Alibaba’s Partnership with New York Fashion Week Signifies a Shift in the Role of a Show

On Wednesday, Alibaba announced a partnership with New York Fashion Week. In association with brand management company Suntchi, the collaboration will help U.S. brands reach China’s massive market for the first time while increasing the presence of Chinese designers at fashion week.

As a highlight of the partnership, Alibaba will host a “See Now, Buy Now” fashion show on its Tmall platform showcasing New York Fashion Week staples including Opening Ceremony, Robert Geller in an event in October preceding its massively popular shopping festival, Single’s Day, on November 11. Alibaba says the event will help New York designers gain “first-time exposure” to over half-a-billion consumers visiting Alibaba’s platforms. 

For its part, next September, New York Fashion Week will select Chinese designers from Alibaba’s “See Now, Buy Now” fashion show to be included into its’ new initiate, “NYFW: China Day.” Alibaba has yet to announce which Chinese designers will be included.

The partnership sets Alibaba apart from its longtime rival, JD.com, which partnered this year with Philip Lim for his fashion show.

Alibaba’s “See Now, Buy Now” fashion show, which debuted in 2016, has already attracted many fashion labels. In last year’s show, 80 different brands attended, including Adidas, Gap, Paul Smith, and Guerlain. The partnership with NYFW will likely act as a high-value endorsement for Alibaba to persuade more high-end fashion brands to come on board, which is a big plus for its efforts to reshape its image into one that’s more fashion-forward, and intensify its race with JD to become the premier fashion e-tailer in China.

On the other side of the partnership, the signing on of NYFW with Alibaba signals the ever-changing role of the fashion show, especially considering the high cost of staging one, and the recent wave of dropouts from the NYFW schedule by brands including Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Moschino.

“It’s very painful to spend money on fashion shows,” said Cliff Moskowitz, whose firm owns a controlling stake in Jason Wu. “If you haven’t found the right investor, it’s hard to make them appreciate what they do.”

Could the partnership with Alibaba be a jackpot for brands to further capitalize on fashion shows or do the brands risk over-commercializing their image? What’s certain is that the Chinese consumers not only have strong consumption power, but are also are more accustomed to buying online than Western shoppers.

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Fashion

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