Shanghai Fashion Week becomes industry pioneer

Tan Weiyun
Shanghai Fashion Week, in its full swing, has quickly risen to fourth place in the world's rankings, suggesting it could soon enter the first phalanx of fashion week forerunners.
Tan Weiyun
Shanghai Fashion Week becomes industry pioneer
Dong Jun / SHINE

A fashionista catches the attention of photographers, professional and amateur, at Xintiandi during the Shanghai Fashion Week.

Shanghai Fashion Week, in its full swing, has quickly risen to fourth place in the world’s rankings, suggesting it could soon enter the first phalanx of fashion week forerunners like Paris, London, Milan and New York, according to the Fashion Week Vitality Index Report recently unveiled by the China Economic Information Service.

The global fashion industry has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in a diminished demand, devastated supply chains and disrupted or delayed fashion events.

However, the global health crisis has boosted a number of industry trends, including a shift to online shopping and heightened consumer awareness about sustainable development. As the world’s first fashion show to move online in the midst of the pandemic and the first to subsequently move back offline, Shanghai Fashion Week, which concludes on April 13, has become a pioneer.

Digital spike in livestreaming

With travel bans and social distancing policies that keep people at home, digital shopping has soared and the livestreaming industry is thriving.

On top of a wide array of in-person events, a range of digital initiatives are helping the fashion show reach more consumer-based communities via the "See Now, Buy Now" campaign.

The Shanghai Fashion and Lifestyle Carnival, an online campaign platform, enables fashion brands to sell their latest products directly to consumers through the top Internet salesman Li Jiaqi, a popular livestreamer who once sold 15,000 tubes of lipstick in just five minutes through his live online broadcast.

On the opening day of the carnival on Tuesday, Li moved his broadcast booth to a runway for young fashion brands incubated by LABELHOOD, which has cultivated almost 90 percent of independent Chinese designers.

“I’ll be trying my best to introduce them and their designs to consumers in an easy, clear way,” Li said before the show. “Frankly, I’m quite nervous because I’m not sure how the audience will react, but I hope it can break the barrier between the high fashion world and ordinary consumers.”

Shanghai Fashion Week becomes industry pioneer
Tan Weiyun / SHINE

Popular livestreamer Li Jiaqi (right) live broadcasts at the opening of the Shanghai Fashion and Lifestyle Carnival.

The response turned out to be bittersweet. After the 30-minute online runway show that attracted an audience of more than 1.5 million viewers, Li selected 20 pieces, more practical to wear in daily life, to sell through his livestreaming platform. A total of 595 bow-tie cotton T-shirts from the fashion brand deepmoss, each priced around 600 yuan, sold out in less than 10 seconds.

“The era of designers has finally arrived,” said the brand’s designer, Liu Xiaolu, who was pleasantly surprised how quickly the items sold out.

However, the audience had a hard time stomaching a baseball cap that sold for 1,270 yuan (US$195).

“It’s fashion I don’t understand and can’t afford," one viewer remarked.

Another top Chinese livestreamer Viya, who once sold more than 267 million yuan (US$39.8 million) worth of merchandise during a two-hour livestreaming event, opened an offline chatroom at Ontimeshow, the fashion show's trade fair at the West Bund, and spoke to young designers from International Top-tier Innovation Business (ITIB).

“Fashion trends are always moving forward with new ideas, and there shouldn't be any limitations on styles or designs,” Viya said. “No matter if it’s on a runway, in my livestreaming studio or in everyday life, I want to provide more styles and choices for those who are eager to show their life attitude and personality through what they wear.”

National and nostalgic

This season’s Shanghai Fashion Week is a shot in the arm for independent Chinese designers and brands, and a great boost to domestic offline stores due to the absence of overseas counterparts and the return of Chinese buyers. Cool designs with “Chinese elements” are still the “fashion darling.”

The opening show on Tuesday featured Chinese fashion brand Mark Fairwhale. Its 2021 autumn/winter collection, inspired by the ancient book "Classic of Mountains and Seas," uses traditional embroidery, tie-dyeing, knitting and new techniques such as digital and gloss-offset print. The collection’s silhouette tailor with a cocoon-shaped design lets young people express their personalities and sense of freedom.

The brand Ancient Miao, featuring the embroidery of the Miao ethnic group in Guizhou Province, is finding its way into the fashion world with centuries-old handcraft.

“The Miao embroidery exhibits excellent traditional culture,” said Liu Ying, 40, the designer and heir to this intangible heritage.

Her show at Shanghai Fashion Week can be seen as the brand’s first water test.

“By working with the fashion industry, we bring this ancient skill to a bigger arena, which also helps my villagers escape poverty,” she said.

About 20 percent of the brands participating in the fashion week are connected to China’s intangible culture heritages, a record high.

Shanghai Fashion Week becomes industry pioneer
Dong Jun / SHINE

Models walk down the catwalk at Mark Fairwhale's show, the opening of Shanghai Fashion Week.

Shanghai Fashion Week becomes industry pioneer
Dong Jun / SHINE
Shanghai Fashion Week becomes industry pioneer
Dong Jun / SHINE

Going greener

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced both fashion leaders and consumers to rethink the ways they live their lives. Fast fashion is out. Sustainable, waste-based design is in. That's the signal from Shanghai Fashion Week, giving a green light to fashion brands that are eco-conscious.

“Young Chinese designers have achieved a lot in sustainable fashion, and they have many fun and cool designs,” said Cui Dan from ULIO Space, a platform to promote eco-friendly designs and circulation fashion. “Not only designers but also consumers are going green to show they care."

More than 40 percent of the participating brands in Shanghai Fashion Week are eco-green, using recycled and environmentally friendly materials. They display their works at runway shows and trade fairs, and through video clips and artistic installations.

“We are creating innovative and interesting designs with recycled materials, letting consumers know that the ‘wasted’ and ‘leftover’ can be of aesthetic and even artistic value,” said designer Shie Lyu of the fashion brand Shie Lyu.

Every season there will be several carefully calculated and handmade haute couture works with recycled or reused defective materials.

“From trash to treasure, designers can give those wasted materials a new life,” Shie said.

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