China, to emerge as the major fashion-design force it may someday become, has some problems to solve. That was the advice of a trio of fashion experts gathered at China Institute to discuss the state of the nation’s fashion market and its influence–from the perspective of both consumers and creators–on a global scale.
The event, titled “Beyond Dior: The Business of Chinese Fashion,” welcomed three powerful players from the field: Tao Wang, renowned Creative Director and CEO of Taoray Wang, Simon Collins, founder of Fashion Culture Design and former dean of the Fashion School at Parsons, and Harlan Bratcher, Global Business Development head for fashion at JD.com.
“China today has a lot of students studying [fashion] in the U.S. and Europe,” said Tao Wang. “I truly believe that they are about to lead the next generation of design and reshape the global fashion business.” Wang’s remark was echoed by Collins, who saw “Chinese students came from a minority to a majority of Parson’s international cohorts in the recent decade.” Meanwhile, Bratcher noted China’s appetite for fashion and luxury consumption was just about to grow bigger and bigger, with a group of high-spending millennial consumers becoming the country’s middle class.
Here are four of the most provocative statements about Chinese fashion and China from the three speakers:
1. Many luxury brands today are pushing designers to think too much about sales. – Tao Wang
Tao Wang won a round of applause when she said that the fashion and luxury industry was “too greedy.” Brands today push their designers to think too much about revenue, sales, and money, instead of the design itself. “I call it a business. I don’t call it a brand,” she said. “And that’s when luxury brands lose their branding and only become a name.”
2. China has great designers, but a lack of vision from the corporate leaders hinders Chinese talents to succeed. – Simon Collins
Seeing Chinese grow from a minority to a majority of Parson’s international students, Collins has an absolute trust in the quality of designs by Chinese talent. “We can see the talents in China, and they cannot always come to the West,” he said. “The problem is the lack of management of Chinese companies and the vision from the corporate leaders.”
3. Thom Browne is “China Ready” and should strike a deal with JD.com. – Harlan Bratcher
“China Ready” is a term coined by Bratcher to describe and gauge if a foreign business or a brand is truly ready to enter the complex Chinese market. “Literally, in a very helpful way, there are several things [that brands] need to check off to see if they are China ready,” he said. “We don’t work with everybody because we don’t want to take their money but see them fail.”
During the session, Bratcher specifically named Thom Browne, the American designer brand recently acquired by Ermenegildo Zegna, as an example of a “China Ready” brand. “Thom has five stores in the mainland, an e-commerce site, a senior team there, and a license to do business. And the brand is popular and famous in China with a lot of likes from people.”
4. JD.com’s logistics system is making fashion more sustainable. – Harlan Bratcher
Bratcher said sustainable fashion is a big trend with today’s Chinese consumers, and JD.com, as a market leader, is making strides on that front. In particular, the company’s advanced nationwide logistics system is a crucial part of this move.
“When we deliver, we guarantee 90 percent of the population in China a same-day delivery,” he said. “And instead of having empty trunks come back, we pick up recycled items from customers to help them donate. That’s how we contribute to sustainable fashion.”