Spotlighting local talent through MODE
Shanghai native Gu Jiayi had never heard of homegrown designer brand Jade en Plus till one Saturday afternoon when she was making her way back to the office for overtime work. The 28-year-old accountant was stopped by a scalper who was attempting to sell her a ticket to the brand’s fashion show and she managed to strike a bargain with the latter, buying the ticket for just 50 yuan ($8), less than what she had spent on her lunch.
Gu spent less than 30 minutes inside the black tent at the grounds of the Shanghai Fashion Week, attending her first ever fashion show, though she concluded that what she saw did not quite resonate with her own style. She did, however, post a few pictures of the show on her social network, labelling them as “the beautiful little things that brightened up a working weekend”.
Founded in 2003, Shanghai Fashion Week has become the most important event on China’s fashion calendar and is attended by some of the world’s best known designers who are trying to connect to the world’s potentially largest and fastest-growing fashion market. This year, a total of 50 brands and designers from home and abroad have graced the nine-day event. Marking the opening of the event was Ports 1961’s star-studded debut show in Shanghai, which was attended by American model Kendall Jenner and reality show icon Paris Hilton.
But apart from celebrity sightings, organizers also want people like Gu to know more about MODE, the official trade show for the event that is located in a 5,000-squaremeter underground parking lot located a few blocks away from the main show tent.
Established during the previous edition of Shanghai Fashion Week, MODE is where buyers get to feel the fabrics, talk to local designers, and most importantly, place orders for the pieces that have caught their eye during the fashion shows. There were some 400 brands and designers featured at MODE this year, and it drew about 3,600 people in three days. However, organizers say the crowd is still mostly made up of buyers, distributors and retailers.
Kate Zhou, the founder of her eponymous fashion brand, said that MODE is an important element in Shanghai Fashion Week as it provides people with an avenue to really understand the
Consumers no longer care about the nationality (of designers) nowadays. Chinese designers are also very creative.”
owner of fashion boutique H. Lorenzo
creations by local designers.
“Emerging designers need a space for customers to actually see and try their pieces. That’s what online stores cannot offer and what brick- and- mortar stores could survive the competition with,” said Zhou.
Faced with challenges posed by e-commerce and the virtual expansion of overseas shopping websites in China, domestic retailers have been struggling with sluggish growth for years. Organizers of MODE believe their event has the ability to change this as it raises more awareness about the creativity of local designers, and can in turn drive people to stores to find out more.
“The first and second floors of Shanghai’s department stores and shopping malls (usually where the retail shops are located) have been empty for years. MODE may be able to change the situation and save the retail scene,” said Du Wenxia, a staff of the Shanghai International Fashion Center that organizes the event twice a year.
Lorenzo Hadar, owner of West Hollywood’s famed multi-label fashion boutique, H. Lorenzo, added that the only thing Chinese designers need to remember is that “less is more”. Otherwise, he believes that it is just a matter of time before Chinese people and even foreigners begin to wear designed-by-China pieces.
“Consumers no longer care about the nationality (of designers) nowadays,” said Hadar. “Chinese designers are also very creative.”