LONDON — Designers big and small are flocking to China to forge closer ties with the local fashion community amid a global luxury slowdown, as demonstrated in the third-quarter earnings results among leading players.
In last two weeks alone, Stella McCartney, Donatella Versace, Daniel Lee, Thom Browne, Stuart Vevers, Peter Do, Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, just to name a few, were in China, attending local events and hosting lavish dinners for local celebrities, influencers and editors.
McCartney closed Shanghai Fashion Week last week with a restaged spring 2024 show. The showcase was accompanied by a performance by Chinese rapper Adawa with dancers dressed in pieces from the latest Stella McCartney x Hajime Sorayama capsule.
The designer said she wanted to come to Shanghai because she is “so inspired by the next generation of talent coming out of Shanghai Fashion Week and China’s fashion industry.”
“I wanted to bring a bit of Paris to Shanghai with my sustainable market and invite everyone to come and discover the incredible potential of material innovation,” she added.
During an upcycling workshop hosted by Donghua University at the market, she met with Chinese designers Jinwei Yin of Oude Waag, Chen Peng, Terrence Zhou of Bad Binch Tongtong, Gong Li of 8on8, and Shie Lyu, who McCartney collaborated with last season on a design exchange project.
Two days later, Versace cohosted the second installment part of the Versace Icons dinner in Shanghai alongside brand ambassador Chris Lee at the Shanghai Jiushi Art Museum on the Bund, with guests including Ningning from the popular K-pop group Aespa; model Chu Wong; Cici Xiang, as well as Rebecca Yuancao Yang, China chairman at Christie’s; artist Zhang Zipiao, and collector Kylie Ying.
The brand took over a large block in downtown Shanghai for the Burberry Rose pop-up, covering the buildings in the purple rose print that’s first revealed in Lee’s debut collection for the brand.
The opening event generated considerable buzz on Chinese social media as Lee was seen taking pictures and interacting with brand ambssador Chen Kun, as well as famed actress Tang Wei, who last year won several major awards for the South Korean movie “Decision to Leave.”
Coperni’s Meyer and Vaillant came to Shanghai this week for the brand’s pop-up with Machine-A Shanghai, while Browne continued his 20th anniversary city-hopping celebratory journey with an intimate dinner with industry experts on Monday at the three Michelin-starred chef Esben Holmboe Bang’s new venture EHB Shanghai.
A few designers came on the down low. According to Instagram stories, the newly appointed Helmut Lang creative director Do came for a factory visit, while Coach’s creative director Vevers attended a small dinner with local power brokers, such as fashion influencer Tao Liang, professionally known as Mr. Bags, and emerging talent support platform and retailer Labelhood founder Tasha Liu, according to posts seen by WWD on WeChat.
Many others attended Shanghai Fashion Week to get a deeper understanding of the local market as they gear up for China expansion.
Elizabeth Hilfiger, founder of Foo & Foo, for example, came during the period to meet local partners and finalize her contact with the Immersive, a brand development joint venture between DFO and NAG, as the brand is looking to open 50 stores in the next three years.
Angelica Cheung, venture partner at Sequoia Capital China, also showed Jessica Jung and Dami Kwon, founders of We11done, the brand the venture capital firm invested in 2022, around Shanghai as the label recently opened a store at Xintiandi.
She took them to Edison Chen’s Clot 20th anniversary show during Shanghai Fashion Week, which was also attended by Lu’u Dan’s Hung La. He was one of the designers whose co-branded designs were featured in the show. Études cofounders José Lamali, Jérémie Égry and Aurélien Arbet also landed in China to check out their new stores.
Ruby Wallen, cofounder of the Austrian accesory label Published By, spent 10 days in Shanghai during the fashion week. After visiting trendy shops such as Machine-A, SND, and LMDS, and meeting with local creatives, she hailed the city as “a must visit for brand owners.”
“From the state of the art, innovative, creative stores to the most creative e-commerce approaches that the rest of the countries will adapt in the years to come. Our brand was born during COVID-19 and Chinese customers were some of our earliest and most loyal ones as they are seeking the new, the different and the bold,” she said.
Influencer Tao added that “China is growing at a fast pace and has changed a lot in the past few years. As a creative director of a big brand, you really need to come to China in person to feel the changes and realities of the country.
“From the designers I met in recent weeks, they all mentioned that they were surprised that in China everyone pays with their cellphones, which is not so universal in Europe and America. They also mentioned why fewer and fewer people are buying long wallets and why minibags, which are a bit bigger than cellphones, have been so popular. In fact, things like this are very helpful to let them to understand why Chinese consumers have their own habits that are different from the West,” he added.
More designers are expected to visit China as well, since Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Prada all have major activations planned for China in the last two months of 2023.
Louis Vuitton will stage its first men’s pre-fall show in Hong Kong on Nov. 30. Chanel will reprise its cruise 2024 show in Shenzhen next week. The second Pradasphere exhibition will kick off in Shanghai from Dec. 7.