This year, the Jing Daily Fashion Week Score, which, through a range of parameters, evaluates how a designer’s collection resonates with the Chinese audience, kicks off with another packed digital schedule at London Fashion Week.
Designers and fashion fans in the UK are still cooped-up and locked down, struggling with COVID-19. However, they now face the sharp aftershocks of Brexit too. Even the BFC itself faced criticism following the appointment of Clearpay, a popular flexible payment option company, as a principal sponsor, a move which faced backlash from cross-party MPs fearful of pressure on young shoppers to defer debt.
This season, the digital showcases were weird and wonderful, but authentic reach to Chinese fans was disappointing. In the absence of Chinese celebrities, KOLs and buyers from the mainland, the BFC teamed up with WWD China to host a webinar exploring how British and Chinese are navigating a pandemic landscape. Insights from personalities like Stephanie Phair, Anya Hindmarch, Angelica Cheung, and the Chinese brand Pronounce were enhanced by a guest appearance from David Beckham.
But, as the virus outbreak wears on, cracks are starting to appear on digital schedules. Yet, online connections are more important now than ever, particularly with Chinese citizens. Despite a dazzling vaccine offensive, and some light visible at the end of the tunnel, the UK is bracing itself for a bumpy number of months ahead as it prepares to transition to a new normal —whatever that may be.
For London Fashion Week Autumn 2021, Jing Daily looked at a mix of Chinese brands who are maintaining a profile at the event alongside international names with a stake in the China market. What is evident is that all designers could be doing more to bring their fans and communities on a more immersive digital journey; it’s time to get on board or be left behind.
Yet again, Burberry was the standout, effectively leveraging local talents like Song Wei Long, Yin Fang, and Wang Yi Jun for its menswear only collection. Simone Rocha was also suitably lauded by her fans and Dunhill too deserved an honorable mention as it has certainly upped its China game recently. Finally, Xander Zhou and Pronounce are two local names that are cutting through both at home and abroad.
The Jing Daily Fashion Week Score is based on the following parameters:
Model representation: evaluates representation of Chinese models on the runway.
Digital impact: evaluates Chinese netizen reception and engagement on leading social media platforms, including Weibo, WeChat, and Little Red Book.
KOL & celebrity visibility: considers the star power associated with the brand through strategic KOL and celebrity partnerships.
Special brand efforts: considers special programs or efforts on a brand’s part to speak to the Chinese audience. Company or brand contributions toward the on-going virus crisis are also considered.
Design context: a qualitative assessment of how the brand’s collection will speak to the Chinese audience based on current trends and preferences.
Brand history: considers existing brand history in China, including overall presence, social reach, number of stores, earning trends, and brand missteps.
Riccardo Tisci men’s collection, “Escape,” imagined a countryside landscape celebrating the outdoor sprit. This inspiration echoed city residents’ aspirations for beaches and forests while under tight lockdowns. As digitalization has become a new norm, Burberry has once again proven its creativity in the social arena, especially on the heels of its impressive Chinese New Year 2021 celebration.
Despite only being directly livestreamed via Tmall, this first menswear-focused show still managed to engage local Chinese audiences effectively. Much like the season before, it leveraged celebrity power virtually through pre-show social promotion, especially from ambassador Song Wei Long and celebrities Yin Fang and Wang Yi Jun. Meanwhile, the brand is still benefiting from its social responsibility initiatives in China during the pandemic, which has been showcased via the narratives of campaigns and presentations.
Mark Weston, creative director of the British fashion house, focused on “clothes rather than themes” for the Fall 2021 collection. Highlighting “utility, function, and elegance,” the presentation added a contemporary and avant-garde twist to the classic menswear label. Dunhill’s efforts for this season leaned heavily on engaging Chinese audiences on social channels — and it worked. In addition to promoting the show three days ahead, the label teamed up with GQ China to initiate a virtual interview with Weston to share his inspiration and creative outlook for the house. Moreover, the considerable following of the house’s global ambassador Yang Yang drove huge traffic, as his many, many fans showed their support and adoration.
Since Spring 2019, the Irish designer’s recognition among Chinese audiences has been growing on our seasonal fashion week score. By embellishing leather products with staples such as embroidery, floral prints, and pearl accessories, this season presented a cooler take for the typical Simone Rocha fan. Meanwhile, the show has been shared with Chinese audiences via fashion KOLs like @Kindom Of Xiaoxiang (小象王国) and @Maissen-H. And while the brand runs a Weibo account, it barely posted its latest campaigns and initiatives, including this season’s presentation, which may hamper further market expansion.
Creative minds will not be constrained by physical restrictions, or so says Xander Zhou’s latest presentation. And away from its theatrical show setting, the designer delivered his inspiration via his lookbook — or a “manual” as he called it — in which detailed descriptions and prototypes of each garment were listed for readers.
Approaching the collection as a technical product that reorganizes previous details and shapes means the collection relies on Zhou’s fascination for virtuality and futurism. The fantasy of cyberpunk was well received by young Chinese audiences; the 16-second preview video received 34,600 views on his Weibo account.
Chinese menswear duo Pronounce’s Fall 2021 collection under the theme of “Fragments” explored the concept of Chinese porcelain. Sourcing inspiration from the porcelain making process, the pair collaborated with the illustrator Chenxi Li to visualize elements like embroidery, fragmented pieces, and line painting, which was applied to garments of various textures. On the day of the LFW presentation, Pronounce also announced the launch of a collection with H&M inspired by Dunhuang’s Crescent Lake, showcasing the brand’s idealism for redefining Chinese fashion and taking it to a wider audience.
This is only the second LFW outing for Chinese designer Fang, who opted for an early photographic process elaborately titled, “Collodion Wet Plate Process,” to showcase her latest collection. In addition to fresh new looks, the presentation documented the freedom of time and the filming process of the ancient method via a two-minute short video. In keeping with the label’s “air” DNA, this season played on the theme and challenged chronological narratives by way of an ancient fairytale. While still a young label, it has created greater awareness thanks to its signature bubble shoulder bag, over 800 relevant posts on Little Red Book and endorsements from female celebrities such as Yang Chao Yue and Lei Wan Ying.
This season marked a special one for British designer Molly Goddard, not only due to the restrictions amid lockdown, but also her pregnancy. Disapointingly, her label has a large following yet is failing to make a dent in China’s social media landscape. Still, it is definitely niche, evidenced in little over 300 related mentions on Little Red Book with introductions and posts that share looks. The good news is that this season, the addition of practical details to the designer’s signature tulle dress, floral prints, and conspicuous bow ties resonated well with Chinese shoppers fascinated by these overtly feminine styles.
Since her debut at Shanghai Fashion Week last October, the Chinese designer has received a much broader awareness among Chinese fashionistas; this latest outing has attracted even more attention. This season’s floral and romantic portrayal of femininity went down well with fans. One Weibo user commented: “It was a harmonious and complicated manifesto of femininity that blends Eastern and Western representations.” However, the brand’s social traffic has been mostly driven by its collaboration with the local retailer Labelhood. As more Chinese consumers look to discover the designer’s aesthetic and inspirations, a more active and dedicated communication strategy will help better engage home audiences.
The emerging menswear designer’s Fall 2021 collection was inspired by Man Ray and Erwin Wurm’s photographs, as well as Jean Cocteau’s experimental film, The Blood of a Poet. While the black-and-white short film took a surreal approach, the looks showcased a balance between masculinity and femininity, which catered to the growing demand of inclusivity for today’s menswear. However, awareness on China’s social arena is underperforming with low exposure and traffic.
Reported by Wenzhuo Wu and Gemma A. Williams.