SHANGHAI–Dignitaries, designers and editors-in-chiefs descended on Fosun Arts Centre in Shanghai for a gala dinner, Thursday evening, where guests dined encircled by digital panels projecting a runway presentation of six novel wool capsule collections.
To celebrate 50 years of wool trade between China and Australia, a remarkable feat considering that this year marked only the 40th year of China’s reform and opening up, The Woolmark Company approached multiple high profile Chinese designers with a request. It tasked each designer with creating a capsule collection from Australian Merino wool fabrics created by the company’s Chinese manufacturing partners. Ban Xiaoxue, Ms Min, Uma Wang, V Major, Xu Zhi, and Yang Li were put up to the challenge.
“Wool is getting much more versatile,” said Ms Min on the night, describing a new type she used in her capsule collection that is lighter and much easier to drape. “There is a little silk in this wool content, which gives it a beautiful luster to the surface. I used the same material for all four different styles just to show how versatile it is.”
Xu Zhi developed a pinstriped wool material to use in his collection, and a denim version which he described as “a very casual material that looks very, very street and fashion forward. But with the material, wool, it becomes super, super comfortable and super, super luxe by the touch.”
The New World Wool capsule collections and artistic pop-up installation are on display until Nov. 7 at Lane Crawford Shanghai Times Square.
China is the most important market for Australian wool, with the latter exporting 271 million kilograms of the fiber to the country annually. When trade first began, this figure was under 10 million.
“What we have seen over the past 50 years is China go from being a great converter of greasy [unprocessed] wool into garments, and now a converter of greasy wool into garments and consuming the garments,” said Stuart McCullough, managing director of The Woolmark Company. “The emerging affluence here is very important for the Australian wool industry because we are heavily dependent on the luxury market, heavily dependent on affluence buying our product.”
The event in Shanghai was held during a week when uncertainty over Chinese economic growth was reaching fever pitch off the back of GDP figures showing the slowest level of growth in a decade.
Concerns over the US-China trade war have also been compounding worries about China’s economy, a fact that McCullough admitted alarmed him.
“It’s my biggest concern. There is no doubt about that,” he said. “The tensions between the U.S. and China, and Australia and China, is my biggest concern about the Australian wool industry. Eighty percent of our product is processed here. So, we can dedicate all of our resources to try to move our dependence on China to somewhere else, but firstly, you’ve got to have somewhere else that can do it just as well. And secondly, it is not an easy needle to move.”
“It is a very difficult and complex processing hub and like many industries, I suppose in the world, we are very reliant on China processing our wool. But make no mistake. That is the thing that keeps me up at night,” he said.