Shanghai Fashion Week Shakes Things Up with Consumer-Facing Initiatives

In its unrelenting pursuit to be regarded as one of the main events on the global fashion calendar, Shanghai Fashion Week showcased another season bigger than the last, with its continual expansion attracting international attention from buyers, including Lane Crawford, Selfridges, and Machine-A. However, one of the key trends at SFW Autumn/Winter 17, which took place from April 7-14, was the noticeable expansion of the B2C sector, enticing consumers with ways for the general public to experience Fashion Week for themselves.

This idea has noticeably emerged in the wider China fashion industry over the past year, with events like Tmall’s ‘See Now, Buy Now’ live-streamed fashion show seeking to lure luxury brands and introduce them to a broader profile of consumers. At Shanghai Fashion Week, this consumer-facing approach manifested itself in an abundance of style platforms, pop-ups, charity events, and live-streams, inviting the everyday consumer to enjoy a slice of the fashion week action.

One such event was hosted by renowned blogging platform China Fashion Bloggers, in a show held at the Condé Nast Center of Fashion & Design. The succinctly named, ‘Fashion For All’ invited the public to experience Shanghai Fashion Week from within the venue, providing live-streams of the main runway shows for a ticket price of about US$12 for one day. The showcase also offered VR experiences in which potential consumers could ‘try on’ virtual custom clothing created in collaboration with local artist David Keohane, partake in a charity auction, and peruse a curated collection of pieces from previous Fashion Week events.

“I’ve been following China Fashion Week for 16 seasons now, so I’ve seen a lot of shows and a lot of really amazing things that people don’t really get to see or experience,” China Fashion Blogger founder Timothy Parent said. “With this event, we wanted to let everyone participate in the fashion industry and local creativity.”

Parent, however, noticed that the most popular part of the event was not the live-stream of the professional catwalk shows, but rather the interactive activities. “People actually didn’t seem to be there to watch the live-streaming,” he said. “Perhaps they’d watch one or maybe two shows because there’s so much time between shows. I think what people enjoyed most about our event was the VR and virtual wardrobe aspects because they were very active and engaging components.”

The event also featured an exhibition of local Chinese designers, in a retrospective of some of the founder’s favorite pieces from previous Shanghai Fashion Weeks. “We had brands like Helen Lee, WMWM, Hiuman, and ffiXXed Studios,” Parent said. “We had some really, really amazing pieces and people really enjoyed that part. We also found people who’d lived here for five or 10 years and had never really heard of these brands.

“We think events like this at Shanghai Fashion Week are important, because the Fashion Week itself should seek to not only further educate the industry, but also to be open to the general public and educate the consumer. The consumer is ultimately what the industry is built off of.”

Shanghai Fashion Week's Labelhood platform has grown to include talks, exhibitions, and even concerts, generally directed at China's millennial consumers. (Photo by Tamsin Smith)

Shanghai Fashion Week’s Labelhood platform has grown to include talks, exhibitions, and even concerts, generally directed at China’s millennial consumers. (Photo by Tamsin Smith)

Labelhood, one of the independent showcasing platforms under Shanghai Fashion Week, hosted an extensive program of fashion presentations, a concert, and talks from over 20 designers and industry experts, including fashion label ffiXXed Studios, Korean brand Pushbutton, and Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient designer Ximon Lee. FfiXXed Studios co-designer Kain Picken said Labelhood’s consumer-facing approach gave his brand more room to experiment. “We’ve just come from Paris Fashion Week, and it was great, but it was a much more traditional show,” he said. “With Labelhood in Shanghai, we have much more flexibility.”

“There’s a different energy here,” explains co-designer Fiona Lau. “The thing I really like about Shanghai Fashion Week is the access to it—the public can buy tickets to some of the Labelhood shows and it feels like the platform is really great at engaging with the general public and connecting brands directly to consumers. The audience here is really mixed, the fashion crowd is experimental in finding their own style and what works, and as designers, we love that.”

Also as part of the Labelhood platform, Vogue contributing editor Lynn Yaeger spoke at a fashion talk about the changing fashion system internationally, and the accessibility of global fashion weeks to reach their consumer audiences. “When I started in the mid ’90s it was a completely different landscape, because there was no internet,” she said. “Now, I can be watching Milan Fashion Week from my bed in New York, and I have a better seat than I would have in Milan.”

With events like Paris Fashion Week providing brands with more traditional opportunities to make a name for themselves internationally, it seems to be no secret to brands that Shanghai Fashion Week is an opportunity to focus on infiltrating the vast Chinese consumer market. Labelhood co-founder Tasha Liu told Jing Daily, “Under the big umbrella of Shanghai Fashion Week, we have the responsibility to keep the highest standards for creativity and originality of brands, to allow brands to connect with their real audience in a dynamic way.”

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