MILAN — Italy and China are weaving closer fashion ties.
On Tuesday — the eve of Milan Fashion Week — the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana unveiled a partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com and Europe Design Centre, a Milan-based fashion and design school, to promote emerging Italian designers to China’s online consumers.
The partnership, called Fashion Shiner, will be officially launched on Sunday when JD.com will unveil the debut of “Italian Fashion Mall,” a new platform for the sale of Italian fashion brands in China. Initially, the virtual mall will carry already-known Italian labels, but it will be expanded to include smaller, emerging “Made in Italy” brands that have the characteristics to appeal to Chinese consumers.
During a press conference to present the initiative, Mario Boselli, the Camera’s honorary chairman, said China is likely to be a long-term driver of Italy’s fashion industry: “We expect there will be between 400 and 500 million new consumers in China over the coming years,” he said, adding: “In terms of business-to-consumer e-commerce, they are number one in the world, not just in absolute numbers but also in terms of their propensity to shop online.”
Boselli pointed out that there are essentially three things Chinese online consumers are interested in when buying from Italian brands: that the product be real “Made in Italy”; that the prices be a bit lower than the top brands charge, and that producers have a physical (i.e., brick-and-mortar) presence in Milan.
Taking a more business view, Alan Zhong, Europe Design Centre head of operations, explained how “JD.com and EDC can create important commercial opportunities for Italian fashion in China.” Zhong pointed out that JD.com is “among the top 10 e-commerce portals in the world and number two in China,” generating some 120 million daily contacts, and that the e-commerce market is currently seeing “extremely high growth.” Zhong added that, “Chinese consumers can’t wait to buy high-quality Made-in-Italy from famous brands as well as from small, emerging designers.” The portal will carry also Italian design products, not just fashion.
Remarking on the partnership’s importance, Zhong said, “This is a milestone in collaboration between Italy and China because it opens opportunities for Italian brands in China.”
Asked if there were already some Italian brands negotiating to get space on JD.com, Zhong responded that “there are several with which we are in negotiations.” Zhong said the names would be revealed on Sunday during the official launch, when JD.com’s head of apparel — who was unable to attend Tuesday’s introductory press conference — will attend to offer more details of the partnership.
In a reflection on the risks and opportunities that a presence on a Chinese e-commerce portal offers made in Italy brands, Boselli said that anything that helps promote Italian fashion abroad — especially initiatives like JD.com that protect and guarantee intellectual property rights — “we are interested in.” He pointed out that the partnership with JD.com “will help young designers, especially.”
Separately, Boselli also revealed the names of the four Chinese designers — three upcoming and one already established — being featured with runway shows on Sunday, a first for Milan Fashion Week. The designers — Lin Gu, Ali Tan, Xiaoyan Xu and Ivy Hu – already have their own online shops on JD.com, Zhong said.
Boselli praised the designers, who were selected after a process that began in August, for the originality of their work. “These designers are part of the new generation, characterized by original, Chinese styles. Many times in the past Chinese fashion was too inspired by Western prêt-à-porter,” he said.
One of the key elements of the Fashion Shiner partnership is its two-way nature. While emerging Chinese brands are getting their moment in the Milan spotlight this week, emerging Italian labels will get their chance to shine during Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week in Beijing from Oct. 25 to Nov. 2. “In October, we will bring some of our young talents to China,” Boselli said.