“This is the grand finale of our global tour of ‘China Cool’ initiative,” said Alibaba Group’s chief marketing officer Chris Tung as final preparations for Paris’ “China Cool” event were under way. “We finally made it. It’s a challenging task to take Chinese brands that we wanted to introduce to Paris, but it means a lot to us.”
Mass-market brands like Peacebird and Eifini, the evening’s stars, might seem like an odd choice to showcase in Paris, often seen as fashion’s most demanding arena, but Tung praised their successful business tracks and agility in addressing customer demand for trends, speaking of both as being “really powerful fashion icons right now in China. Incredibly popular with large fan bases in China, they’re quite innovative, in the way they engage young customers with their work, with new design concepts, and working with young designers.”
First up on a runway turned into a black box swirling with smoke was Peacebird. Designed by Hong Yiangwei and Xu Ying, the brand’s women’s and men’s lines tapped urban trends. The line was chockablock with performance-inspired outerwear; chunky boots; sweatshirts emblazoned with Felix the Cat, a Twenties feline precursor to Mickey Mouse, and more experimental pieces like a coat that doubles up on itself — not a novelty from a fashion design perspective, but certainly a daring proposition for the mainstream customer.
Peacebird also presented the brand’s “Harry Potter”-themed collection, created in collaboration with emerging Taiwanese designer Angus Chiang, in a lineup of boarding-school-appropriate oversize sweaters, smart blazers and knee-high socks that looked like the wizard’s universe crossed over with Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”
Upstairs, the ambience was still magical but more romantic, as Eifini had set up tables of sweets — uninformed guests made short work of choux and macarons left unattended, to the despair of the production team — and armfuls of plants. Models wandered around the scene wearing romanticized twists on floaty pleated skirts in dégradé colors, jackets with Victorian flair or floaty dresses.
Both brands hit key trends of “poetry, technology, heritage and impact” on the nose — coinciding with the spring 2020 insights released by its fashion trend-forecasting arm Tmall Trend Center and based off of Alibaba’s artificial-intelligence algorithms as well as insights firms such as Promostyl and Youthology.
“Learning flows both ways. Servicing 760 million shoppers across China, the platform has unique insight on what resonates,” Alibaba’s Tung said. “It will be mutually beneficial. We’re introducing Chinese brands to the French fashion community to think about what’s meaningful in China when thinking about entering the market. The other way around, we’re encouraging French designers to work with Chinese brands, to create more innovative, more experimental concepts to engage with consumers in China, who have become really discerning and well-educated. That kind of cross-over is helping everyone tap into the Chinese market in effective ways.”