SHANGHAI — At last week’s Chic Shanghai fashion and accessories fair, the focus shifted from previous editions amid broader consumer trends in China and government guidelines for industry recently laid out at the 19th National Congress in Beijing, which closed Tuesday.
Since 2016, China’s consumer market has increasingly been influenced by a strengthening middle class willing to pay more for goods that are premium, personalized and have a positive impact on quality of life.
The phenomenon, known locally as the “consumer upgrade,” has been cited by the central government as a factor in moving China’s economy from a production to consumer model in order to maintain healthy growth. In 2017, consumption accounted for 58.8 percent of China’s economy.
Despite a bumpy ride for luxury retailers, with domestic demand only picking up again over the past 12 to 18 months after several years of decline, consumer spending overall has remained consistently strong, clocking growth of more than 10 percent a year, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. Retail sales of consumer goods grew 10.2 percent year-on-year to reach 36.63 trillion yuan, about $5.69 trillion at current exchange, in 2017, a 0.2 percent drop in growth from the year earlier. Consumer confidence has also hit record highs in recent months, according to Nielson China surveys.
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This trend has been helpful for many of the niche international brands that use Chic Shanghai as a platform to get a foothold in the China market, where young consumers in particular are demanding a greater variety of fashion brands to suit their personal style. But according to Chen Dapeng, executive vice president of China’s National Garment Association and head of Chic, this is also helping local brands, who have upped their design quotient to compete in a diversifying market.
“For the Chinese consumer nowadays, when they are making choices to shop and buy clothes they are choosing more based on their personalized needs, and cultural pursuits. They aren’t looking at whether it’s a Chinese brand, European brand, American brand or Japanese brand. They are focused on which brand suits them the best and also which brand will offer the highest quality at the lowest price. It’s the biggest change we have seen in Chinese fashion consumers in recent years,” he said, also pointing to a growing self confidence and nationalism apparent among Chinese consumers as the country increases its international influence.
“I still believe that [Chinese consumers] will prefer more the fashion that have Chinese characteristics, that represent Chinese culture. By Chinese characteristic, I’m not just saying the traditional characteristics, but the characteristics that authentically represent modern Chinese life and a modern sense of beauty. Also with a sense of Chinese cultural spirits and Chinese cultural attitudes. The demand for these products in the women’s wear and men’s wear fields is growing.”
Design-led brands from both home and abroad were more prominent at Chic Shanghai, which ran concurrently with Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics
, with designer brand showrooms taking up the entire north hall of Shanghai’s National Exhibition and Convention Center. Chic Shanghai’s total exhibition area was 1.9 million square feet, with 1,210 exhibitors and 1,395 fashion brands from 21 countries and regions, including Italy, France, Germany, South Korea, Japan and the U.S. Over its three-day run, 112,666 visitors came through the fair.
The International Fur
Federation made its debut at Chic, pushing back against the growth of faux fur in the international market and the growing list of designers who are swearing off the materials in their collections by arguing for the sustainable aspects of the business at the fair.
in major Chinese industries was a major theme of last October’s 19th National Congress. Dapeng pointed to “technology-oriented, fashion-oriented and green-oriented” as the guiding principle’s for China’s fashion and apparel industry in 2018 and beyond.
“Actually, sustainability is a major focus for our industry. When we want to improve the industry, we not only want it to be bigger, we also want it to be stronger and to make our industry stronger we need to make sure it’s developing sustainably. Our industry is closely connected with consumers and closely connected to the environment so definitely, social responsibility needs to be a focus for our industry,” he said.