Designer Philippe Starck Is Helping China’s Xiaomi Go More Upscale
China’s Xiaomi made its name with good-quality, low-priced smartphones and gadgets. But a product launch event in Beijing just made clear how the company is trying to reposition its brand as more upscale.
French designer Philippe Starck made a surprising appearance onstage in Beijing with Xiaomi founder Lei Jun; Mr. Starck helped design Xiaomi’s sleek-looking new ceramic-body phone, the 6.4-inch Mi Mix, which will be available in limited quantities. Years ago, the designer also worked on a yacht with Apple’s Steve Jobs, who died before he could sail in it. Xiaomi’s founder showed a picture of the yacht on stage before introducing Mr. Starck, whom he said might not be familiar to Chinese consumers but was “the most famous designer in the whole world.”
Xiaomi was founded in 2010; the global smartphone market has gotten more competitive since then, and Xiaomi is trying to find its place. Once No. 1 in the China market, Xiaomi has been eclipsed at home by rival local brands Huawei, Oppo and Vivo, according to second-quarter data from IDC.