A fashionable city
Alongside the drive to establish Dalian as a base for foreign labels, the city is also looking to nurture homegrown talent. This twin track approach was illustrated by two simultaneous events.
While Versace staged a runway show to launch its autumn-winter line at the Dalian Fashion Week, the Dalian Cup - a competition for up-and-coming local designers - was held at the new Z28 Fashion Valley Innovation Center, a 45 million yuan (HK$54.9 million) complex for fashion development founded by the Dalian Clothing Industry Association.
Dalian's fashion events have come a long way over the past decade.
'Dalian-based organisers realised they were lagging behind the curve and moved to attract Western designers and audiences,' says Josh Bellendir, founder of fashion network Fashion Asia. 'Shows used to lack excitement, creativity, and energy - that has all changed. They're not on a par with shows in Milan or Paris yet, but they're certainly improving. Asian or Chinese styles in hair and make-up have really helped to create a unique identity.'
Whereas fashion weeks in the West are private-sector events that are aimed at buyers and members of the press, most of their Chinese counterparts are formal, stately events with government agendas. At the end of the catwalk, administrators and governmental officials outnumber photographers and other members of the fashion media, 10 to one.
'There's still too much government involvement in Dalian Fashion Week,' explains Nels Frye, a popular Beijing-based blogger on China's fashion trends.
'Like other Chinese fashion events, many of the most innovative and interesting designers are simply not interested in it.'
Other shows with no connection to fashion week 'are often a lot more creative', Frye says.