This article was written by Jiani Ma and originally published on Jing Daily

Tmall says it will hold a China Day in association with The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) during next month’s New York Fashion Week.

Tmall is Alibaba’s business-to-consumer e-commerce platform. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post. Its event will be held on February 7 and focus solely on menswear. Participating designers such as mainstream brands Li Ning and Peacebird, and private labels Chenpeng and CLOT by Edison Chen, will give runway shows at Chelsea event space Skylight Modern.

Most of the pieces shown during China Day will be available on Tmall immediately afterwards.

The move echoes a strategy that rival e-commerce platform JD.com has pursued since 2015, when the site brought three designers to Milan Fashion Week. In February 2016, JD.com then took five private labels to New York Fashion Week, initiating their own “see now, buy now” strategy. JD.com also brought six couture brands to London Fashion Week in September 2016.

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In its partnership with the CFDA, Tmall is helping present Chinese brands and designers to an international market, while leveraging the glamour of New York Fashion Week to sell items in China.

“It is now hardly new that single Chinese designers show their works during fashion weeks. We hope China Day can introduce Chinese designers in a more systematic way,” says Jessica Liu, president of Tmall Fashion.

Tmall is also rolling out the “Designer DT Innovative Plan”, which aims to cultivate at least five private Chinese labels with revenues exceeding a hundred million yuan this year.

According to Tmall, The “DT” stands for “designer and Tmall” as well as “data technology”, which articulates Tmall’s ambition to use big data to redefine the business models of private labels.

China has witnessed a boom in new fashion labels, but they face high production costs and unstable supply chains. The new retail era is making things even tougher.

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“[The designers] are not only competing with other designers. They have to provide a more cost-effective solution to cater to today’s customers,” says Tasha Liu, the founder of multibrand store Dong Liang. Liu believes Tmall’s user data and ecosystem is a great opportunity for private labels to “meet their audience”. Dong Liang joined Tmall last December.

According to Chinanews, Tmall has attracted thousands of private labels, with recent additions including Wconcept, To Be Thrill, Near White, Chizhang, and Comme Moi. Other major shops to sign on include Cachet and Alter.

For Liu, the 500 million daily active users of Tmall are a treasure.

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“Before joining Tmall, independent designers were disconnected from the internet. It has been hard for designers to scale if they rely on traditional retail models. They should explore China’s e-tail markets,” Liu says.

MS MIN is one Tmall success story. The label opened its store on Taobao in 2010 and joined Tmall in 2016. By 2017 sales had grown 287.5 per cent. Taking advantage of user data analytics that Tmall provides, MS MIN tweaked its designs and made its first foray into offline markets. The brand has since joined Lane Crawford and Saks 5th Avenue.

Mukzin, a private brand focusing on innovating around Chinese traditional clothing, was founded by Han Wen in 2014 and joined Tmall in 2015. Han says Tmall has helped her change the way the supply chain works and brought in more opportunities.

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Through Alifish, the licensing and entertainment business unit of Alibaba, Mukzin has launched products with the British Museum and the Vincent van Gogh Museum, which increased sales by 80 per cent during 11/11 last year.

Tmall aims to support Chinese private labels in steps from product development to optimised supply chains, as well as marketing and sales. “Although independent designer brands accounted for less than 1 per cent of the total Tmall apparel business, we saw some demand from consumers who we could not reach before, so we wanted to invest more”, Jessica Liu said earlier.

Whether Tmall pursues a similar strategy in other fashion capitals remains to be seen, but Tmall aims to nail its China Day onto New York Fashion Week’s agenda. The e-commerce giant announced it will hold another “China Day” during 2019 New York Fashion Week, this time focusing on womenswear.