NOT YET THE FIN­ISHED PROD­UCT

While the an­nual Shang­hai Fashion Week has grown sig­nif­i­cantly over the years, in­dus­try vet­er­ans be­lieve more needs to be done be­fore it can be on par with its more il­lus­tri­ous West­ern coun­ter­parts

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By XU JUNQIAN in Shang­hai

xu­jun­qian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The front row at the open­ing show of the 2016 Fall/Winter Shang­hai Fashion Week (SFW) on April 8 was graced by some very in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in the global fashion scene, an in­di­ca­tion that the an­nual event has grown much in stature since its in­cep­tion in 2003.

But in­stead of the typ­i­cal per­son­al­i­ties like su­per­mod­els or A-lis­ters, among those seated were Pas­cal Mo­rand, ex­ec­u­tive pres­i­dent of the French Fed­er­a­tion of Fashion, Carlo Ca­pasa, chair­man of the Ital­ian Na­tional Fashion Cham­ber, Sara Maino, se­nior edi­tor of Vogue Italy, and Gemma Wil­liams, Bri­tish fashion colum­nist and the author of Fashion China.

“Th­ese are in­dus­try vet­er­ans who are just as in­flu­en­tial, if not more, as fashion de­sign­ers, stylists and celebri­ties in the in­dus­try,” said Du Wenxia, a mem­ber of the Shang­hai Fashion Week com­mit­tee.

Ever since the first SFW in 2003, the gov­ern­ment-spon­sored event has strived to nar­row the gap with the Big Four — Lon­don, Mi­lan, Paris and New York — by invit­ing fa­mous de­sign­ers such as Vivi­enne West­wood and Karl Lager­feld to re­pro­duce their shows in Shang­hai.

The com­mit­tee had also de­cided in re­cent years to shift the fo­cus away from the glam­ourous side of the event and in­stead con­cen­trate on “ex­pe­ri­ences and lessons”, ac­cord­ing to Chen Ying, the Vice-Pres­i­dent of Shang­tex Group, the State-owned com­pany that or­ga­nizes SFW ev­ery year.

Af­ter reach­ing a long-term and strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment with the Bri­tish Fashion Coun­cil last year, the com­pany has fur­ther ex­panded its Euro­pean con­nec­tions this year by sign­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion deals with the French Fashion Fed­er­a­tion and the Ital­ian Na­tional Fashion Cham­ber.

At the news con­fer­ence on the morn­ing af­ter the open­ing show, Chen noted that th­ese col­lab­o­ra­tive deals con­nect what could be the world’s largest con­sumer mar­ket for fashion to a highly es­tab­lished and re­li­able sup­ply for fashion, as well as “en­cour­age di­a­logue be­tween young de­sign­ers and share in­for­ma­tion among the world’s lead­ing fashion man­u­fac­tur­ers”.

Ray­mond Tan, a Malaysian fashion pho­tog­ra­pher who has lived and worked in Lon­don for 10 years, said that Shang­hai’s fashion in­dus­try is now the best place in the world to work in.

•Held across four lo­ca­tions: The black tent at Xin­tiandi (for in­de­pen­dent de­sign­ers and com­mer­cial brands), Shang­hai Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­ter (for in­ter­na­tional brands such as DIESEL and Dirk Bikkembergs), La­bel­hood on the Bund for still pre­sen­ta­tion, and 800 Show in Jing’an for grad­u­ates and kids wear.

•There were more than 1,500 vis­i­tors at the open­ing day of trade show MODE Show­room, up 30 per­cent up from last sea­son. More than 500 buy­ers and dis­trib­u­tors from around the world at­tended the four-day event.

“The growth of the in­dus­try here is amaz­ing and to be a part of the in­dus­try when it’s grow­ing is what ex­cites me,” said Tan, who re­cently re­lo­cated to Shang­hai to fur­ther his pho­tog­ra­phy ca­reer.

“Just look at the sheer num­ber of Chi­nese grad­u­ates in Lon­don. Many of them are com­ing back to China af­ter­wards, and they are the fu­ture of not only fashion but also the cre­ative in­dus­try here,” he added.

But while Shang­hai’s fashion scene has grown con­sid­er­ably through the years, the in­dus­try ex­perts in at­ten­dance at SFW noted that there is still much to be done be­fore Shang­hai can be con­sid­ered the world’s fifth fashion cap­i­tal.

“The prod­ucts are of course important, but that is just one spec­trum of the fashion sys­tem,” said Ca­pasa af­ter the news con­fer­ence.

“What is miss­ing here in Shang­hai is the im­age of fashion. Im­age is what as­pires women to walk into the store and pay for a dress even though they al­ready have a full wardrobe of it,” he added.

In or­der to achieve this, Ca­pasa said that Shang­hai needs to be more open to in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion with pho­tog­ra­phers, stylists and artists.

“Cre­at­ing im­age is hard work. It’s not some­thing you can walk into a store and ask to buy one kilo­gram of. Chi­nese in­vestors are very gen­er­ous when it comes to buy­ing ma­chines to pro­duce clothes, but what the mar­ket needs are mas­ter­pieces,” said Ca­pasa.

On the other hand, Sara Maino be­lieves that it is the lack of sales tech­nique and the high prices of Chi­nese cre­ations that have been hin­der­ing the progress of China’s young fashion de­sign­ers.

For years, small-scale pro­duc­tion, the ris­ing cost of la­bor in the do­mes­tic mar­ket and the lack of sup­port have pushed many Chi­nese de­sign­ers to set their prices at al­most the same level as global lux­ury brands, and this has in turn iso­lated them from cus­tomers.

Lin Jian, one of China’s most cel­e­brated fashion com­men­ta­tors, at­trib­uted this to the fact that Chi­nese de­sign­ers have been overly ob­sessed with be­ing “in­de­pen­dent”. He noted that there is usu­ally a mis­con­cep­tion among do­mes­tic de­sign­ers that be­ing in­de­pen­dent equates to be­ing suc­cess­ful and stylish.

“Peo­ple of­ten ask when China will pro­duce its own Alexan­der McQueen or Coco Chanel. I have no an­swer to that. How­ever, young de­sign­ers need to face the re­al­i­ties of the busi­ness first,” said Lin.

Lanyu 2016 Fall/Winter

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