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Shanghai on track to become world design capital

By FashionUnited


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Pop Mart presentation during Shanghai Design Week event at LFW. Credits: Shanghai Design Week

Shanghai Design Week (SHDW) announced during an event at London Fashion Week that by 2030 the Shanghai municipal government plans to develop the city into a world-class design capital. It estimates the total creative design industry’s output this year to be 1.6 trillion RMB (205.5 billion euros or 219.3 billion dollars) and has set a target to grow this to 2 trillion RMB by 2025 — an expectation of double digit growth annually. SHDW was created by The Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information Technology in 2013 to achieve this ambitious goal.

This article was written by Gemma A. Williams.

Titled ‘Design to Wonderland’, the exhibition features 33 multi-disciplinary design brands across 168 displays with five global launches. The selected brands offer a unique insight into what has been driving recent design and consumption trends in China. The eclectic mix features Como, a pioneering digital studio that specialises in computer graphics; Pechoin, one of China’s oldest skincare names which is finding new fans among Gen Z; lifestyle brands Snowline and sportswear line Warrior — which reflect local consumers’ growing appetite for outdoor activities — as well as sought after toy retailer Popmart.

Held in London’s iconic Chinatown, the installation — part of the World Design Cities Conference 2023 (WDCC2023) — was hosted by the China Exchange, a cultural charity founded by Sir David Tang. Running until September 29, it is followed by a second edition in Shanghai itself between September 26 and October 2, just before Shanghai Fashion Week.

First overseas fashion and design event from China in London

This event marks the first overseas fashion and design event from China in London since the country moved out of its lockdown following the outbreak of Covid-19, and aims to strengthen ties with the British capital. “Our main goal is to take design from China out and bring design in,” said Steve Lau, co-chief executive officer of SHDW, who had flown into London for the event. It also marked the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with London Design Festival to cultivate a partnership between the two countries' creative economies. “Strategically, the key objective and return on investment (ROI) from this event is to kickstart and begin the dialogue with the London design community. We have a lot more follow-up planned,” Lau explained.

Also present was Lv Xiaolei, secretary general of the Shanghai Fashion Week Organising Committee as well as the fashion week’s sustainability platform Ulio. The group’s curator and fashion consultant Dan Cui selected looks from designers such as Huishan Zhang and Pronounce which show regularly at London Fashion Week, Sanspeng and 8ON8.

During a panel discussion at the opening ceremony, Ben Evans CBE, co-founder of London Design Festival, stressed that the government’s national policy — to go from Made in China to Designed in China — is “well underway” and that the British audiences are missing out on the country’s creative economy. “Design is borderless and we welcome involvement. What we don’t know is about current Chinese design and we’re curious to find out more about what’s going on…UK audiences are not aware of what’s happening in China today,” he underlined.

Lau reiterated the role of Shanghai Design Week. “We are the platform to promote the design industry. We are open to collaborations and submissions from all countries — whether it’s investment or projects. We want to transform the city into a world design city,” he told FashionUnited after the event. Shanghai is open for business to all creative disciplines — and fashion is very much one of the five critical pillars.

London Fashion Week
Shanghai Design Week
Shanghai Fashion Week