City catwalks are envy of the world

China's design professionals along with the city's fashionistas have been treated to a feast of the latest trends during the 2018 Fall/Winter Shanghai Fashion Week.

China’s design professionals along with the city’s fashionistas have been treated to a feast of the latest trends and some of the best styles during the 2018 Fall/Winter Shanghai Fashion Week, ended on Tuesday.

Unlike years ago when only a small fashion crowd gathered in Xintiandi’s fashion week tents for just a few local designers’ catwalk shows, today’s fashion phenomenon is impressive, beyond the Shanghai Xintiandi catwalk venue with many fashion spots organizing key events and fashion trade shows across town. 

Over the past week, the city saw 77 brands hit the runway on Xintiandi’s Taiping Lake, presented by established and rising designers from China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries, along with a cluster of presentations by promising designers and a variety of showrooms, attracting buyers, influencers and fashion editors from all over the world. 

“One of the key factors of the increasing influence of Shanghai Fashion Week is the consumption capacity and appreciation level,” said Tong Jisheng, deputy director of Shanghai Fashion Week organizing committee, during a panel discussion. “The new generation of consumers know better about what is fashion and how to appreciate it. What is now fashionable in cities like Paris are well absorbed by a growing number of consumers in China. Shanghai has great potential to be the trendsetter of China’s new fashion.”

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The Atelier

First staged in a white tent at Fuxing Park in 2002, Shanghai Fashion Week has grown from a simple copycat of the Big Four (fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris) into a mature platform for the discovery of talent and business promotion, making it a magnet for local designers, Asian designers and those from overseas.

“Shanghai is really open. You will be willing to try something you wouldn’t want before,” said Li Yushan, designer and co-founder of menswear brand Pronounce. Supported earlier by fashion platform Labelhood and presented by GQ magazine, Pronounce made it to this year’s London Fashion Week. But even for designers like Li, who has a Western academic background and already frequents the Big Four, Shanghai is a stop they wouldn’t want to miss. “In Shanghai, we can be in close contact with those potential consumers and buyers, and guide them to feel our designs in a more close-up and straightforward way.”

World-renowned shoe designer Jimmy Choo said a growing number of overseas brands are trying to step into China’s huge market. “When my nephew started his own brand, I told him he has to come to Shanghai, to China, because it’s the biggest market in Asia,” he said on a panel the day before Yew Loh, his nephew’s show was unveiled. “Shanghai Fashion Week has received international recognition. We should have some faith.”

Choo wowed the crowd at The Atelier Couture runway. He joined his nephew’s company — the Malaysian high-end wedding dress brand The Atelier — as creative director in 2017 and he took his 2018 fall/winter collection “Le-Earth” to a whole new level with a touch of romanticism. 

It is the second time The Atelier has presented its collection at Shanghai Fashion Week. Choo said the collection takes inspiration from Earth and the nature and it’s evidently reflected in the earthy colors throughout the lineup. The beauty of nature is very present — back to the roots and earth — with no reference to a particular culture. 

It seems Choo meditated on the world’s formations from a deep personal point of view and felt inspired by the patterns of chaos and order, nature and civilization blending into a unified system. The colors are taken from the original natural hues from natural light, water, minerals and the patterns in nature. 

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Anirac

Other big names included Carina Lau, award-winning Hong Kong actress, businesswoman and fashion icon. She showed her fashion brand Anirac’s fall/winter 2018 collection “Me-ism” reflecting her personal understanding of women’s aesthetics. 

The collection is inspired by the awakening females in the 1980s, reflected in the menswear details such as leather and metal wire. An androgynous and independent look is created, to break the traditional stereotype of women. 

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Helen Lee

Homegrown designer Helen Lee unveiled her 2018 fall/winter collection at the Shanghai Bailian International Fashion Center on South Suzhou Road with a fun-filled fashion show themed “Every Cool Girl Needs A Pet.” Inspired by the Universal Pictures animated comedy “The Secret Life of Pets,” Lee calls for people to protect animals and forge a harmonious relationship between people and animals. Endearing characters such as Max, Chloe and Duke come back to life, ingeniously integrated into Lee’s classic urban designs, creating styles that are visually strong and versatile.

She said: “The film is about friendship, loyalty and unconditional love. It shows how an adventure can bring people from different walks of life together. It’s about bravery, being yourself and sticking up for your friends.” She took the thoughts and elements into the collection showcasing the unconditional love between humans and their pets. 

Towel, stereoscopic and patch embroideries are used throughout this season showcasing the delight and spirit of the film’s characters. The pieces are styled with Lee’s renowned prints and plaids, bringing a refined elegance accompanied by a touch of girlish innocence. Vintage fabrics are center-stage this season; burnt-out velvet and silk velvet bring you back to the disco era while funky denim styles embrace the playfulness of the pets’ adventure. The color palette uses elegant fall and winter hues — warm oxblood and yellow autumn tones, white and denim hues as well as ultra violet embellished tops.

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Pascal Morand, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode

With the continuing prosperity of e-commerce in China, new retail became a fiercely discussed topic during the fashion week’s sideline talks and panels. Managers of brands and shopping malls are concerned how big data collected from the e-commerce platforms may empower fashion brands and help boost brick-and-mortar store sales.

“Big data is driven by consumption, making it quite forward-looking,” said Zi Qing, new retail director of Tmall Fashion and Luxury. “Online statistics show more quickly the trend variation offline, so that the brands can cope with it more promptly.”

In February, China e-commerce giant Alibaba’s Tmall sponsored “China Day” during New York Fashion Week, introducing Chinese designers to the US market. Brands presented included sportswear label Li-Ning, established by China’s Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Li Ning, and street label Clot, set up by fashion icon Eddison Chen. Runway shows were streamed live to Tmall users, with many items instantly available.

Sales boomed thanks to Tmall’s “see now, buy now” strategy. Five kinds of Li-Ning sneakers sold out just one minute after they were shown. More than 2,300 of one Clot T-shirt were pre-sold online before it officially went on sale.

“Before Li-Ning hit the runway in New York, we provided their design team lots of statistics of sportswear and analysis of the catalogue and trends. The brand then made the designs accordingly,” Zi said during a panel discussion. She added that traditional local brands embrace big data analysis very much because it improves the efficiency of offline inventory turnover.

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Fashion critics and insiders discuss the impact of the Chinese millennials in the fashion industry at the forum, “Les Rencontres Franco-chinoises de la Mode,” at Shanghai Bailian International Fashion Center, during Shanghai Fashion Week.

For this year’s Shanghai Fashion Week, Tmall launched a “cloud fashion week” in the hope of digitalizing runway shows and showrooms. According to Zi, more than 100 cameras and data collecting devices were installed, silently recording the behavior of buyers — how many of them stay in which places and how long they linger. Through data analysis, a detailed report will be delivered to the organizing committee to show the portrait of buyers and thus that of consumers, buyers’ interests in specific brands and categories, the purchasing quantity and possible tendency in brands, elements, materials and items that are going to prevail in the next season. 

“The data analysis will help improve the precision of the organizing committee to invite the brands in the future,” Zi said. “For instance, data shows that cashmere could be the next hot item. So the committee may take fashionable cashmere labels into account next time. And also brands can think about including cashmere designs in their next collection.”

As fashion brands and designer labels continue to embrace e-commerce and the new marketing strategy of “see now, buy now,” fashion insiders believe offline experience still matters.

“Digital revolution is important,” said Pascal Morand, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode. He shared his opinions on the essence of fashion week at Xintiandi’s Open House panel discussion. “But the experience during the show is different. Runway shows in fashion week are not only to sell, but to show the imagination and creativity behind the brands,” he said.

“The fact you can see the artworks on a screen doesn’t compare to seeing the artworks live. You have to see it.”

Earlier, in an article entitled “The Problem with ‘Buy Now’,” he warned the possible harm that digital technology could do to creativity. 

“The perception of a fabric’s movement or fit or touch, all of which make up a big part of the creative process in fashion and cannot be really experienced or appreciated digitally, despite the progress of haptic technology,” he argued.

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Items on display by independent designers in Showroom Shanghai.

Lin Jian, founder of Showroom Shanghai, agreed. “High-end fashion consumption still relies more on service and offline social experience. The humanity of social contact can hardly be achieved through big data. Therefore, service and experience are still the advantages of brick-and-mortar stores.”

Plus, big fashion brands have concerns sharing their data, which is generally deemed as business confidentiality, Lin added.

Taking up the east wing exhibition hall of Shanghai Exhibition Center, Showroom Shanghai presented 98 independent designer labels in this year’s Shanghai Fashion Week, of which 30 percent are newcomers.  

“We prefer to cooperate with designers who have fostered their unique styles and are also well prepared to commercialize their brands,” Lin said. The former fashion critic believes showrooms and trade shows play a major role in improving the efficiency of fashion weeks. 

Thanks to the mature operation of trade shows and showrooms, New York Fashion Week has proved its commercial power in the North American market. While London Fashion Week, with an emphasis on creativity rather than trade, has lost some of the homegrown talent to Paris.

Positioned as a boutique showroom, Lin said Showroom Shanghai is precisely targeted, with fashion buyers accounting for more than a half of the visitors. Unlike the grid display normally seen in most showrooms, the labels in Showroom Shanghai are laid out in a maze-like display, making it more fun for buyers. “They will spend more time discovering brands and talking with the designers,” Lin said.

Offline retail has been kicking up since 2017 and is expected to climb up in 2018, according to the Ministry of Commerce. The revival of retail is basically driven by the upgrade of consumer behavior, fashion critic Shelly Zhou observed.

“It requires showrooms to provide more diversified solutions to cater to demand and set up a more efficient ordering system,” she said. 

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