Shanghai Fashion Week wraps up after nine breathless, optimistic days
China’s most fashionable city offers emerging brands a showcase they would struggle to find elsewhere, and an entry to China market for international labels and, this year, some from Hong Kong
Shanghai Fashion Week was bigger than ever this year – almost too big, in fact. While it is the range of events beyond the catwalk shows that has made it such a success in so short a time, this year’s edition spread over a very long nine days and, for all its inclusiveness, could perhaps have been better curated.
“There are a lot of shows taking place during Shanghai Fashion Week. Some of the shows are great, some of them less so,” says Richard Hobbs, co-founder of The HUB, a trade show that also hosted a series of catwalk shows for young British designers. “I like to think that what we do is more selective.”
Still, there was an undeniable air of optimism around Shanghai this month.
“The event is definitely one of the youngest, in terms of atmosphere, and is also the most vibrant one,” says Yichi Zhang, a creative consultant who has styled for Vogue China and Harper’s Bazaar China.
“Part of the reason comes from the fact that a lot of independent platforms and agencies are based here– so emerging brands work with them to get the kind of industry attention they would otherwise struggle to find by themselves.”
One example was showroom concept Labelhood, which hosted a series of presentations by some of China’s emerging and most innovative designers on The Bund. One standout from the showroom was London-based Haizhen Wang, who showed a collection with elongated sleeves, structured coats and raw hemlines.
Another big draw was the show by Shenzhen-based label Ffixxed, which has shown previously at Shanghai Fashion Week. The brand explored the idea of sustainability by weaving together leftover fabric from previous seasons to create new textures. Part presentation, part catwalk show, the event was held across a long corridor lined with office-style grey blinds.
Back in the main tents, special attention was paid to Ban Xiao Xue, 2012 winner of the China Woolmark Prize. The designer showed a range of romantic looks in white and black, featuring textures and prints that were full of ideas. But with so many looks on offer, the show was a metaphor for Shanghai Fashion Week as a whole – a smaller and more cohesive collection would have been better.
Among the brands showing at The HUB trade show were established British brand Henry Holland, up and coming British labels such as Sibling and Ryan Lo, and group from incubator Fashion East. Also taking part for the first time was Hong Kong brand Squarestreet – one of a number of Hong Kong brands emboldened by the city’s poor retail outlook to explore Shanghai Fashion Week for opportunities.
“China represents a huge opportunity for expansion,” says Alexis Holm, founder of Squarestreet. “Comparing Hong Kong as a retail market to China would be like putting a pebble next to a boulder, and we’re not about to miss out.”
He adds: “On paper, it looks like China as a whole is having a few financial issues. But the general feel on the ground is comparable to that of Europe 10 years ago – an insatiable appetite for everything new and a newfound appreciation for niche brands. Having said that, China is of course still emerging, which means the amount of quality retailers and customers is limited - but growing every day.”
Squarestreet not only showed at The HUB but had a booth at trade show Ontimeshow. While positioned for the local market, this event had an impressive array of brands and saw plenty of traffic from store buyers and media on all three days of operation.