Shanghai Fashion Week, the epicenter of the Chinese fashion industry, is looking to make a comeback in full force for the fall 2023 season after the city went through a series of COVID-19-related traumas last year.
During the pandemic, Shanghai Fashion Week was among the first to experiment with digital showcases for the fall 2020 season, in collaboration with Alibaba’s Tmall, and again with the fall 2022 season right after the city came out of a strict two-month-long lockdown, this time working with Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. When possible, the showcase returned to physical, albeit at a reduced capacity.
Liu Min, deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, which oversees the Shanghai Fashion Week Committee, at a press conference described the nine-day showcase as a key component of the city’s fashion ambitions.
Liu reiterated that it is “an important platform to lead fashion and define trends for all kinds of consumer promotion activities throughout the year.” Liu is also confident the showcase will bring more styles, fashion boutiques and flagship stores to the city of 26 million people.
This season, the main fashion show venue at Xintiandi, a buzzing neighborhood in downtown Shanghai, has a brand-new design. Its facade is made of three-dimensional materials that complement the key visuals of this season’s Shanghai Fashion Week. At night, the venue transforms into a glow-up attraction with iridescent light installations.
Speaking about the lineup for this season, Xiaolei Lv, vice secretary-general of the Shanghai Fashion Week committee, said “the pressure on the industry to maintain restorative growth remains high at the moment, but there is still no shortage of quality brands that soar against the tide and show strong resilience in the storm.”
Lv added that 2023 is not only the beginning of another 20 years of Shanghai Fashion Week, which officially runs through the end of the month, but also a point of recovery and reboot for the industry as a whole.
“I’m looking forward to this year to be able to unleash the energy and ideas we’ve all accumulated through the voice of Shanghai Fashion Week and to rebuild and interact with the industry overseas. In the future, China’s young creatives will flourish even more, and Shanghai Fashion Week, as a platform, will embrace more technological innovation in a more open and inclusive way,” she added.
Hazzys, a Korean brand owned by LF Fashion, the fashion arm of conglomerate LG Group, will be the opening show at Xintiandi. The brand is expanding fast in China thanks to a licensing deal with Chinese apparel giant Saint Angelo. It operates more than 400 stores across the country so far.
Other key brands to watch at Xintiandi include Staffonly, Shei Lyu and Shuting Qiu, who all represent the growing number of Chinese talents with an international footprint.
Labelhood, a retailer and talent support platform that champions local emerging designers, will return to Rockbund, a new development designed by David Chipperfield on the Bund. It provides a show venue for 24 brands, which include local fixtures such as M Essential, Yiantian, Oude Waag, Mark Gong, Jarel Zhang and Shushu/Tong, as well as newcomers Assignments, Hadrian Wang, Bihan Lin and the graduate show of Donghua University, China’s leading fashion and textile school.
Tasha Liu, founder of Labelhood, added there will be eight young brands making their runway debuts with them this season, the most in history. In addition to the showcase, Labelhood will have an exhibition for filmmaker Fan Qing, a close collaborator since the first edition, presenting a condensed retrospective edit of more than 300 shows at Labelhood over the years.
There will also be an open-to-the-public gallery space that features a “10 Asian Designers to Watch” exhibition in partnership with Fashion Asia Hong Kong. Participating labels include Pillings, Ryunosukeokazaki, Yueqi Qi, Celine Kwan, Ponder.er, Ming Ma, Bad Binch Tongtong, Ashlyn, Marchen and Yuhan Wang.
“In an era of rapid change, these designers know how to adapt to meet various needs. They are endlessly creative and energetic, with the courage to express themselves in different ways,” said Kennis Chan, director at Fashion Asia Hong Kong, noting that the in-person showcase would help connect these labels with “the international market and real consumers.”
For the duration of Shanghai Fashion Week, the pedestrian street within the Rockbund area will be transformed into a night market, serving food and drinks from local buzzy caterers, as well as stalls selling lifestyle merchandise.
A few key brands are hosting off-schedule events. The London-based designer Samuel Gui Yang is hosting a photo exhibition on Thursday that will feature friends and family of the brand wearing pieces from the fall 2023 collection. Local fashion brand Le Fame, known for its modern take on Chinoiserie, meanwhile, hosted a fashion show at the Okura Garden Hotel on Wednesday.
Susan Fang, whose misting dresses were shown at London Fashion Week, will stage a repeat show in Shanghai with bigger misting installations, and feature its collaboration with Ugg.
“We will create a surreal set of rainbow clouds floating on the outdoor night skies of Shanghai Bund scenery. They will then morph into a unified surprise symbol of life origin that connects us all. We will invite lovely children with adults together, with perfume fragrance, and hope everyone can feel the love we share and always within us,” Fang said.
Circularity remains a hot topic this season. Shanghai Fashion Week renewed its strategic partnership with Kering for its third Kering Generation Award this season. The collaboration will provide an opportunity for sustainable innovative enterprises to promote, showcase and find resources from the value chain. The winners will be revealed in October.
Jinqing Cai, president of Kering Greater China, said, “Through a strengthened partnership with Shanghai Fashion Week for the upcoming third edition of the Kering Generation Award focusing on circularity, we look forward to on both the industry end and consumer end, across every link of the value chain, gathering a young innovation community in sustainable fashion, empowering resource interactions, exploring disruptive business models and promoting a deep and necessary transformation of the whole industry.”
Recipients of the third edition of Wendy Yu’s Chinese fashion talent competition the Yu Prize will also be unveiled this coming fall during Shanghai Fashion Week.
DuPont’s partially plant-based polymer material Sorona will reveal its collaboration with fashion label Trickcoo this season. Fashion designer Zhang Na will also present a sustainability-focused exhibition “I Do Care” with her circular label Reclothing Bank.
“The exhibition will touch base on design re-creation, art healing and the power of nature,” said Zhang, who expects the life cycle of her first China exhibition dedicated to sustainability to be longer as the public remains curious about the technology but has little knowledge of the processes involved.
Shanghai Fashion Week will also launch a sustainability-focused lifestyle pop-up department store with can U, the mastermind behind Ulio, a sustainable fashion exhibition concept established in 2020 by the Shanghai Fashion Week Organizing Committee to promote the sustainable development of China’s fashion industry.
Dan Cui, founder of can U and former GQ China fashion director, said the pop-up represents “a very idealized vision of a what circular value chain can be.”
“The concept is to build a sustainable view of consumption at the end by using beautiful and attractive products. Although this is idealistic, I think we need to start practicing it now, and we will take it out of the fashion week context and bring it to all the key retail locations across China in the future,” Cui said.
Although this is expected to mark the return of a full physical calendar, online integration and amplification will continue to be a key part going forward. With a renewed partnership with Douyin, Shanghai Fashion Week will host a dedicated page on the short-video platform broadcasting fashion shows live nine hours a day. Its official website, meanwhile, will offer a virtual immersive front-row experience for aspiring fashion devotees.