which is backed by Alibaba's Tmall platform and features products from fashion groups such as Burberry BRBY.L.

Chinese shoppers made up 32 percent of the worldwide luxury market in 2017, more than any other nationality, consultancy Bain & Co said, making it a crucial market for fashion brands.

KPMG has projected, meanwhile, that half of China’s domestic luxury consumption could come from web sales by 2020.

Online shopping has proved a potent earnings driver for fashion brands even if many were initially reluctant to distribute their wares too widely.

Top labels such as Kering's Gucci or LVMH's LVMH.PA Louis Vuitton recently started marketing directly to Chinese buyers with their own websites in the country.

High-end fashion houses are still wary of alliances with mass-market platforms such as Amazon AMZN.O, however, fearful they will lose control of their image. and Alibaba’s specialist luxury platforms have already lured several other brands, touting themselves as more exclusive, selective sites.

Reporting by Sarah White and Pascale Denis; editing by Alexander Smith