While most European luxury brands are wary of agreeing to sell their goods on mass-market Chinese e-commerce platforms, Milan Fashion Week’s organizer is embracing e-tail giant JD.com with a high-profile new partnership.
The Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana chose the day before Milan Fashion Week’s start to announce its new deal with the Chinese e-commerce company, which will feature the launch of an “Italian Fashion Mall” on JD.com this Sunday. Called “Fashion Shiner,” the partnership also includes the Milan-based fashion school Europe Design Centre and will promote both Italian fashion and design products.
Although the brands won’t be announced until Sunday, the Camera told Women’s Wear Daily that the mall will start off by carrying famous Italian labels and later move to emerging niche designers. The partnership features a two-way exchange to promote young designers. Several emerging Italian labels featured on the site will be presenting at Beijing Fashion Week in October. Meanwhile, the partnership will help spotlight Chinese fashion designers at Milan Fashion Week with four Chinese designers who sell on JD.com presenting in fashion shows on Sunday—Lin Gu, Ali Tan, Xiaoyan Xu, and Ivy Hu.
The deal marks significant progress for JD.com as it faces challenges and competition from Alibaba in attracting high-end brands. With a fear of diluting their image, very few luxury brands have agreed to partner with the e-commerce behemoths despite their dominance in China’s e-commerce market. Many brands worry that the platforms are a poor fit for luxury due to their mass-market identity, rampant fakes, and focus on discounts, but some are slowly coming around. Alibaba’s Tmall has netted Burberry and Calvin Klein, while comparatively mass-market premium categories like cosmetics and sunglasses have been more open to the platforms—JD.com recently signed both Sephora and Luxottica.
The brands’ wariness is not due to a lack of effort from the e-commerce giants to court them, as Alibaba and JD.com both take an increasingly international approach in doing so. JD.com’s “Italian Mall” is part of the company’s JD Worldwide cross-border platform that launched in April and competes with Alibaba’s Tmall Global, which has been ramping up its own efforts through the creation of 11 different “country pavilions” in June. Tmall Global also recently inked a landmark agreement with Macy’s to sell through the international platform. JD.com previously introduced a “Korean Mall” featuring South Korean retailer Lotte, while South Korean duty-free retailer Shilla and Thailand’s King Power duty-free shops have signed on with Alibaba.
Alibaba and JD.com have also made overtures specifically to the fashion industry. Both have unveiled “virtual fitting room” apps—Tmall launched its “Mota” app in August of this year, while JD.com has had once since 2014 that features “real sensor technology” created through a partnership with Intel. On September 16, Alibaba also launched a “Korea Fashion Week” on its online platforms to promote Korean fashion brands popular with Chinese consumers.
Attracting prestigious foreign brands is a key strategy in a high-stakes competition between Alibaba and JD.com, which are both aiming to impress international investors after launching their U.S. IPOs last year. China’s economic turmoil has had a negative effect on both companies, with Alibaba seeing an especially bad slump—its one-year anniversary the New York Stock Exchange on Saturday allowed shareholders to sell previously locked shares, prompting a 42 percent decline in the stock price compared to the beginning of this year.