SHANGHAI — Opening with Paco Rabanne and closing with Karl Lagerfeld made something of a splash, but the third annual Shanghai Fashion Week was less about the designers and press that flocked to the tents in downtown Fuxing Park than the flutter of fashion events occurring simultaneously in the city.
The Audi Shanghai Fashion Week 2005 International Fashion Showcase, hosted by the People’s Government of Shanghai and sponsored by the German carmaker, is part of the government’s aspiration to transform Shanghai into an “international fashion capital.” This year’s event attracted praise from many participants, as well as more criticism that it suffers from the disorganization, bureaucracy and lack of focus so endemic to state-run events in China.
Shanghai Week started with a party, open only to government VIPs and organizers, on Oct. 28 at the Ruijin Guesthouse. The public opening was the next evening, with an “Old Shanghai Night” sponsored by the textile giant Shangtex at the M50 gallery compound on Moganshan Lu. The highlight was an exhibition of vintage pre-1949 cheongsams, or qipaos, as they are called in Mandarin, selected from the collection at the museum of Donghua Textile University. An apparel trade fair, the Shanghai Fashion Week Expo was held Oct. 29-31 at Shanghai Mart. On Oct. 31, P&G Beauty opened a beauty product consumer fair, which ran for a week and handed out samples of and information about products from the participants, including Anna Sui, Vidal Sassoon, CoverGirl, Pantene, Max Factor, Olay and SK-II.
The high-profile section of fashion week was the international designer catwalk shows, which began with Paco Rabanne. Patrick Robinson, Paco Rabanne’s creative director, was invited to attend as the featured designer for fashion week. The following days showed collections from Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Malene Birger, Basso & Brooke and Elena Miro, and then concluded with Lagerfeld Gallery. The final event was the Oriental Model Competition.
Robinson praised the organizers, the Shanghai International Fashion Committee. “For someone like myself, to come in here from the outside, the way they handled press coordination, handled the interviews and TV, I thought it was outstanding.”
However, local fashion insiders were less generous. One, a brand manager who has worked closely with SIFC, explained that this year was the first time that Shanghai Fashion Week and the Shanghai International Fashion Festival were together. Previously independent, the SIFF organizers were subsumed into the SIFC, and there were complaints that infighting was rife. Others said key fashion press and designers were denied tickets to events, with priority given to government officials and guests of corporate sponsors such as Audi and Kohler.
“It was chaotic because fashion week and the International Fashion Festival were together for the first time,” said Li Yong, vice president of Shanghai Television’s Channel Young, a co-organizer of fashion week. “I know that to outsiders, it all seems the same, but from the inside, it’s getting better because we just installed a lot of good people in key positions. We’ll see the results in a better event next year.”
Li agreed with a widespread impression that the Shanghai government holds such events without any clear purpose other than to attract press. “They want to be a fashion capital and see that the current fashion capitals all have fashion weeks. Of course, becoming a fashion capital is not that simple.”
He continued that, rather than events, Shanghai needs more professionalism and expertise. “People think Shanghai has a great fashion scene because it has shows and parties every night, but that’s all superficial in the absence of people who really understand fashion.”
During, before and after fashion week, Shanghai was a swirl of fashion shows and parties, with the most and best independent of the official event. Many of the international brands staged launches, shows and promotions, but many of the city’s fashionistas opted to skip the official events in favor of glamorous private parties.
Gary Leung, China manager of the French label Chloé, which had its gala China launch on Nov. 3, said, “China is a very important and special market to us and we intend to treat it as such. We wanted to ensure at the launch of the brand in China that the Chinese fashion consumers were the first to see the runway pieces outside of Paris.” That it coincided with fashion week, he concluded, was a fortunate plus.
Among the motivations for brand events was the Comité Colbert exhibition at Plaza 66. The concluding fashion event of the France in China Year, the exhibition highlighted the diversity and history of France’s luxury brands, which sent large delegations of their senior management to Shanghai.
Exhibitions were a common thread through the fashion brand events this season, mostly working in cooperation with contemporary Chinese art. Shanghai Tang collaborated with Chinese artists in creating part of its spring-summer 2006 Forbidden City collection, which showed on Oct. 28 in the Confucian Temple. Inspired by the art of Xue Song, the company created a series of five limited-edition products in cooperation with Chen Yu, Yu Chen, Feng Zhengjie, Liu Ye and Chen Wenbo. The same evening, MAC Cosmetics organized a party at the Doland Modern Art Museum that involved artists painting on cheongsams. Lacoste held a fund-raiser on Oct. 25 for the Special Olympics with a party and silent auction of creative reinterpretations of the Lacoste shirt by celebrities and artists. Participating celebrities included basketball star Yao Ming.
Many other brands held events during the season, among them Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton. Taiwanese label Shiatzy Chen opened its Bund 9 flagship on Oct. 29, and Baume & Mercier held its China launch the following evening. The China Fashion Awards gala was held on Nov. 5. Vera Wang, who won the CFA for International Designer of the Year, launched her first China boutique, The Perfect Wedding, at the Pudong Shangri-La the following day.