Shanghai Fashion Week has long been regarded as a place for foreign brands to tentatively test the Chinese market, offering luxury fashion houses the opportunity to quietly assess growing demand in the world’s largest market. This season, the event featured more homegrown talent than ever before, including well-acclaimed Chinese brands Angel Chen, Museum of Friendship, C.J.YAO, FFIXXED Studios, Yingpei Studio and Samuel Gui Yang.
In a market that is fixated on the biggest and best Western brands, insiders at this season’s shows suggest the tide is turning on the smartest way to entice Chinese consumers.
“This year, one of the main themes of our show is to embrace the body of the Asian woman. We’ve seen it this season at New York Fashion Week with the American woman, but now it’s our turn” said Harris Chan Pak-hei, creative director of Hong-Kong brand MOISELLE, who opened Shanghai Fashion Week this season.
“We want to show that we understand Asian women, their bodies, and mentalities, and they can trust and connect with our clothing.”
In line with Harris, global fashion designer Phillip Lim stressed the importance of remaining loyal to Chinese heritage, and in turn gaining the trust and loyalty of Chinese consumers. The Thai-born American national is of Chinese descent and was speaking at Business of Fashion’s first China Summit this week.
“It has always been important to me to maintain the key values of my Chinese heritage. The most important thing is the idea that things are not spoken—beauty is understated. This is what keeps our buyers around the world coming back, and the industry in China needs to realize it.”
“Whilst I’ve been in Shanghai this week I’ve been astounded by some of the clothes that are made for the Chinese market. I said to myself, ‘wow, they don’t understand the market here at all. It’s very loud and gaudy- it’s very Western. With China, it’s not like that. It should be driven by beauty, a beauty that’s not spoken.”
International luxury brands are beginning to understand how respect for the Chinese consumer’s opinion can push sales forwards.
In addition to this year hosting its internationally renowned show in Shanghai, global lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret has also stated it will enlist more Chinese models for its catwalk. Elsewhere, Burberry packed out its London Fashion Week show with China KOLs to retain the confidence of the young Chinese market.
As Lim put it, “In China, it’s important to not only market to consumers, but to share with them and listen to them. The appetite here is ferocious, not just for clothes but for design and beauty.”
“It’s time we promote the idea that Made In China is beautiful. Made In China should be a source of pride. This is starting to happen on the surface because now everyone wants to enter the market here. But I think there is still a respect that is lacking. The West can see the Chinese market as a kind of big, fast black hole—I think it’s going to take time to get rid of this view.”