19 Oct

SHANGHAI — Local designers are looking to stay positive and look for new opportunities amid China‘s economic slowdown.

The spring 2024 edition of Shanghai Fashion Week wrapped Monday, with more than 100 brands showcasing their latest collections to local buyers.

The general consensus among buyers Sue Magazine spoke to is that they are scaling back budgets and tightening brand lists this season as Chinese fashion consumers have been spending less.

That said, a decade after the Chinese designer fashion boom — and having survived the COVID-19 pandemic — local brands are prepared to embrace a tougher market environment with bigger shows, stronger brand narratives, more diverse price and product ranges, and more collaborations to reach new audiences.

Clot collaboration with Adidas Originals. 

Edison Chen also took to Shanghai to fete the 20th anniversary of his fashion label Clot. Chen enlisted more than 14 Chinese designer and global fashion brands, including Pronounce, Staffonly, Caroline Hu, Yue Qiqi, Sankuanz, Lu’u Dan, Alyx and Tommy Hilfiger to interpret the brand’s striking logo and its Alienegra motifs.

The unveiling of Chen’s highly anticipated Adidas Originals collaboration also occurred at the show. Chinese straw-shoe Sambas and quiet luxury-adjacent athleisure wear made for a clever first collection.

Backstage at Icicle, spring 2024.

 Chinese fashion label Icicle this season made its Shanghai Fashion Week debut 26 years after the brand was founded. It offered a simplistic and pragmatic collection featuring a silk dress inspired by a kite, with strings and side panels that give the impression that it flies when one walks, a transparent trench that is light as a cloud, and an asymmetric buttoned light silk suit realized in the color of summer dusk.

Bénédicte Laloux, creative director at Icicle, said the collection is inspired by the sky of spring and summer times. “That over-arching expanse of life-giving air offers us the chance to riff on the notes which make Icicle clothes so well adapted to summer dressing,” she added.

Her favorite pieces in the collection included the tailored white wool twill jacket with the hemp wide pants and organza shell at the opening and the orange jacket and gilet with the linen jeans at the end of the show.

Xu Zhi’s spring 2024 collection

Elegance rooted in the teachings of ying-yang and Daoism informed Xu Zhi’s latest collection. Known for his fringy gowns, he reinterpreted them with ostrich feathers poking out in the most joyous fashion. At the same time, the sequined shirtings for men and beaded miniskirts are next season’s must-haves.

“All the sequins, fringes, feathers, sequins and metallic beading were mixed together as a way for me to express how I feel the energies flow,” explained the designer Xuzhi Chen.

Oude Waag’s spring 2024 collection

This season, Oude Waag, the fashion label founded by Royal College of Art alum Jingwei Yin, was inspired by the culture of Ama, the Japanese female divers who make a living by harvesting abalones and pearls. He translated the strength of the female spirit and the strong community formed by these divers, who would work topless back in the day, into a sultry yet elevated collection.

Yin’s favorites in the collection included the draped tailored jacket that resembled the natural shape of an abalone shell, as well as a series of intricately draped dresses constructed with fabrics connected with a string of fastening stoppers around the neck as if they were real pearls.

The label comes with a higher-than-usual price point among local designers. This season, in light of the market slowdown, he offered several pieces in a more affordable range, such as graphic swimsuits. At the same time, he increased the price of its showpiece to meet the demand of those who are looking for a one-of-kind showstopper with little concern for budget.

Looks from Mark Gong’s spring 2024 collection.

Parsons alum Mark Gong, for spring 2024, reinterpreted office attire with Samantha Jones from “Sex and the City” in mind.

The designer said he first watched the series at the age of 11, and the scene from the first movie where Jones lost the bidding to her boyfriend at the auction over a diamond gardenia ring was particularly fundamental in the formation of the spring 2024 collection.

“Her true desire was to achieve the notion that a woman should buy jewelry for herself through her own efforts,” noted Gong.

“My personal favorite is the look three,” said Gong. “The tray of coffee, the dry-cleaning pickup she’s holding in her hands, I want this girl to look like she is in a rush to get back to her boss, despite a hangover after a big party last night. It’s very casual and that’s why I like it.”

Standouts included sheer LBDs, cozy knits with ripped fringes, a red sequined minidress, a ripped denim ensemble with metal chain detail, tailored jackets, and pencil skirts with the monogram of the letter M, all paired with seductive stockings, and fashion jewelry made in collaboration with the accessory brand

The Shanghai Fashion Week show venue at Xintiandi

Redemptive’s Choi said that this season he adjusted the ratio of men’s and women’s and introduced more unisex products as well as easier-to-wear styles priced between 1,000 to 2,500 renminbi (about $136 to $342) to attract a wider audience.

Zi Ii Ci Ien’s Chen noted her collection came with clear merchandise planning.

“My collection actually started from the planning. The clothes, be it showpieces or commercial ones, are all part of the business. I think facing an economic downturn is a perfectly normal part of running a brand. Price adjustments might be able to help you survive the economic cycle, but long-term brand planning and positioning is more important than anything,” she added.

Overall, Song believes that brands developing a diffracted brand positioning and influence is key to breaking through the competition amid the bear market, especially for Chinese designer brands.

“How to develop their own brand asset accumulation and user accumulation is particularly important,” she said, adding that only when the brand influence is strong enough, stickiness of consumption is high enough, and there is a deep understanding and resonance with brand values and concepts, plus the brand constantly attracts new customers and turns them into loyal users, will a fashion business find sustainable long-term growth.

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