China was ubiquitous at Paris Fashion Week
This season, only a handful of designers from China were included in Paris Fashion WeekUma WangDawei
Chinese buyers were of course eagerly awaited at Paris Fashion Week, but the city also hosted a plethora of initiatives organised by Chinese delegations. China is a key market for luxury labels and global fashion players, and the country’s representatives, from government delegations to regional and metropolitan authorities and emerging labels, were at the heart of many events in the French capital. The list was endless.
The first strong sign of Chinese players’ interest for the European market was the presence, for the first time in early September, of a mission representing Chinese fashion show ChicFrédéric Maus, managing director of WSN Développement, the show’s organiser. “This enables us to diversify our exhibitors, and tell a different story. We hear a lot about fast fashion and ultra-fast fashion from China. But there are also many highly creative designers in China who are very capable,” he added.
The same search for visibility was also evident at the Tranoï trade show, held from September 28 to October 1 at Palais Brongniart in Paris. This year, the show has inked a three-year partnership with China Select, the body within the China Fashion Associationfashion week
Clearly, the powerful appeal of Paris Fashion Week (and to a lesser extent Milan Fashion WeekMary KatrantzouRenzo Rosso
Dreaming of showing in the world’s fashion capital
The event was held on September 25 in the Royal MonceauShanghai Fashion WeekPascal Morand
“I have always been passionate about identifying and encouraging young talent. I founded the Yu Prize with the goal of supporting Chinese designers globally, and effectively boosting their careers,” said Wendy Yu. “I am very honoured and grateful to be part of the official calendar of Paris Fashion Week this season, in association with Shanghai Fashion Week and the [French] Fashion and Haute Couture Federation,” she added.
Yu’s initiative was supported by Madame Lyu, who explained Shanghai Fashion Week’s approach. “The world is now opening up and reconnecting, and Shanghai Fashion Week has relaunched the ‘Going Global’ programme, giving former Yu Prize finalists the chance to show together during Paris Fashion Week. We want to show our friends and colleagues from all over the world, whether industry professionals, buyers or the media, how Chinese fashion design is evolving. I think that Chinese fashion will truly be able to progress only by fostering inter-cultural exchange,” said Madame Lyu.
The theme of inter-cultural exchange was also prominent at the China Cultural Centre in Paris, which staged a Sino-French fashion and culture festival on October 2-8. The centre’s headquarters in the Hôtel de Montesquiou-Fezensac, a palace in the heart of the city, with its auditorium and offices, hosted presentations and runways shows by Chinese labels.
“We wanted to promote the creativity and quality of Chinese apparel,” said the centre director’s wife, a fashion design graduate, who advocated the project. A fashion occasion, but also a political one. As shown by the festival’s inaugural evening, with the presentation of 35 looks by designer Laurence Xu, inspired by the style of Prince Gong’s palace, an 18th century princely mansion built during China’s Qing dynasty. In the very Parisian setting of the Hôtel de Montesquiou-Fezensac, built in 1781, Hu’s silhouettes referenced traditional Chinese cultural codes, featuring dragons, lotuses and carps embroidered on majestic dresses, alongside elegant men’s silk ensembles, transparent fabrics, dresses with long trains and glittering sequins, showcasing “the elegance and refinement of traditional Chinese living.”
The emphasis was both on the cultural and the political. The centre’s director Liu Hongge took the opportunity to affirm his willingness to “propagate culture through creativity, fostering a conversation on fashion but also multiplying instances of cultural co-operation.” He thanked the Deputy Director of UNESCO
After the prolonged lockdowns and strict health protection measures imposed in China, the country’s fashion professionals are now returning to Paris. This is allowing Chinese fashion to gain visibility both internationally and in China too, under the impulse of various national and regional bodies. Shanghai Fashion Week had a presence in Paris, and other Chinese cities too came with their own delegations. Representatives from Shenzhen (in southern China, close to Hong Kong) and its neighbour Guangzhou, held meetings with European and global fashion names. The city of Guangzhou rented a huge historic building to showcase a dozen young designer brands part of the Guangzhou Fashion Incubator, while also promoting the city’s industrial and technological capabilities.
The event opened a window on the many initiatives China is keen to undertake, as communications with the rest of the world are starting up again.
Will Shanghai, Shenzhen or Guangzhou become the world’s fifth fashion capital?
“The new generation of [Chinese] designers has local roots but has been steeped in international culture, and some of them have studied in London, New York or Paris. Their creations are no longer targeted at their huge domestic market only,” said Boris Provost
The event staged by the city of Guangzhou’s delegation enabled 12 emerging ready-to-wear and leather goods brands to present their collections, and see their creations worn at a fashion show in the world’s fashion capital. A useful showcase for young names still little equipped to commercialise their products to international retailers and department stores, but keen to grow on the Chinese market. The event was also the chance for the Guangzhou delegation to underline the multiple opportunities offered by the Pearl River city. Besides introducing local designers, they presented an industrial city home to no fewer than 50,000 fashion-related companies and thousands of apparel labels, with vast logistics and R&D capabilities.
In her presentation, Hao Meng, deputy director in charge of fashion for the Guangzhou municipal government, clearly stated the goal of making Guangzhou an international fashion capital, also by regularly travelling to Milan and Paris during fashion weeks. To achieve this goal, Hao Meng underlined the city authorities’ commitment to “improving design capabilities, becoming a springboard for launching products, setting up a creative platform for designers, and attracting international fashion conferences.”
It isn’t simply a question of exporting Chinese products, but also of attracting projects and talents. “We came over with 12 emerging brands to meet and establish a dialogue with industry professionals in Paris, and to get a feel for trends and opportunities. We have a solid foundation, with the largest wholesale apparel market in China and a comprehensive e-commerce and logistics system. But we don’t yet have brands of an international calibre, and we want to foster our sector’s international expansion,” said Yueyue Gao, who led Guangzhou’s delegation in Paris.
As several observers told FashionNetwork.com
Having been exclusively focused on their internal market for years, many of them have decided to tap the powerful aura of Milan and especially Paris to strengthen their domestic appeal. Major European fashion events are therefore the arena for tough competition among Chinese players. While not yet as popular as London, Paris and Milan, the cities of Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou (among others) are engaged in fierce competition, and they are all imagining themselves as the world’s future fashion capital. For example, Guangzhou could soon hold its own fashion week, as Shanghai and Shenzhen already do.