Wulin Road hosts another fashion event, with Generation Z walking the runway

Wu Huixin
Two decades after Wulin Road first used the street as catwalk, models strolled outdoors displaying the latest in woman's designs.
Wu Huixin

In 2002 when Wulin Road was lined either side by stylish apparel stores, the local government hosted a fashion show on the narrow 1,650-meter-long road, which was considered a symbolic event in the Chinese women's apparel industry and made the road famous across the country.

After years of development, the city evolved into the center of the fashion industry, becoming home to a large number of e-commerce companies and wanghong (Internet celebrities). In efforts to turn the fashion industry into a new engine boosting sales, local departments hosted a fashion show outdoors for the second time on Wulin Road two decades later.

Recently, the section between Jiaochang Road and Hai'er Lane was transformed into a runway with models displaying clothing and accessories designed by domestic brands and designers. In contrast to most such shows, the runway was set up outdoors with passers-by viewing the spring and summer collections.

Wulin Road hosts another fashion event, with Generation Z walking the runway
Ti Gong

Fashion models mingle among passers-by during a runway show on Hangzhou's Wulin Road.

The fashion show was geared toward Generation Z, which refers to people born from the mid to late 1990s through to the 2010s. They have become the mainstream of consumers, with statistics showing that Generation Z accounts for 40 percent of all sales in China.

"The fashion show is more like a party hosted on the road," said Yu Rongsheng, vice director of Gongshu District. "It combines fashion with art, culture and creativity, presenting young people's personal attitudes toward design."

In the past, consumers tended to flock to "hot" mass-marketed merchandise, but Generation Z has become more discerning and mostly preferred original designs over cheap copies.

In a bid to attract more Generation Z consumers, organizers invited brands like Brooks Brothers, Club Monaco, Moussy, MERCI MADAME, Upgreated, CLOUD and BECO295 to show minimalist, normcore and avant-garde styles.

The show was divided into three sections – morning, afternoon and evening – presenting different clothing for different occasions.

Wulin Road hosts another fashion event, with Generation Z walking the runway
Ti Gong
Wulin Road hosts another fashion event, with Generation Z walking the runway
Ti Gong

The show featuring the spring and summer collections caters to the aesthetic taste and style of Generation Z.

A significant aspect of Generation Z is widespread usage of the Internet from a young age. Members of Generation Z are typically thought of as being comfortable with digital technology, and interacting on social media for a significant portion of their social lives.

As a result of the social media and technology they are accustomed to, Generation Z is better prepared for the digital shopping environment than older people. Organizers livestreamed the show and set up interactive activities as an added difference to traditional fashion shows.

In 2002, when the road officially opened up, it housed more than 400 garment shops at its peak and attracted an average of 30,000 customers every day. Many popular women's apparel brands opened stores on the street to showcase their latest designs.

For years, the road had been considered a symbol of the city's booming apparel retail industry due to its hundreds of boutiques which have constantly been offering a changing wardrobe for women.

However, the e-commerce boom has meant tough times for the brick-and-mortar retailers. A combination of high rents and fierce competition from online platforms and glitzy new shopping malls forced many boutiques on Wulin Road to close.

In 2020, the Hangzhou government stepped in to apply a new concept that transformed traditional retail streets into destinations that combined shopping with dining, sightseeing and the creative industry. It reopened to the public last August after months of renovations.

Thanks to its fully developed industry chain, including fabrics, designers and logistics, Hangzhou's apparel industry has boomed during the past 10 years. Now the new consumption concept has turned the apparel industry into a new engine boosting the real economy.

The road gave an impetus to the Wulin commercial belt in Gongshu District, and nearby upscale shopping malls include Intime, Kerry Center and Hangzhou Tower. Total retail sales of consumer goods in the area rank highest in Zhejiang Province.

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