When will the China Fashion Week era arrive?

Updated: 2012-04-05 09:32

By Tiffany Tan (China Daily)

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When will the China Fashion Week era arrive?
Models display Chinese-style clothes at a show during this year's China Fashion Week. Zuo Ensen / for China Daily

Fashion weeks are being staged everywhere, and there's practically a host city for every letter of the alphabet.

Auckland, Buenos Aires, Cali, Dubai, Edmonton, Fiji, Glasgow, Hong Kong, Johannesburg the list goes on.

But only four cities occupy the top spot, attracting the biggest fashion houses and designers, buyers, stylists, fashion journalists and, of course, celebrities. They are New York, London, Milan and Paris.

What does it take to be in the fashion week big leagues?

Beijing recently hosted China Fashion Week, which got some media mileage overseas, but it's just not on the agenda of the global fashion industry's movers and shakers.

Even Chinese celebrities - who show up at fashion shows on the other side of the world - were few and far between in Beijing last week.

The crucial thing China Fashion Week needs to do, experts say, is find a niche.

"It's deciding who it's for, why you're doing it - whether you're doing it for prestige or whether you're doing it for business," Jane Rapley, head of London's Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, tells China Daily during a Beijing trip to attend the China Fashion Forum.

"If you're then trying to position it as a prestige event on the world stage, you've got to have something that (buyers) are never going to find anywhere else."

Amanda Kaiser, Asian editor of the trade publication Women's Wear Daily, says it's wiser for China Fashion Week to build up its name in the region rather than to compete with the international fashion capitals, where the fashion world seeks direction.

"I think that, in the interim, it makes sense for regional fashion weeks to try to become big regional players, and then perhaps more international interest from the mature markets will come," she says.

"Just about every city on the planet has a fashion week at this point and all of them are trying to attract international attention. It's just really tough because the top-tier international media, the top-tier international buyers have already been on the road for the better part of a month going to all the big collections in Milan, in Paris and in New York.

"So it's going to be very difficult to get some of these people to travel to China or to Japan or to Brazil for another fashion week."

Fashion weeks are semiannual, so host cities scattered all over the globe are competing for the attention of fashion VIPs twice a year.

Rapley advises patience and uses her home city's 28-year-old fashion week as an example. (New York, the first fashion week, has been around for 69 years.)

"London Fashion Week has had a roller coaster ride," she says.

"It probably took some 20 years to get some recognition that this was something buyers needed to come to. Because that's what it's about - it's getting buyers to come. And, OK, if you get some A-listers, that brings the buyers like bees to the honey pot. But it is very hard work."

China Fashion Week, in comparison, is 15 years old.

There's time to build up its brand - starting with people at home, like the Shanghai stylist Clement Buyi Z.

Buyi Z, who styles fashion shows and magazine shoots under his Clement and Clement Production, began attending the "big four" fashion weeks three years ago. Despite his hectic schedule, he says he makes time to attend at least the Paris and New York fashion weeks every year.

But a trip to Beijing to attend China Fashion Week is apparently too much trouble.

"The shows are boring," he says.

"They're not well organized. They're all kind of the same. The time I spend at China Fashion Week is just not worth it."


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