In response to the rising fashion and entrepreneurial exchanges between China and the U.K., WWD’s China edition, a partnership with China Mind Next since 2019, hosted a webinar in collaboration with the British Fashion Council on the last day of the fall 2021 edition of London Fashion Week to explore how British and Chinese creatives are navigating the new normal.
More than 260,000 people from around the world tuned in for the digital event.
In the first panel discussion, fashion media veteran Angelica Cheung, who is also a BFC ambassador in Asia and a partner at investment firm Sequoia Capital, joined Stephanie Phair, BFC chair, and Caroline Wilson, the British ambassador to China, to discuss the importance of collaboration, and how to work together on common goals to create a more sustainable and innovative industry.
“We are facing larger problems now, but I won’t say we were different before COVID-19. What the pandemic has done is that it has accentuated these topics,” said Phair from London. “One of the topics we are focusing on post-pandemic is sustainability. It really is more urgent than ever to move from awareness to action right now. It can only happen through cross broader collaboration and we are seeing the success of many cross-national alliances, and I am pleased to say that there is a huge interest in China as there is for the U.K.”
Speaking from her home in Beijing, Cheung said: “What I see in the changes is that because of the challenges, the industry has become a lot more creative and innovative. Also, I feel, because we have a bit of time to think, people have become more pragmatic and to think about the meaning of it all.
“Last year in China, we were at the worst period of the pandemic, but you saw new innovations. Livestreaming, for example, started with people not accepting doing anything at home during the lockdown. All the shop assistants and managers used their phone with a camera to communicate digitally with the community. In some way, even though physically we are apart, we probably spend more time talking and teaching through digital channels, bringing people closer in the end,” she added, as she drew a positive outcome from the pandemic.
Wilson added that “the digital explosion in China and the advanced nature of the market here offer so many opportunities, which I know that the British fashion industry is absolutely determined to take advantage of. We see China as a very important strategic partner, not just to selling to Chinese consumers, but because of China’s position in the global supply chain. This combined as well at a time with the sustainability debate, it’s very very important for the U.K. and China to collaborate.”
The second panel discussion featured British designer Anya Hindmarch and Yushan Li and Jun Zhou from the Shanghai-based label Pronounce with Tomorrow’s chief executive officer Stefano Martinetto and Kevin Jiang, president of international fashion and lifestyle at JD.com, talking about how the fashion industry is taking digitalized action in the new season’s presentations to both the trade and consumers.
Christopher Raeburn, creative director of Timberland and Raeburn, went on a deep dive on how to make the British fashion industry circular with Dylan Jones, BFC Menswear Chair and editor in chief at British GQ in the third panel discussion. Raeburn also showcased his sustainable designs to the audience from his spacious studio in Hackney.
Lastly, BFC’s ambassadorial president David Beckham, who enjoys huge popularity in China, spoke with designer Richard Quinn, recipient of the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, and BFC’s CEO Caroline Rush about why it is now more important than ever before to support young talent.
Rush stressed that international markets like China are very important to the British fashion industry.
“The point of London Fashion Week really is to connect British designers with a global audience. Building partnerships in international markets has never been more important when we can’t travel. Normally we will be welcoming people to come to London, whether that’s Chinese designers like Pronounce and Danshan, or the media and retailers,” she said.
Beckham added that “there are so many things I miss about China. I can’t wait to be back. Other than the food, I think just being able to go back to China to just highlight everything that we are doing in such a difficult time, being able to share our vision and the creative side that we all do with our friends in China is such an important part.”
During the webinar, he shared an anecdote about his wife Victoria Beckham during the lockdown. He said that when she was stressing about finalizing the fall collection from home, the only thing he could help with was to “make some scrambled eggs and avocado, and keep making sure that she is drinking enough water.”
“In the end, she was really pleased about everything she has done. Everyone was challenged by this, but I said to her that ‘this is when your creative side comes into fruition, and this is what you have to keep telling people because when you are put into a situation like we are all in, that’s sometimes your best work come out,'” he added.