Over 10 years ago, fashion entrepreneur Tasha Liu had the idea to power the independent designers’ fashion scene in Shanghai. Now, more than a decade later, as hundreds of fashion designers build out the sartorial capital, that vision is paying off. Under the Labelhood banner, Liu and her team have been slowly growing a fashion movement with a retail empire at its core.
In December, it opened its first store outside Shanghai, opting for Shenzhen — known as China’s Silicon Valley. This lavish new store is the company’s first commercial venture in a mall at the Nanshan District’s Vientiane Qianhai Shopping Center. On January 10, it unveiled its first menswear space, which also kicked off a range of initiatives for the Chinese New Year. This latest door will carry established men’s favourites like Feng Chen Wang, Xander Zhou, and Private Policy, alongside other domestic street style names.
What is it:
Labelhood is a self-styled cultural community that connects creative designers with young Chinese consumers. It does this through events, retail experiences, and brand incubation. With a workforce of 70 including sales staff, Labelhood now counts eight retail spaces in total including the flagship, a VIP house, and various pop-ups.
During the season, it showcases talent during Shanghai Fashion Week and Youtopia Festival as well as operates Lab, a buyers showroom which featured 30 labels for AW22. It also acts as a 360 brand incubation service, mentors and incubating talent, taking designers to market, and collaborating with international B2B and B2C counterparts such as Pitti Uomo, Tomorrow Group, and Machine-A. Labelhood has online stores on Tmall and a WeChat Mini Program, and several UGC posts on Xiaohongshu.
Why it matters:
The growth of new Chinese labels has been explosive. According to a report from éCLAIR, there has been an average 30 percent year-on-year increase in Shanghai businesses between 2011 and 2018. Now these designers are building solid companies such as Angel Chen, Comme Moi and Shushu/Tong. At the same time, China’s luxury consumption power has grown exponentially during that period. Furthermore, China will account for roughly half of all global luxury spending by 2025 and almost 80 percent of that spending will be done by people under 40.
Given its adjacency to emerging designers and originality in the local market, Labelhood has been perfectly placed to capitalize on the driving engine of that increase. As the country evolved economically and generationally, its business model has evolved with it, offering over time, a cultural destination for legions of “Zhai” (or 宅) Gen Z seeking out new hyped but local names. This collective mindset is foregrounded in cultural offerings like exhibitions and festivals, or can be found in the fashion garments that are tapping online interests including Hanfu, fantasy, and body positivity.
By the time the pandemic shifted young shoppers’ interests, the agile platform was best placed to cater to a growing demand for Guochao and localism — filling it with C-brands in their own stores and online as well as through its network of 300 retailers spread out across the country. “During these last two years, designers had more exposure to audiences’ daily life and this offered the opportunity to grow… Not only in branding and awareness but in the maturity of merchandise too,” founder Liu explained.
Why it works:
According to Yishu Wang, co-founder of China marketing agency Half A World, Labelhood not only has a clear idea of who their target consumers are, but also what they want and where they are. “Through active and on-brand marketing and retail practice both online and offline, they manage to attract the kind of customers they want. Labelhood makes sure they’re approachable and they’re happy to try new things.” These include working with China’s biggest livestreamer Li Jiaqi to do a “see now, buy now” show at SHFW, and fun collaborations across “fashion, art, and lifestyle.” Wang points to a recent one with Perfect Diary at Labelhood’s Festival.
The bottom line:
The young consumer is the driving force behind luxury fashion consumption. Brands need to understand them, connect with them and follow them wherever they are – virtually and IRL. The success of Labehood shows the booming growth of Chinese designers as well as the demand for the New Chinese Style or Xinzhongshi being offered by Labelhood’s cohort.