After making its runway debut at Milan Fashion Week last year, China’s largest direct sales online retailer JD.com is continuing its high-fashion push with an upcoming New York Fashion Week show that highlights emerging Chinese designers.
Taking place on February 17, the event will feature the collections of five designers chosen in collaboration with the Milan-based Europe Design Center. In addition to mainland Chinese designers Alicia Lee, Ruiping Guo, and Chi Zhang, the show will feature the looks of Taiwanese label Gioia Pan and the sporty designs of soccer star Tim Cahill, who plays on the Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League and the Australian national football team.
The move is likely aimed at upping JD.com’s fashion credentials and encouraging Chinese consumers to see the site as a go-to shop for high-end goods. “Not only do we have the pleasure of helping to celebrate a talented group of designers at our show,” says Lijun Xin, the president of JD.com’s Apparel and Home Furnishing Business Unit, “we are also able to offer their new collections to our 132 million customers in China, where shoppers are increasingly interested in the latest fashions and eager to buy them” from JD.com.
JD.com’s previous Milan show in September 2015 was also aimed at attracting the attention of China’s online fashion shoppers, showcasing the looks of four Chinese designers whose items are sold on the platform: Lin Gu, Ali Tan, Xiaoyan Xu, and Ivy Hu. In August 2015, it set up a program in partnership with the Europe Design Center to create competitive fashion program for emerging Chinese designers.
Although most of the designers are Chinese, the decision to hold the shows abroad is connected to the company’s goal of attracting premium foreign labels. In concurrence with the Milan Fashion Week show, the company launched its Italian Fashion Mall platform dedicated to Italian brands. These came after its launch of the JD Worldwide cross-border e-commerce platform, which began with a “Korean Mall.” Alibaba’s Tmall Global is a similar platform, with “country pavilions” including United States, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, France, Britain, Spain, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Turkey.
As both JD.com and Alibaba work to attract foreign luxury brands, both have been more successful in signing on premium brands that sell more mass-market items such as cosmetics and sunglasses rather than high-end fashion labels—for example, JD.com has both Luxottica and Sephora, while Tmall has a host of foreign beauty brands such as L’Occitane.
While Tmall has been able to sign a handful of top foreign fashion brands including Burberry and Calvin Klein, JD is opting to instead focus on emerging designers. High-end foreign fashion labels have been wary of signing with both Tmall and JD due to platforms’ mass-market branding, discount-driven sales, and, especially in the case of Alibaba, a plethora of fake goods. The Italian labels JD is looking for aren’t brands like Gucci or Fendi, according to Alan Zhong, the operating director of Europe Design Center in a September Italy 24 interview, but rather, “those which do not yet own stores and are lesser known in Asia.” If the company is able to not only attract small up-and-coming labels, but help them become big in China, it may eventually cause more major fashion labels to reconsider the platform.