China’s influence on the global luxury and fashion industry is growing rapidly; for proof, look to last winter’s New York Fashion Week. For the first time in its 75-year history, there was a dedicated day featuring Chinese designers and brands, launched by Alibaba’s Tmall in collaboration with the powerhouse Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
The upcoming Spring/Summer 2019 New York Fashion Week, which takes place September 6-14, will host Tmall’s second “China Day” event and a series of related activities. Moreover, NYFW is expected to see an influx of Chinese brands, designers, influencers and free-shopping fashionistas who are breaking into, or already making an impact, on the mainstream fashion scene.
In an interview with Jing Daily, uber-influential fashion veteran Simon Collins, the founder of Fashion Culture Design and the ex-dean of the Fashion School at Parson’s New School for Design, predicted that China is poised to challenge the current “far too rigid” fashion order.
Read below to understand where Collins thinks the Chinese fashion industry is headed (hint: the rise of a Chinese megabrand) and how a variety of players–from consumers and designers to tech giants–can reshape the established order of the fashion world.
Chinese shoppers are both fashion-conscious and very active luxury shoppers. What are some trends they’ve set? How are their tastes influencing American and European fashion houses?
I’ve been impressed by how Chinese consumers embrace global brands and fashion trends. China’s fashion history only started to evolve about 30 years ago, but consumers are now very open-minded. I am very excited about it… there is confidence among them.
Also, seeing influencers from China [in American and European fashion houses] is a great thing: Fashion was much too rigid before. Industry magazines and players dominated it. Young people breaking that mold is very exciting, and I think China also breaking that mold is very exciting!
Where do you see the Chinese fashion industry in ten years?
The way fashion has evolved and the speed of evolution in China is very interesting, but one thing that surprises me a bit is that there is still no Chinese megabrand. The Chinese designer talents have evolved very, very quickly, but the industry has not evolved as quickly as it should.
Yes, it [the Chinese megabrand] is coming in the next ten years. China is redefining the world order as it could be. For example, many Chinese online marketplaces like Alibaba and JD.com are really embracing a global position. They can even redefine the global fashion just by distribution channels. The same thing with WeChat, the all-in-one powerful app in China, which we just don’t have an equivalent to in the West yet.
How do you see Chinese fashion leaders creating a new fashion world order?
What I find exciting in China is that there is more openness than in the West, and there is more willingness to learn and adapt. Furthermore, I don’t think they are constrained by the history of fashion, which we [Westerners] are. In China, in practice, everything can work. It is not necessarily the best thing, but it gives the openness and freedom to experiment.
For example, look at Tmall’s one-day-long fashion show, in which the entire day everybody is showcasing their collections. Consumers can choose whatever they want and buy straight from the runway shows. We are just starting to understand what that means.
Which Chinese fashion designers wield influence internationally?
There are many of them doing great things. For example, Tao Wang (creative director of Taoray Wang), who will show again at New York Fashion Week soon. Masha Ma, based in Paris, has received a lot of attention for a while. Others like Guo Pei and Grace Chen (both are haute couture fashion designers). Broadly speaking, [there are] Jason Wu, Anna Sui, Alexander Wang, and many others.
What mistakes have some brands made in targeting Chinese consumers?
The first obvious mistake is that brands think whatever you do here can just work in China: the market needs a different size, different design. You have to keep the brand DNA, but be responsive to where you are in the world.
The other thing I would say, but it will be contradictory to the first point, is that [brands shouldn’t] just go to China and try to be Chinese. You have to keep your brand DNA and integrity no matter where you are.
Simon Collins will speak at “Beyond Dior: The Business of Chinese Fashion” event at China Institute on September 11, along with Harlan Bratcher, Global Business Development Head for Fashion, JD.com, and Tao Wang, Chief Designer Officer of Taoray Wang.
This interview has been edited and condensed.