LONDON — As the battlefield of the COVID-19 switches from China to the rest of the world, the Chinese fashion industry appears to be rapidly recovering from its impact.
In Shanghai, luxury consumers were queuing to shop in Chanel again at Plaza 66 during International Women’s Day. It has shortened trading hours since the outbreak in China, but never shut its doors like it just did in the U.S.
Eric Young, owner of fashion boutique Le Monde de SHC, said 80 percent of the business is back.
“Since there is no new case in Shanghai, excluding imported cases, and the weather is very nice, our physical business is recovering steadily,” he said.
The shop also increased its use of social media to compensate for a sharp drop in physical trading during the outbreak.
“Members of staff try on the clothes and I will talk there and make a commentary, like a talk show,” he said. “People will see the live-streaming and will contact us to make an appointment. Also, they shop a lot over WeChat.”
Luxury brands with an online presence in China are doing better than those that don’t. Cartier sold at least 222 Juste un Clou bracelets, 157 LOVE wedding bands and 50 Tank Solo watches since its Tmall debut on Jan. 10.
With travel restrictions removed and people going back to work, Chenfeng Group — the manufacturer of Uniqlo and a dozen Chinese fashion designers including Haizhenwang, Chenpeng, Feng Chen Wang and Xu Zhi — is now running at 80 percent capacity. A month ago, the Shanghai government wouldn’t let anyone go into its plants.
Yushan Li of Chinese men’s wear brand Pronounce said that despite a six-week delay, the factories he works with have gone back to work and development of the spring 2021 collection is on track for June if London Fashion Week Men’s is not canceled.
Susan Fang, an LVMH Prize-shortlisted designer known for beaded bags, said during the outbreak she had to take production in-house and make all the bags with her mother in the living room. Now, with the factory back in full force, she will be able to deliver to her stockists such as Browns and Net-a-porter in time.
Shanghai Fashion Week is due to go online in partnership with Alibaba’s Tmall in the coming week, while its rivals in Seoul and Tokyo had to cancel the whole event. Some 150 brands will showcase their fall 2020 collections.
Labelhood, an emerging talent support platform in Shanghai, will also provide slots on Tmall for 31 designers, including Shushu/Tong, Xiao Li, 8on8, Samuil Gui Yang and Yuhan Wang, to showcase their new collection via live-streaming or short films.
Xcommons, a Shanghai-based biannual designer support and crossover platform, will bring fashion presentations online in collaboration with fashion project incubator ICY in April.
Fashion trade shows during Shanghai Fashion Week are using live-stream or conference calls to sell, and physical showrooms will open by the end of March.
Ying Zhang, owner of Not Showroom in Shanghai, said: “Some 50 percent of our designers will be able to finish all their samples by the end of March and the rest by mid-April. Two-thirds of buyers we are in contact with said they are willing to buy from April. So we will set up a physical showroom and hire models in April and buyers can either later fly to Shanghai to place orders in person or via live-streaming.”
Zemira Xu, founder of Tube Showroom, said she prefers to guide buyers to order via Ebut, tube spelled backward, which is an online order platform they developed last season, as buyers can see better details of the garment with high res pictures and videos.
Tube also launched a series of brand introduction videos on Bilibili, a Chinese video site with high engagement among subculture communities, so that buyers can learn more about the brand before placing an order.
DFO Showroom will start live-streaming brands such as Sankuanz, Snow Xue Gao, By Fang to buyers from Wednesday, while it will also open a physical showroom by the end of March for those who are willing to travel to Shanghai.
On the event production side, a source from a leading event agency said Chanel has postponed a big event in China to 2021, while Dior and Hermès are going ahead with their events in September.
“Seasonal shows are highly disrupted, nothing will happen till June, but fashion exhibitions are still on track. I predict the second half of 2020 will be super busy with fashion events,” the source added.