SHANGHAI — The infrastructure being built around Shanghai Fashion Week continues to grow with each iteration of the event.
This month, as the city hosted its biannual fashion week from April 8 to 16, there were a raft of showroom events, trade shows and traditional runway shows presented in the tents at Xintiandi’s Taiping Park. There also was a new venue in the Rockbund district — an area at the north end of Shanghai’s famous Bund promenade currently undergoing something of a revival — where up-and-coming brands showed in a more flexible “presentation” format in a former printing house.
International brands such as Diesel and Dirk Bikkembergs held events to coincide with the opening and closing nights of the official fashion week schedule and other high-profile Chinese brands hosted off-schedule fashion shows timed to coincide with the national and international attention drawn to Shanghai Fashion Week. The most notable of these was a spectacular catwalk show and party from local designer Chris Chang’s Poesia brand, which took over The Waterhouse, a Neri & Hu-designed boutique hotel at the southern end of the Bund, creating an elaborate set of ancient Chinese bridges and temples with a neon twist.
As for actual shows on the schedule, highlights included accomplished outings from experienced hands such as Ban Xiao Xue and Ji Cheng (who is known in English as Jenny Ji), while Momo Wang’s Museum of Friendship, Hiuman and Ffixxed, a young brand based in Shenzhen, all presented well-received collections at the Rockbund venue.
On the business side, the largest of the week’s showrooms, Mode Shanghai, which is overseen by the Shanghai Fashion Week organizing committee, saw 10,000 visitors over its four-day run, 40 percent of them buyers, according to a committee spokesman.
There has been a sharp increase in the number of brick-and-mortar multibrand stores popping up all over China in recent years, as well as a proliferation of fashion-focused e-commerce platforms. These two fundamental changes to the retail infrastructure in the country have led to a large number of domestic buyers, many of whom might be from lower-tier cities. For these buyers, Shanghai Fashion Week offers an opportunity to see the up-and-coming local brands as well as international labels that are increasingly participating in showrooms like Mode Shanghai or Tube, Coda or Alter Showrooms, as well as trade shows such as The Hub, which also ran in Xintiandi for three days over fashion week.
International buyers have also added Shanghai Fashion Week to their travel schedules in recent years, including some from Opening Ceremony, which is currently celebrating Chinese design in a yearlong showcase. “It feels more elevated, more organized this season,” said Opening Ceremony buyer Carol Song on her second trip to Shanghai Fashion Week, the first being the spring edition last October. “It feels a bit more industry. I am definitely seeing faces here I also see in Paris and London, so I think that’s a really good sign.”
“It keeps getting better; I am actually in shock at how much better it gets every time I come here. There is a huge difference. The designers are getting much better and creating great fashion,” said Lorenzo Hadar, owner of H. Lorenzo in West Hollywood, Calif., who first attended Shanghai Fashion Week two years ago.
As well as catching up with the “12 or 14” Chinese designers already stocked by his stores, including Angel Chen and Museum of Friendship, Hadar picked up new brands Peng Chen and Leaf Xia. Peng Chen was also one of the new brands picked up by Opening Ceremony, alongside Heydey, Atelier Rouge Pekin and Moto Guo.
Lane Crawford buyer Jillian Xin is a familiar face at Shanghai Fashion Week, having attended for the past four years. In a few short years, the Hong Kong-based department store has increased its selection of homegrown designer brands many times over.
“Shanghai Fashion Week is getting better and better every season. There’s a real energy and excitement now. It’s becoming a must-see on buyers’ schedules not just for the sheer number of designers that are choosing to show collections, but the quality of talent,” Xin said. “For me, it’s also been great to see recent design graduates return to China to show their collections, such as Xiao Li, Renli Su, Haizhen Wang. I’m sure it’s only going to get bigger and better.”
The addition of an increasing number of showrooms, venues and styles of presentation were generally well-received by Shanghai Fashion Week-goers as injecting an additional layer of interest to proceedings.
“There are so many things we can attend in addition to what’s on the official schedule. I think since last season there’s been an effort to make it more varied, so instead of going to show, show, show, you can go to a show, then a presentation, then a showroom or trade show,” as Opening Ceremony buyer Jesse Hudnutt put it.
That said, there was also a general consensus that the showroom and trade shows running in conjunction with Shanghai Fashion Week would benefit from more focus on quality over quantity. “They still need to work on the trade shows,” Hadar said. “It’s not there yet; it’s still confusing the way the brands are mixed up and they are too big, they are not selective enough.”
Representatives from Milan and Paris fashion weeks were also in town and signed a collaboration agreement with the organizers of Shanghai Fashion Week at an International Fashion Forum. The forum was held on the first Saturday of fashion week and featured panels focused on the question of what makes an international fashion capital and the relationship between fashion centers from around the world.
Mario Boselli, honorary president of Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, in opening remarks at the forum promoted the idea that Shanghai is in line to become the world’s fifth fashion capital, joining the elite club of New York, London, Paris and Milan.
“If there is a fashion week that can come into this category in the medium-term, it’s Shanghai. Firstly, because we are in China, even if there isn’t double-digit growth any longer, it is the home of the largest new base of consumers,” he said.
Executive president of Fédération Française de la Couture and du Prêt-à-Porter and des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode Pascal Morand, who has seen China’s fashion and creative infrastructure grow significantly in the 26 years he has been visiting the country, echoed this sentiment when speaking with WWD after the forum.
“Fashion week is by itself an event, but it must become a brand, become a bridge between the local industry and the world. It’s about more than having talented fashion designers, but here we see this event attracting more buyers, attracting more business and you can see there is something happening here. There is definitely potential here for Shanghai Fashion Week to go from being an event with regional relevance to one with global relevance,” he said.
Camera chairman Carlo Capasa explained the cooperation agreement as a solidification of the “friendship” that already exists between Shanghai, Milan and Paris.
“China is obviously a very big market and we already have a very strong production and import and export relationship between China, Italy and France. Shanghai is trying to build something with this fashion week and we want to be helpful, we want to be good neighbors, looking at what they do with this fashion week and helping them where we can,” he said. “Shanghai Fashion Week is trying to improve, but it’s still quite local, quite dedicated to China. I am sure it will go more international over time. The level of product is quite good.”