Outside of the four major fashion weeks, Shanghai has emerged as one of the most important fashion hubs in the East. Though the country’s most established names like Masha Ma and Uma Wang prefer to show in Europe, Shanghai Fashion Week provides a platform for young, independent labels such as Xuzhi, Oude Wang, and Shushu/Tong. It's also an occasion for foreign journalists and buyers to discover fresh local talents, and to engage with a massive, but often complicated, market.
Labels to look out for over the next few days include Ximon Lee, Anaïs Jourden (from Hong Kong and shows regularly in Paris), Staff Only, Oude Wang, and Shushu/Tong. Hitting that millennial and Gen Z sweet spot, the Chinese independent designer scene is young – but highly lucrative – as younger Chinese consumers seek out local brands.
But this month’s schedule also shows the Shanghai Fashion Week roster is often subject to change. Brands come and go, one season to the next, with the likes of previous favourites like Sirloin, Angel Chen, Pronounce, and Ffixxed Studios noticeably absent on the official runway schedule.
With the massive Chinese market at stake, it’s no wonder that global fashion powers have flocked here to the nation’s fashion capital. The first day of fashion week culminated in an intimate talk with Marni creative director Francesco Risso, who discussed Thursday his week-long inspirational journey to the Central West Guizhou region of China where he visited the tribal Miao, an ethnic minority, and saw their traditional craft and textiles firsthand. Cultural exchanges like this are set to be more common as Western brands find more innovative ways of collaborating with China.
Alongside the local runway shows, Kering hosted a sustainability conference (named the K Generation Talk and Awards) on Friday at which François-Henri Pinault was the headlining speaker. British luxury retailer Harrods set up a three-day club lounge in the centre of the city at The Middle House hotel, while Soho House is hosting a private dinner with designer Ximon Lee. Perhaps one of the biggest names to arrive this season is Stella McCartney, who comes to town for a talk and VIP dinner with MyTheresa.com.
Labels on show ranged from mass Chinese commercial brands and indie street-inspired labels like the edgy Short Sentence to the craft and feminine couture of The Atelier – a Malaysian based brand run by Dr. Jimmy Choo and his nephew. There’s a huge line up of shows to see, and a well-researched selection is key.
Pinault commented that luxury is just a small part of the fashion industry and not the most important, but he recognises that, “China is the most important market for the fashion industry… we need that leadership of the country and the government to move towards sustainability.” True indeed. How and if big Chinese companies will heed the call to embrace a sustainable business model remains to be seen.