Saturday, May 25, 2024

Buyers Praise New Chinese Style and Quiet Luxury at Shanghai Fashion Week

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SHANGHAI — For fall 2024, buyers attending Shanghai Fashion Week are aiming to battle the slowing market by focusing on brands that have a strong sense of identity.

Many praised Samuel Gui Yang‘s singular focus on blending Scandinavian simplicity with New Chinese Style sensibility.

“Samuel has consistently explored the fusion of Eastern and Western female cultures and this time, he incorporated stories from Shanghai, which is known for its traditional Chinese aesthetics, into his collection,” said Will Zhang of the Chongqing-based SND.

“We love this brand not only for its fashion but also for the lifestyle he describes,” added Vicky Yu of the Chengdu-based Hug.

Jacques Wei, which blends New Chinese Style aesthetics with the discreet chart of the French bourgeois, also received positive buyer feedback.

“It is Saint Laurent with an extra touch of oriental aesthetic,” said Solsol Li, a buyer at Solsol based in Zhejiang province. “The hint of oriental vibe clicks perfectly with the latest trend.”

New Chinese dressing, something that used to be a negative feature even five to ten years ago, has become an overwhelmingly positive selling point, which reflects the growing confidence of the Chinese consumer to own and celebrate their identity and history,” said Jillian Xin, buying director at Labelhood.

Naoki Takizawa, best known for his creative leadership roles at Issey Miyake and Uniqlo, sees the blossoming trend as a result of “an interesting chemistry that happens inside the designer’s creative mind because they studied in London and New York, then came back.”

“I am thrilled to see young Chinese creatives reflect, express themselves, and act to transmit knowledge and awareness to the fashion community,” added Ezio Barbaro, founder of Modem Online.

A look from Qiuhao’s Collection 38.

Courtesy

Another prevailing trend in China is quiet luxury.

“Designers are trying to express their commerciality in an uncertain retail environment,” said Eric Young of LMDS.

“Consumers gravitate towards higher quality and more practical pieces,” added Zhang, who mentioned Qiuhao and Lamrons as labels that stand out within the category.

“Qiuhao’s collection exudes a sense of toughness while also showcasing femininity. Lamrons was a delightful surprise I discovered at the Not Showroom this year. While many brands adhere to minimalist styles, standing out within this aesthetic is challenging. However, Lamron’s style is clear, concrete, and stands out,” Zhang added.

For Hu of Chengdu fashion boutique Hug, the current state of the market will be more challenging for new brands, but for mature ones “the market will be stable for now,” she said.

A look from Xander Zhou’s fall 2024 collection.

According to a recent report from Barclays, the Chinese luxury segment is experiencing a similar polarization. Players such as LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Moncler, Compagnie Financiere Richemont and Prada continue to win over high-end consumers willing to pay a premium.

“Despite the ongoing macro challenges, we felt that the overall mood in China has improved slightly compared to our last trip in September 2023,” wrote Barclays. “Our contacts indicated the environment could not be worse than 2023; however, we do not believe consumer confidence has reached a turning point.”

After a market visit in February, Barclays revised its 2024 China luxury market forecast from a mid- to single-digit decline to 0 to 5 percent growth.

For local retailers, the return of a busy social calendar — which is expected to get busier in the second half of the year — means spikes in occasional dressing.

Labelhood, the fashion retailer and emerging Chinese designer support scheme, saw a significant boost in sales following a relatively quiet first quarter.

“We had a very active sales period this March leading up to Shanghai Fashion Week. People were even queuing up at times,” said Tasha Liu, founder of Labelhood. Liu shared that sales at Labelhood’s flagship store grew 25 percent compared to the same period last year.

Here, a roundup of buyers’ reactions to the fall 2024 edition of Shanghai Fashion Week.

The finale of Oude Waag fall 2024

The finale of Oude Waag fall 2024

Courtesy of Oude Waag

Jillian Xin, buying director at Labelhood, Shanghai

Favorite collection: I loved Oude Waag. The collection has evolved from a few key items to a brand that is redefining femininity and sensuality in China.

Ao Yes — their juxtaposition of traditional motifs with modern tailoring is a must-have collection not just for our customers but also for our entire team.

Best show formats: Xander Zhou. I think his shows are in a league of their own. He’s the quintessential storyteller and each season he immerses the audience in a multilayered narrative. While each show represents a unique chapter in its own right, they all fit together as part of a bigger, ongoing saga with themes around technology, science and the future.

Top trends: New Chinese dressing — not a new trend anymore but one with staying power and permeating through many designers’ collections. Standouts are Ao Yes, Samuel Gui Yang, Chen Sifan, Ya Yi, Raydots and Yap Pit. Something that used to be a negative feature even five to 10 years ago has become an overwhelmingly positive selling point, which reflects the growing confidence of the Chinese consumer to own and celebrate their identity and history.

Must-have item: Ao Yes’ ribbon tie bias-cut dress, inspired by the traditional cheongsam, in both red and gray.

A look from Oscar Ouyang fall 2024 collection

A look from Oscar Ouyang’s fall 2024 collection.

Courtesy

New talent: Kinyan Lam’s back-to-basics approach to fabric development using natural dyeing techniques and hand-drawn prints. There’s so much research and experimentation that goes into his work, which was inspiring to see.

Another favorite this season was Oscar Ouyang. He’s a new voice in men’s knitwear and drew upon a wide range of references to create a memorable first collection. I liked how he distorted the familiar into something striking and new.

Impression of the week: The key thing that struck me was a feeling of resilience. A lot of people in the industry were caught off-guard by the sudden downturn in the economy and sentiment last season. However, it forced everyone to rethink what’s important and I think many designers emerged this season with more focus. For instance, some have chosen not to do shows, which can be costly, and instead pour energy into their product or invest in their teams. The market in China was good for such a long time but going through this recent challenging period has brought people closer together. I saw a lot of camaraderie this week.

Looks from Jacques Wei's Fall 2024 collection

Looks from Jacques Wei’s fall 2024 collection.

Courtesy of Looks from Jacques Wei

Eric Young, founder of LMDS, Shanghai

Favorite collection: Samuel Gui Yang. In terms of concept, design and show presentation, Samuel Gui Yang still maintained a high level of excellence. It was my silver lining moment during Shanghai Fashion Week.

Best show formats: Jacques Wei. He transformed an old Shanghai entertainment center into an unforgettable French salon show. Bravo!

Top trends: Designers are trying to express their commerciality in an uncertain retail environment.

Must-have items: Suits, jackets, it felt like everyone was emphasizing the presence of these items. I would like to own the trousers from Mark Gong and a few looks from Samuel Gui Yang, probably from the show.

New talent: Mark Gong. Although the designer is not a newcomer, this is his sixth collection since moving from New York to Shanghai. I think his creative expression is much more mature now, and I can see that he is serious about improving the quality of the garments. He is also very good at putting on a show, which is of course very important.

Impression of the week: There is no need to put on so many shows, many designers or brands can think about how to get products right for the time being, instead of making a grand showcase as the ultimate goal. It’s not necessary, it’s not environmentally friendly, it’s not sustainable.

A look from Lamrons’ fall 2024 collection.

Will Zhang, founder of SND, Chongqing

Favorite collection: Qiuhao, Collection 38. Qiuhao’s collections have always been about expressing himself through discovering and contemplating life. He eschews elaborate narratives, preferring to let his designs evolve naturally from his observations and feelings. With no predetermined concepts or inspirations, everything flows organically for him. By focusing on the quality of fabrics and how they feel on the body, he creates individual garments and entire collections. This collection introduces some new elements like heat-setting diamonds and vibrant colors while maintaining his signature minimalist style, conveying a unique and personal yet calm undercurrent of strength; the collection exudes a sense of toughness while also showcasing femininity.

Best show formats: Samuel Gui Yang. The choice of the venue perfectly reflects the brand’s distinct style, set in the alleys of Shanghai’s traditional Shikumen house. Samuel has consistently explored the fusion of Eastern and Western female cultures and this time, he incorporated stories from Shanghai, known for its traditional Chinese aesthetics, into his collection. Instead of extravagant shows, the format felt more like welcoming guests to his home to view his new clothes and have some desserts on the side. The models represented a balance of strength and softness, complementing the designs they wore.

Top trends: The prevailing trend I’ve observed and encountered is that consumers gravitate toward higher quality and more practical pieces. While design and brand appeal remain significant, there’s a shift toward considering what best meets everyday styling needs when choosing clothing. Brands should pay more attention to this trend and design pieces that cater to market demands.

Must-have item: This year’s must-have item is the safari jacket, a practical and functional piece. I would suggest that brands incorporate more practical elements into their designs and combine them with fashion trends to create more appealing items.

New talent: Lamrons was a delightful surprise I discovered at the Not Showroom this year. While many brands adhere to minimalist styles, standing out within this aesthetic is challenging. Lamrons meticulously controls fabric and tailoring, allowing their pieces to evoke vivid images of how they’d look on the wearer. Their style is clear, concrete and stands out.

Impression of the week: Many are wary of the significant decrease in attendance at this year’s fashion events. However, I see it as a form of filtration and refinement. The years of lockdown during the pandemic saw a rapid increase in stores and buyers domestically, creating an unprecedented boom. Yet, in the post-pandemic era, we must consider the opportunity for more professional buyers to continue working and providing expert guidance in a calmer market. Their choices represent a standard and understanding of the Chinese buying industry, serving as a more accurate indicator.

A look from Samuel Gui Yang's fall 2024 collection.

Vicky Yu, founder of Hug, Chengdu

Favorite collection: Samuel Gui Yang. I think Samuel’s design does tell oriental aesthetics stories quite well. We love this brand not only for its fashion but also for the lifestyle it describes. 

Best show formats: Louis Shengtao Chen. The show space was all red and strong in image creation. He is continuing to make fantasies come true. I can feel that he has grown up during the past three years. I think he should keep pushing the boundaries.

Top trends: Casual and mixed styles, which bring fashion back to life. 

Must-have item: Sale E Pepe, a new accessory brand. It’s all handmade, the design is lively and funny. 

New talent: Knitwear designers began to pay attention to the comfort of fabrics, and more cashmere fabrics were used. It is catering to the customer’s need of wanting a more simple lifestyle but still craving high-quality products.

Impression of the week: Calm and challenging. For mature brands, the market will be stable for now. For new brands, it could be tough, and buyers may not have more budget to spend on new designers. Seeing the queuing situation at the Supreme new store, I hope that more interesting brands with a core will enter the Shanghai market. We need more energy. 

Dion Lee fall 2024 finale

Dion Lee fall 2024 finale.

Courtesy of Dion Lee

Solsol Li, buyer at Solsol, Zhejiang Province

Favorite collection: Jacques Wei’s “Night Blooms” collection, beautiful as always. It is Saint Laurent with an extra touch of oriental aesthetic. The hint of an oriental vibe clicks perfectly with the latest trend.

Best show format: Dion Lee delivered a phenomenal avant-garde show on the 100th floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center; [it was] is a thing to remember.

Top trends: Miu Miu style and broad shoulder blazer.

Must-have items: Plaid shirts and stripe shirts.

New talent: Ballet shoe-shaped earrings from Toggler are intriguing.

Impression of the week: Tiring and repetitive, pretty dull season after season.

Looks from Pu Jianji's Fall 2024 collection

Looks from Pu Jianji’s fall 2024 collection.

Courtesy of Pu Jianji

Yu Lan, buyer at Taste Solan, Zhejiang Province

Favorite collection: Duidao’s collection so far is my favorite. The designer manages to make “mundane” daily wear into irreplaceable fashion items through his elaboration on fabrication, silhouette and pattern. Also, the mix-and-match styling techniques of the designer create a unique sense of effortless modernism only possessed by Duidao.

Best show formats: PushButton’s runway is so far the best. Provided a sense of humor, free, abstract and fun.

Top trends: “Tyndall style,” which has been making waves on Douyin; it is a way of mixing and matching similar colors together.

Must-have item: Wearable pieces.

New talent: Pu Jianji, Cotemp, Khemia

Impression of the week: I still saw some overarching fashion trends, which was able to make everybody think about where local fashion will go in the future.

A quilted dress by Christopher Raxxy at Mode trade show

A quilted dress by Christopher Raxxy at the Mode trade show.

Courtesy of Christopher Raxxy

Marvin Revells, buyer for 3NY, New York

Favorite collection: Christopher Raxxy

Best show formats: I like how Mode formatted their trade show.

Top trends: Lifestyle merchandise, quiet luxury.

Must have items: A good hat and hair accessory.

New talent: WealthyBoysClub

Impression of the week: Very organized buying event organized by Mode. The runway shows were innovative and creative. [I] look forward to coming next season.

A look from Ao Yes’s fall 2024 collection.

Michael Mok, buying consultant of Society A, Singapore

Favorite collection: Jacques Wei and Ao Yes

Best show formats: Samuel Gui Yang in a traditional Shanghainese house and Dion Lee at the top of Shanghai.

Top Trends: Furry items

Must-have item: Faux fur jacket

New Talent: Pabepabe and Ponder.er

Impression of the week: Buyers are fewer compared to previous seasons. Also, fewer designers are showing this season. But the qualities (both production and collection) of the runway shows are higher.

Finale of Louis Shengtao Chen fall 2024

The finale of Louis Shengtao Chen fall 2024.

Courtesy of Louis Shengtao Chen

Tran Thi Hoai Anh: founder of GlobalLink, head buyer at multibrand store Runway, Vietnam

Favorite collection: Judy Hua, Pu Jianji, Redemptive, Her Senses

Best show formats: Louis Shengtao Chen

Top trends: Strong shoulder pads, embroidery, fringes.

Must-have items: Yayi’s boho fringe bag

New talent: Pu Jianji

Impression of the week: Each showroom is very distinctly different from the other, which creates a very exciting experience. The best showrooms to visit to experience the best fashion in Shanghai are the ones we’re working with, including Mode, Ontimeshow, Tube Showroom, Not Showroom and Labelhood.

Kim Yin, founder of XC273, Shanghai

Favorite collection: Samuel Gui Yang. This season he not only focused on traditional iconic pieces but also added solid essential pieces, creating a more complete collection.

Top trends: Clean fits or quiet luxury.

Must-have item: Lamrons’ shirts. The cutting of Lamrons is very pure, bringing a calm assuredness that suits the present moment.

Impression of the week: Quiet fashion wins.

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