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Domestic fashion brands and designers are in the spotlight for the first time at the twice-a-year Shanghai Fashion Week, although it has claimed to be a stage for "designed in China" since its establishment in 2003.
Highlighting the interest in Chinese brands — mostly due to China's first lady Peng Liyuan wearing all-made-in-China outfits during her recent foreign tour — is a fashion show with collections that are all from taobao.com.
This is the first time the country's largest online shopping platform, which has long been accused of selling pirated and counterfeit goods, has held a real fashion show since it was founded, in the same year as Shanghai Fashion Week.
"We want to build the image that Taobao not only has a substantial number of clothes, but also original designed-in-China clothes," said Shen Ting, marketing chief of Taobao's womenswear department, after the show.
Statistics from the website showed that 1.3 million stores sell womenswear on the platform. Up to half of the stores that have their own designers are on the list of the 1,000 best-selling stores, though Shen acknowledged that not all garments sold by stores with designers are necessarily original designs.
While the Hangzhou-based company refused to give the daily turnover of womenswear, some popular stores may rake in over 500 million yuan ($80.7 million) a year in sales, according to previous reports.
"This is the best time for Chinese designers," said Li Min, creative director of Minman, one of the 10 womenswear brands that started from scratch on Taobao that is in the show.
Li said sales at her store, "a craft shop of linens and cottons", as it describes itself, has been growing at the rate of at least 200 percent every year.
But offline, designers who started from street stores are facing a much tougher time.
Liu Yanfeng, secretary-general of the Shanghai Textile Association and the organizer of Shanghai Fashion Week, told Shanghai Evening Post that no more than 30 percent of domestic designers can actually profit from their design works. Most of the designers have to rely on designing uniforms for five-star hotels or luxury-car shows to "live their fashion dreams".
Factories decline to take orders in small quantities, department stores prefer well-established brands, mostly foreign ones, to boost their sales, and more importantly, customers are unwilling to try on these nameless designs, let alone pay for them, many designers complain.