SFW- Crossing over-fragmented boundaries and Illusions
A nice thing about SFW is that you can build yourself from bottom up and actually end up somewhere. We’re seeing this happen every year, proving that SFW is still at its initial stage.
SFW is also one of the key places that almost seems like reverse logic. The real buyers who buy in mass quantities were cooped up in a small place in XTD ( Andaz hotel) buying huge amount of clothing/accessories.
Although we think that we need to go to higher qualitative ends to meet the needs of Chinese consumers, sometimes I look back with a lot of doubtfulness on this, especially looking over at this week, I feel more boggled than ever. So, I’ve decided to understand a bit more this phenomenon and share it with you.
Over a line of amateur shows of models tripping down the floor and getting in cat fights behind the shows and producers yelling at everyone, with poorly done styling and low attention to details, nevertheless, many buyers flew from all over China to come to this show and most importantly, ready to buy.
In contrast, Tube showroom lavished us with beautiful conceptual installations, it really was a feast to the eyes where young trendy millennials and media gathered together for the opening event, “the fashion collections were over the top, I’m not sure how well it will actually sell through” said a founder of a large accessory brand. Meanwhile, DFO enlarged its space to welcome a new and fragmented variety of designers under the new space DADA showroom / show as well as collaborating with WHITE Milano to further promote international designers in China. Labelhood showcased a curated set of promising slash niche designers this season through both shows/previews and presentations. Indeed, everything seems burgeoning with promise and potential, but when we momentarily stop and think for a second, there’s something that’s still ticking about the correlation between national buyers and the shows.
Meeting several buyers last week, I remember one of them, a woman in her mid-thirties, telling me “ I want to create a premium concept store, but I have zero knowledge on most fashion brands as they do not appear in Fujian.”
“ I want to go to PFW, I need to buy the ticket for Chanel, for you think 50K RMB is enough” she looks at me really seriously wearing from top to bottom designer brands with some light K-Pop Kawaii inspired styling.
Indeed, people are ready to buy, but education and patience is needed in order to not make them feel alienated. They are excited about fashion whilst having very little concept of the background behind the industry itself, but very ready to learn (to a certain superficial extent).
I looked around later that day, people were in aww with western Russian/Ukranian models walking down the scene with poorly fitted clipped on clothing, “Ayis” walking across the aisles changing to get better seats, and aggressive lighting that lashed out in the audiences faces, but the important thing is that the room was over-packed and people were extra- enthusiastic about the show, elbowing each other to get that perfect selfie.
Interviewing several designers, vendors and buyers here are some of the comments I received;
-From my experience, many consumers like more trendy items that flash or well-known brand names to create a statement- accessories brand owner
-I want to buy trendy pieces only, very young styles- fashion buyer Fujian
-I’m not a big fan of large tradeshows anymore, it lacks curation in the product selection, it’s almost become low end, sticking any brand they want together to fill their margins –concept store buyer in Shanghai, wearing sneakers and a wool coat
– I love the shows and fashion parties, I always like to be seen in them –mid 40’s investor dressed in total blinged up Chanel jewelry and candy pink ultra-tight (too tight) suit.
As a consequence, although extremes and eccentric products may in short term sell well from a B2B perspective, many argue that it serves for window display purposes in order to get a statement look most of the time, where actual conversion from B2C is often an illusion.
Because China is in midst of development, many people don’t understand what their style is, they observe from TV, media and celebs in order to support their purchasing decisions for fashion. Education on quality is still strongly needed, currently for most 2nd, 3rd and 4th tier cities, there fashion references relies mostly upon television. If it stands out, looks different almost un-normal, or has big recognizable logos, then that’s maybe fashion to the mass.
“I’d like to do Ontime, I don’t expect buyers to buy, but it’s a window for consumers to see my brands. The brands really have their own space they can customize. A nice thing is that it’s also open to the public where customers can come to learn about your brand, I see it more as a showcase, an added value for brands.
Labelhood has some of the most curated fashion brands, but I don’t think its suitable for the average premium brand, its too high fashion and niche. The buyer feedback, is that they want accessories to be WOW and less for Daily use.” shares a fashion brand owner.
A significantly clear fragmentation between the new and the more mature brands is obvious, the more mature markets and or fashion forward brands such as FengchenWang, Angel Chen, CJYAO, Jinnn etc. are attracting strong media/celeb attention and young trendy millennials who are most likely based in first tier cities, but the more localized shows are attracting sales. I’m not sure yet how to fill in the gap between mass conversion and great artistic aesthetics, like I saw this season, there was a significant dis-balance.
“Although, I’m a premium brand, I really desire to diversify my line to suit a more localized market, this is where the mass sales are. Maybe in the future Ill diversify our brand and sales channels so it can adapt more to the local market, currently the market is too scattered” admitted another Chinese high-end fashion designer in Shanghai.
In contrast, there are also many enthusiasts who are also seeing “a greater wave of exciting Chinese talent emerging, at its peak level that is enough for international recognition and to coexist with western cult designers and premium contemporary brands”- Concept Store in Jing An, VM Manager
What are your thoughts?
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