IT TAKES TWO: Familiar and emerging faces mingled at the British Fashion Council’s cocktail on Monday night to celebrate a new partnership between the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund and Chinese online retailer JD.com, which is slated to provide business support to London’s emerging talent.
Caroline Rush, the BFC’s chief executive officer noted: “The Chinese market is incredibly important to us and our designers and has huge consumer influence.” She dubbed JD.com’s 258.3 million luxury customers “an incredible opportunity,” but acknowledged that “navigating that market can sometimes be challenging.”
“The first thing is to make sure they’ve registered their IP, and then to really think about partners for distribution. The opportunity with JD.com is the incredible data that they have, in terms of what people are shopping for, the price point and product. It’s exciting to share that with a young designer.”
Xia Ding, president of JD Fashion, said hers was the fastest growing business unit within JD.com and she has set her sights set on developing it even further. “We understand that fashion is as much an art as much as it is a business and in order to help designers grow we need to act as an community,” she said, adding: “I am a Chinese consumer and I shop at JD.com as well, and I can tell you that the market in China is maturing very, very rapidly. The level of sophistication and appreciation of outstanding designer goods has developed very quickly. Chinese consumers are waking up to British fashion talents and we [need to play] a more important role [bringing] those talents to the China market.”
Tommy Hilfiger, Mary Katrantzou, Peter Pilotto and Christopher de Vos, Huishan Zhang, Molly Goddard and Charlotte Tilbury were among the guests, chatting away with Chinese business executives.
“We visited the market last year and we have shop-in-shops in China, but the country is so vast you can never fully conquer it. It’s baby steps,” said Katrantzou, whose runway show was sponsored by JD.com.
“Get to know your customer, have a direct relationship,” Hilfiger advised his younger peers, adding: “The Chinese customer loves brands and is very well aware of what is going on in the world.”
Freshly baked editor in chief of British Vogue Edward Enninful stressed the importance of visibility. “I think celebrity is very important for young designers in this day and age, and China has a huge film industry — get them to wear some of the clothes and promote [that] online,” he suggested.
Enninful’s Chinese counterpart Angelica Cheung said “it would be wrong for any designer to think it’s easy to win the Chinese consumer. It’s not. Chinese consumers have a lot to choose from and they are becoming more secure about themselves. They don’t feel they have to buy something to prove themselves. This is over. What is great about British fashion is that it does offer a great variety of personalities, and that’s what makes London very interesting. So even though they are getting more pragmatic in terms of business, I would like British designers to stay British, not to just focus on short-term opportunities.”