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Chic Shanghai uses showrooms to bring brands even closer to the Chinese market

By Isabella Naef

18 Oct 2017


The third Autumn edition of Chic Shanghai, a fair that has been held in China since 1993, but only took place once a year in March until recently, closed its doors on October 13, 2017 after welcoming a total of 65,722 visitors. Visitor numbers at Chic (short for China International Clothing and Accessories fair) were essentially in line with its 2016 edition, which welcome 65,71 visitors in total.

850 exhibitors participated in the fair this season, the vast majority of whom were Chinese. There were a few product catalogues present at the stands, but there was a QR code present in every space from which all information about the brand could be directly downloaded on WeChat, the social network used for communication from all the Made in China companies.

There were also 13 Italian companies present at the fair, promoting 20 fashion brands and 6 French labels. In the exhibition halls of the crowded National Exhibition and Convention Center, there was no shortage of Korean brands, such as fashion brand Kim Chul Ung Mode, which was recently exhibited on the runway in Seoul fashion week. As Kim Chul Ung, the label's creative director, explained to FashionUnited, the brand will soon also participate in New York Fashion Week and it is preparing to debut in Europe with its cashmere garments and its pleated tartan skirts. The brand's innovation lies above all in its flowing shapes.

Chic Shanghai welcomed a total of 65,722 visitors.

And as Chen Dapeng, Vice President of China National Garment Association and Head of Chic, told FashionUnited, innovation must be the focus of the brands that want to go abroad. “Chic remains a platform dedicated to fashion labels that intend to focus on the Chinese market, but brands that want to go abroad need to invest in creativity and innovation. When companies set internationalisation as a goal, they have to check whether they actually have the capabilities," said Mr Chen.

At the moment, it seems that many of the Chinese companies present at the Chinese fair are still organising their development across borders. According to official figures, the number of fashion textile companies in China, at least the large ones, amounts to 100,000 and they employ 90 million people.

Despite owning trademarks, the larger companies primarily position themselves as third party suppliers. The young brands, many of which were created by designers who have studied at the top European schools, show creativity and innovation, but lack the economic resources and the right advice to position themselves in other markets. This, for example, is what the young designer who launched Art On, a fledgling Chinese label that offers Trench Bon Ton and also Lu Joe Nottingham, thinks. This brand is named after the founding designer who completed his studies in fashion in Nottingham itself. Both brands were present in the Chic Impulse area, a space dedicated to promising Made in China talents.

Chic hosted young Chinese talent in the Impulse area.

But if businesses in this market struggle to cross the border, except for some such as Guangzhou Zhuofeng Clothing, already a supplier of the well-known Primark chain and present in Chic with several denim lines, foreign brands, including Italian ones, appear instead to be directed towards Chinese consumers.

According to the Altagamma Worldwide Market Monitor, created by Bain & Company in collaboration with Altagamma, the global market for high-end personal goods will reach 254-259 billion in 2017, a steady growth rate of between 2 percent and 4 percent, mainly driven by the recovery of Chinese consumers both in the local and overseas market and by the increased propensity to buy in Europe.

Finding local Chinese partners at the moment seems to be one of the most popular paths, also because even though China is the leading online retail market (543 billion for products in each segment), the risks of counterfeiting and fraud lead Chinese consumers to be wary of online shopping for luxury goods. According to the Altagamma Digital Luxury Experience - DLE3 (e-commerce, experience and enterprise), created in partnership with McKinsey & Company, only 16 percent of Chinese luxury consumers expect to increase their online spending over the next year.

Young Chinese people, the so-called millennials, are looking for increasingly sophisticated shopping experiences and for personalised garments. "Chinese consumers are more and more careful and selective, no longer looking for the logo and label, but rather for individuality and also a sustainable approach by fashion clothing manufacturers," stressed Mr Chan.

“Chinese consumers are more and more careful and selective", stressed Mr Chen Dapeng.

European labels are therefore sharpening their weapons to attack this market, as evidenced by the emergence of trade fairs such as Milan Unica Shanghai and the debut of Style routes to Shanghai. A platform created by Confartigianato businesses with the Italian White Fair and supported by the Italian trade Agency to promote the internationalisation of Made in Italy. However, for some years now, Emi's tried and tested partnership with Ente Moda Italia has continued and has brought the Made in Italy businesses to the March edition of Chic. At the edition just concluded, the Italian brands - a total of twenty - were at the Italian Fashion exhibition hall.

Mr Sun Guowei said: "We are trying to attract international showrooms and buyers.”

The Chinese company Famory, which produces garments inspired by traditional Chinese dress, made of silk and embroidered by hand, has been exporting abroad for some time, especially to the USA, Europe and South Asia. Founded in 1955, the company has also developed across borders, thanks, at least in part, to the maxim that the "Chinese get married in Chinese dress".

To export, however, it is also necessary to attract international buyers. “We are trying to attract international showrooms and buyers”, Mr Sun Guowei, General Manager of China World Exhibitions, told FashionUnited. Mr Sun explained that the fair organisers are moving in this direction also because of the fact that the Chinese market is changing. The distribution network is moving, though still slowly, towards multi-branding. “Competition in the fashion industry pushes fashion companies to improve their quality and to seek distributors throughout the territory. But also foreign companies that want to grow here are looking for reliable partners”. That is why, from the next Chic edition, there will be meetings of the present brands with showroom representatives.

Photo: Chic, credit FashionUnited

Chen Dapeng
CHIC Shanghai
China National Garment Association
China World Exhibitions