SHANGHAI — Experimental and energetic, showcasing incredible diversity, although still geared toward a domestic buyer and sometimes lacking in terms of workmanship — that was the verdict on the just wrapped week of shows at Shanghai Fashion Week.
The event, which drew 33,000 attendees, has carved out its place firmly as the capital of Chinese fashion, although it was still evolving rapidly in format, and for an international audience, hinged a lot on general curiosity surrounding a powerful developing market.
Los Angeles-based Lorenzo Hadar, who has attended SFW for the past five years, said overall the feeling this season was much more mature and he maintains high hopes. But he wanted to see improvements in designers’ fabric selection. Brands tend to prefer to source within China instead of Italy or Japan because of costs and delivery time, he said, and it showed.
“The only weaknesses of Chinese designers’ brands are the quality of products and fabric they are using,” he said. “I think the efforts lack in the finishing and choosing the right fabrics, but the stylings are always avant-garde and unique, which differ from the rest of the world. Hence, it makes it distinctive and attractive to visit Shanghai.”
Hadar said he had ordered a selection from Shiroma, Chen Guang Wang, Angel Chen, M Essentials, ph5, WMWM, Marrknull and Aubruino this time. He added, “The most important thing I figured was that Chinese designers look at fashion more as a disposable fashion, which are fast and present, not looking at longer term, regarding the quality but it totally makes sense in today’s reality.”
“I found young, forward thinking designers,” LuisaViaRoma chief executive officer Andrea Panconesi said. “Maybe not all of them are up to the quality that I require. The workmanship sometimes is not top quality, I must say, but the ones I choose are well done.”
The luxury e-commerce platform has been carrying Angel Chen for two seasons, and plans to expand that offering, although the initial meeting with Chen came about in Florence, and not via SFW.
That underscored another point in that, while trips were worthwhile to understand the local market and experience the city in general, attending SFW was not necessary in order to discover new Chinese designers, at least not yet.
“SFW is still more toward the domestic buyer,” said Kerry Du, founder and buying director of Chengdu boutique Kerry RC. “Almost every brand has a showroom in Paris; an international buyer doesn’t need come to Shanghai to buy.”
Du bought from Staffonly, Aubruino, Mybo and Yvmi, and was taken with Andrea Jiapei Li’s work. Du thought she presented “a range of minimal yet futuristic workwear while keeping her activewear-mix-feminine approach,” but she had already done her buying for that brand in the Seiya Nakamura showroom in Paris a few days prior.
“It was only a marketing place to me,” Du said of SFW, revealing a sentiment that seemed to be shared by many attendees. “This season, I found a lot of new and creative events and brands in Shanghai. The whole fashion week becomes very inspirational.”
Vicky Yu, founder of Hug Boutique, who placed orders from DeepMoss, MotoGuo and Marchen, commented that “whether from the show format, design and market balance, there is a long way to go,” but added that she liked the diversity on display and was impressed by Samuel Gui Yang and Sirloin.
Influencer Anny Fan suggested that show locations could stand to be as creative as some of the designs coming down the runway. Currently, all the shows take place either between Xintiandi for more established names or at the Power Station of Art for Labelhood, a platform for emerging designers.
“There are a lot of beautiful places or open places and landmarks in Shanghai, so I think they really need to think more about which different places to hold the show,” Fan said.
“What surprised me is that…most of the brands that were showing, they were also present at the fair. That shows also that everybody doesn’t need to show,” said Galeries Lafayette fashion director Alix Morabito, who attended for the first time.
“For me, the global positioning for what I see is more kind of advanced designer contemporary [rather] than a strong designer point of view. Some of them are, but I’m talking about the majority, and all of them do not need to do a show maybe,” she said.
The alternative could be a presentation that provides a more personal format, she recommended, as show styling could sometimes overpower the designs. “At the end, you don’t perceive so much what they want to say. It’s always the same space and you have a bit less possibility to express by choice of space, choice of your environment, your own sensibility.”