China’s high fashion industry is booming. Citing excellent Chinese craftsmanship, Prada is moving some 20% of its manufacturing operations to China. Versace, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and Hermès (as Shang Xia) have opened boutiques in major cities.
Renowned designer Diane von Furstenberg recently unveiled a career retrospective in Beijing. The hip New York label Opening Ceremony, with branches in New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo, now has pop-up stores in Lane Crawford Beijing and Hong Kong.
Vogue China has advertisers jostling for space to reach very enthusiastic luxury consumers—just one fruit of the growing prosperity among the Chinese and the accompanying need to affirm their newfound wealth to the world.
Management consulting group McKinsey says China will be the world’s biggest luxury market in four years. CLSA Asia-Pacific predicts that Chinese consumers will pick up above 44% of luxury goods produced globally by 2020.
And do you know what makes China even more irresistible to big designers? More Chinese men purchase luxury products compared to their Western counterparts—and accessories make up a larger portion of the upmarket pie than they do in the West.
Western fashion does not have a monopoly on taste in the land of Mao suits and cheongsams. Now on its 14th year, China International Fashion Week is a much anticipated showcase of Chinese brilliance and innovation. The recent leg featured pieces that were 100% locally designed and created, and comprised 40 brands, 29 collections, 15 lectures, and seven competitions.
Such events are important to encourage local designers to cultivate a sense of identity for Chinese fashion, which to this day still glances westward.
Beijing is an excellent environment for nurturing fashion creativity. Beijing-based designers include Vega Wang, who likes creating concept-based collections, Xander Zhou, known for his unique menswear, and Zhang Chi, whose style is characterized by a keen attention to detail and tailoring typical of Beijing designers.
Also in Beijing are Lu Liu, whose inspiration comes from the Chinese aesthetic, and the widely-acclaimed brand NE-Tiger, marked by the integration of traditional elements into haute couture.
Not to be outdone, cosmopolitan Shanghai has Jenny Ji. Her La Vie belongs to the East-meets-West school of Chinese fashion, which is reflected in her collections reminiscent of Vivienne Tam.
Uma Wang takes on a different approach by decorating deconstruction with vintage flair, a style favored by Shanghai designers. Na(too), a brand by homegrown designer Zhang Na, features eye-catching creations that emphasize connections through cuts.
Farther south, longtime fashion hub Hong Kong has naturally produced excellent designers. Barney Cheng with his glam aesthetic and Alex Wang with his maverick sensibilities are just two of the gems of the HK fashion scene.
China’s knack for technology appears to be instrumental in the development of fashion across the Middle Kingdom. Luxury labels have tapped into this strength, maximizing its potential as a channel for both promotion and research.
Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, saw Louis Vuitton launch an account in October 2010, with Burberry, Chanel, and Gucci following suit in early 2011. Being the ninth most popular profile tag, fashion seems to be quite a hot topic in China.
Apart from Weibo, the surging popularity of Apple in China (due in no small part to its image as a status symbol), and the consequent rise of iPhone users, creates great potential for the iPhone app vSuch, a fashion microblog.
Basically a social networking platform focused on fashion, vSuch allows Chinese fashionistas to stay up to date on the latest developments about their favorite brands. The app also provides the brands with a direct line to their target consumer groups, enabling them to design more effective promotional campaigns and more focused marketing strategies. The online presence of major fashion houses is only one chapter in the story of fashion’s evolution over the Chinese Internet. Just like in the West, China also has its own community of fashion bloggers with sizable followings pivotal in driving trends.
Nels Frye of Stylites in Beijing (stylites.net) focuses on street fashion, posting photos of hip Beijingers around the metro. Erica Ji of Fossilized Seed (fsj.blogbus.com) is favored for her broad knowledge of both local and global fashion trends. Nini (blog. sina.com.cn/u/1291021104), who regularly garners up to 40,000 views and over 100 comments per post, represents a fashion ideal for young Chinese.
Sammy’s account in the fashion community site Wodeyichu (www.wodeyichu.com/space/iam_small- fry) is one of the most popular. By posting photos of herself in various branded articles from her personal wardrobe, she has become representative of a growing trend among fashion-conscious Chinese women. Posts by Sammy can accumulate up to 10,000 views each.
The positive economic climate, local creativity, growing prosperity, the consequent increase in the appetite for luxury, and the inclination towards technology are but a few of the factors that ensure China will continue to give the world’s fashion capitals a run for their luxury loot.
Print ed: 11/11