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Chic looking to attract International buyers, exhibitors searching for Chinese partners

By Vivian Hendriksz



In hindsight, it seems almost ironic now that one of the organizers behind China’s largest fashion trade fair Chic Shanghai biggest fears following the event’s move ​from Beijing to Shanghai​ for its 23rd edition to run simultaneously with Intertextile, trade fair for apparel fabrics and Yarn Expo, the Chinese trade event for fibres and yarns, involved its attendees numbers. "One of our main concerns was that we would not attract enough visitors in the new location, but in fact we have almost attracted too many visitors," joked Chen Dapeng, Executive Vice President of the China National Garment Association (CNGA) and President of Chic Shanghai during a press interview.

Considering the trade fair registered close to 53,000 visitors on its first day in Shanghai, compared to 42,000 attendees scanned on the first day of Chic's former edition in Beijing, it is unsurprising that Chic Shanghai 2015 reported a record number of visitors this season. "Therefore in my eyes, Chic Shanghai 2015 has been a success, because it has far succeeded all of our expectations," added Dapeng. But it is not just the sheer number of visitors that is important to Dapeng and the trade fair's organizers, China World International Exhibition Co. and Beijing Fashion Expo.

Chic aims to satisfy all exhibitors needs - despite conflicting viewpoints

Chic also aims to satisfy all their exhibitors needs "from the big guys, to the small potatoes to emerging designers," notes the President, who all have different demands and needs when it comes to what sort of business transactions they seek to achieve during the trade fair. The quality of the type of visitors Chic attracts as well as the nationality - or internationality - is another aspect Chic Shanghai is determined to boost. "Although we attract many visitors, who come here to do business, we are still feel that we need to attract more international visitors," explains Dapeng. "We need to bring in more international buyers because some of the larger brands here already have an established retail network in plan and are looking to expand overseas." Partnering with other trade shows, such as TheMicam Shanghai & Italian Fashion and South Korean trade event Preview in China, is one way Chic aims to appeal to international visitors, as well as its new collaboration with Pure Shanghai, the Asian branch of London women's wear trade fair Pure.

Another way Chic hopes to boost its presence on the international fashion trade circuit is by boosting the presence of Chinese designers, although Dapeng explains that he personally does not think that China has many "good" designers. "We need to support them more, especially the young ones." This season saw Chic showcase 14 emerging Chinese designers with an agency. The trade fair also charges young designers less than brands to rent space at Chic, offering discount between 30 and 35 percent, but some visitors still questioned if Chic really was doing all they could do to promote local talent and design. Fu Zuoija, designer and owner of brand Qi Bu Liao, is a regular visitor at Chic. He explains that he has been to the trade show for the past eleven years, as he believes it is the best platform in China to see all the changes occurring within the fashion industry and study all the latest trends, brands and designers emerging.

Chic should “try harder to promotore more Chinese labels”

But he revealed to FashionUnited that he feels a little let down by the trade fair's choice to relocate the event to Shanghai. "I feel like in Beijing there were more original or unique Chinese brands and designers," he explains, adding that he is not very impressed with array of 'fast-fashion' Western styled labels exhibiting at Chic. He added that he liked the more designer styled labels showing in 5.1 In Signature and Prestige, which include K-Boxing and Bosideng Homme. "I think that Chic should try harder to promote more traditional Chinese labels, who present quality and local designs like qipaos for women." When asked if he visited the International pavilions, he explains that he went to see the French, German, Italian and Turkish pavilions, but was not too impressed overall with the selection of brands exhibiting. "The majority of them seemed to be situated on the lower end of the industry spectrum, which just does not appeal to me both design wise and quality wise." Liu Ju, owner of Orange, a small concept store in Beijing who was visiting Chic echoed Zuoija’s thoughts. "I am looking for local brands with a strong reputation as well as an individual look for my store, but I have not placed any orders yet. I am more interested in buying in Chinese brands than international ones, but have yet to see collections which have caught my eye."

In spite of Chic's interest in attracting international buyers as well as partnering with more international fashion trade events, the majority of the visitors and exhibitors FashionUnited spoke to at the event seemed to be focused on exploring and developing within the local market first, before turning their sights overseas. Jing Min, Owner, Chairman and President of women’s wear label Koradiar, part of Eeka Fashion says: "China is a very big market. We currently have 400 stores in main tier cities, but we are looking to move into second and third tier cities as well to achieve our goal of having 1,000 stores across China in 5 years time." Vicki Yuan, marketing supervisor for fast-fashion label Top Feeling, part of Mjstyle, explains that their decision to attend Chic was in order to attract more local franchise partners, as well as boosting their brand presence throughout China. "We have stores in first tier cities, but we want to obtain a larger market share in China and become number one 'fast-fashion' chain here ahead of our competitors." Although the label is slated to open overseas stores in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan this year, the label is most excited about the opening of its largest store to date, within new shopping development F1, which will feature its complete range of products.

Local brands keen to grown within China first before looking abroad

Mr CC&DD, the male counterpart to the popular Chinese women's wear label CC&DD, may have only launched a year and half ago but it already has 40 stores located throughout China and is keen to grow within the country. "I have confidence that the brand will become more popular and grow over the years," explains sales consultant Alex. "I like Shanghai because I think that it is the city with the strongest economic growth in China and we want our brand to become the strongest here." He adds that the brand currently has 4 stores in Shanghai, with 6 more slated to open this year alone. However, not all brands showing at Chic are keen to open stores in first tier cities. Li Ming Yong, marketing manager for Mermaid, young women's wear fashion label, explains the label aims to expand the brand's presence in second and third tier cities, rather than cities like Shanghai because "they are too expensive and offer a lot of competition," something that the three year old label is not ready to tackle heads on. "We see more potential for us to grow in smaller cities, plus we want to make sure we keep the brand good value for our customers."

Although many exhibitors were pleased with the overall attendance and number of visitors passing by their booths, it remains to be seen how many brands and designers attending managed to make solid business deals during Chic. "Things are not like how they were in the good old golden days, when people would pay in cash and place orders straight away, business is tough," warns Ivan Lau, managing director for Hong-Kong based luxury women's wear label Anjaylia. "Now buyers look around and shop around a lot more than before and then go get a coffee and think about what they want before they do business." Vicki Lee, assistant manager at Everstar, an online denim customization firm adds: "It feels like most of the visitors here are just window shopping at Chic. They all look quite rushed and hurried, and don't seem to have a lot of time to look at all the brands and collections," which could be down to Chic's decision to cut the number of days for the trade fair from 4 to 3. The loss of one day of exhibition was another of Dapeng concerns when making the leap from Beijing to Shanghai, as "finding the right balance is hard." But in order to correlate with Intertextile, the trade fair organizers decided to cut down the days.

Chic introduces new changes in order to adapt to China’s economic shift

The majority of the visitors and exhibitors all welcomed the idea to run Chic Shanghai 2015 at the same time and under the same roof Intertextile, as Dapeng noted because it "better represented the entire fashion industry chain from fiber to end garment." It also provided attendees the chance to meet other fabric manufacturers and producers, who may not have meant under different circumstances. "I do think that foreign fabrics and materials are better quality than Chinese fabrics," noted designer Zuoija, who was seeking a new supplier as he recently used domestic silk for a collection but was unsatisfied with its quality. "So in that sense the move to hold the two events under the same roof was smart, even if I have to travel all the way from North-East Beijing now to visit Chic." Other exhibitors also questioned if the jump from location was the right step for the trade fair to take, despite Shanghai being the self-proclaimed city of fashion in China.

Dong Fei, manager at Shangdong Ruyi Technology Group, parent company of the Harris Tweed company and British tailor Taylor & Lodge, says that the group has exhibited nearly every edition of Chic. but feels as if they are seeing less visitors at the stand than before. "In the past all the fashion shows were always packed to full capacity," he adds, "but when I went to a Korean show today, it looked as if it was half empty." Costantino Antonio from Carnevale SRL, parent company of Italian labels Carnevale, Hotel Chocolat, Golf Club has been an exhibitor at Chic for 7 years but was very adamant when it came to which location he preferred - Beijing. "It's much quieter here," he says, gesturing around to the close to empty walkways within the TheMicam Shanghai & Italian Fashion show-in-show. "Plus our booth is near the toilets." He doubts whether he will return next season for Chic's second edition in fall, as the company already attends 7 trade fairs per a season and has its own showroom in Shanghai, making the trade event's new location an unneeded addition. Other exhibitors however, remained firmly upbeat and positive in regards to the move.

Visitors and exhibitors questions Chic’s innovations

Kim Jin, managing director for UK fashion label Glamorous, was pleasantly surprised with the number of visitors the stand attracted, despite hearing from other brands that Beijing was indeed better. "We have had a lot of interest in the brand and are currently looking for franchise partners and buyers to launch in China, although we have to be very careful with who we work with and potentially partner with," she explains. "We only want to work with the right partners who will help protect our brand image here and values." Jin adds that she is confident the brand will do well in China, in spite of potential price and sizing differences because they will help local partners open their own stores and ensure they are able to order in new styles and trends whenever needed and let them send back unwanted stock as well. "I think we will definitely come back and show at Chic again over other Chinese fashion trade fairs, we are all really pleased with our booth, the venue as well as the visitor footfall."

Despite conflicting viewpoints and thoughts regarding Chic Shanghai 2015, the numbers are undeniable. In just 3 days there were over 125,000 visitors registered, viewing 1,200 brands from 21 countries within a convention hall that spanned over 100,000 square meters, an amazing feat for any fashion trade fair but truly a success for China's largest fashion trade event.

Chic Shanghai