Shanghai Fashion Week Takes Off, Fueled by China’s Gen Z

Following analyzes of the “big four” fashion weeks, the Jing Daily Fashion Week Score now moves to Shanghai. This event has been relatively untouched by the pandemic, as it managed to pivot quickly online during 2020 and was already back to “business as usual” the following season.Under the theme “The Future is Now,” Spring 2022 continues to push forward, with much of its momentum resting on emerging and independent designers who continue to make the global case for China.Their inventiveness could be seen in many elaborate stagings, as designers pushed their dreams further via the physical runway. The highlights included seats made from glass at Didu’s show (not to mention its models accessorizing them with handbags), Yes By Yesir’s dominant hand sculpture, and Susan Fang’s set collaboration with Room Room.Sustainability is another key pillar of this event. The Sharing Talk Project invites guest representatives from local and overseas institutions, such as China National Textile and Apparel Council, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, WWF, Kering Group, Inditex Group, Adidas, and others, to discuss business innovation and green fashion. Meanwhile, Shaway Yeh’s two-day event gathered innovators and business leaders to discuss the climate crisis.Lastly, women’s empowerment was another important focal point of the show. One example was Xiao Xue’s forum, which featured a lively discussion between supermodel Liu Wen, the Neiwai founder, the Chair of the Fosun Art Foundation, and the founder of the Chinese fragrance brand To Summer.This new cohort’s influence over Gen-Z fans is evident, and SHFW celebrated its youthful spirit. The packed schedule attracted a variety of idols and KOLs, including Wang Nanjun, Han Dantong, and the band AKB48 Shanghai, among others.But the show wasn’t all IRL. The brand ZI II CI IEN debuted Bilibili’s virtual artist, “Azi,” who walked the runway for the knitwear star alongside live models. It was the perfect example of how Shanghai Fashion Week nonchalantly integrates AI into real life.Here, Jing Daily has evaluated how brand collections resonated with the Chinese audience through a range of parameters.Methodology:Model representation: evaluates representation of Asian models on the runway.Digital impact: evaluates Chinese netizen reception and engagement on leading social media platforms, including Weibo, WeChat, and Xiaohongshu.KOL & celebrity visibility: consider the star power associated with the brand through strategic KOL and celebrity partnerships.Special brand efforts: consider special programs or efforts on a brand’s part to speak to the Chinese audience. Company or brand contributions toward the ongoing virus crisis are also considered.Design context: a qualitative assessment of how the brand’s collection will speak to the Chinese audience based on current trends and preferences.Brand history: considers existing brand history in China, including overall presence, social reach, number of stores, earning trends, and brand missteps.MASHA MABrand History: One of the most prominent Chinese designers, Masha Ma, established her brand in 2008 after working at Alexander McQueen. The designer is well-known in China, and her personal Weibo account has over 742,400 followers. The brand is currently stocked in over 12 multi-brand stores across the country and sells on WeChat Mini Program directly to customers.Influencer Impressions: With fashion KOLs @ElephantKingdom and @Hubing and press outlets @miniBazaar, @Wonderland, and @Elle posting about the show, viewership reached an impressive number. The presence of celebrities Shang Wenjie and Wang Nanjun further amplified the reach.Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. Inspired by the French Romanticism group Bousingot, who was first to promote gender-neutral ideas (“one is not born a woman, one becomes one”), Masha Ma created a genderless style to present the innate attitude of female strength. A crystal gown weighing up to 55 lbs attracted the attention of netizens. Some questioned whether it was too heavy to wear, while others found the “bling-bling” dress extremely graceful and expressed a willingness to purchase it.The Verdict: This was the first time MashaMa presented its collection in China, and the brand used much effort to promote the show, including inviting former Vogue chief editor Angelica Cheung, asking Cici Xiang to walk the runway, as well as livestreaming with one of the most renowned and influential anchors, Viya, on Weibo and Taobao via a “see now buy now” strategy. Overall, from both awareness and sales perspectives, the show was a success for this independent designer.REINERENBrand History: After finishing her studies at Massey University in New Zealand, designer Qian Ren went to ESMOD in Paris to further her knowledge and skills. In 2012 she founded her own label, REINEREN, to create a new code of elegance for empowered women. The contemporary brand owns three stores in China at Lafayette and Joycity in Shanghai and Beijing. It

Shanghai Fashion Week Takes Off, Fueled by China’s Gen Z

Following analyzes of the “big four” fashion weeks, the Jing Daily Fashion Week Score now moves to Shanghai. This event has been relatively untouched by the pandemic, as it managed to pivot quickly online during 2020 and was already back to “business as usual” the following season.

Under the theme “The Future is Now,” Spring 2022 continues to push forward, with much of its momentum resting on emerging and independent designers who continue to make the global case for China.

Their inventiveness could be seen in many elaborate stagings, as designers pushed their dreams further via the physical runway. The highlights included seats made from glass at Didu’s show (not to mention its models accessorizing them with handbags), Yes By Yesir’s dominant hand sculpture, and Susan Fang’s set collaboration with Room Room.

Sustainability is another key pillar of this event. The Sharing Talk Project invites guest representatives from local and overseas institutions, such as China National Textile and Apparel Council, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, WWF, Kering Group, Inditex Group, Adidas, and others, to discuss business innovation and green fashion. Meanwhile, Shaway Yeh’s two-day event gathered innovators and business leaders to discuss the climate crisis.

Lastly, women’s empowerment was another important focal point of the show. One example was Xiao Xue’s forum, which featured a lively discussion between supermodel Liu Wen, the Neiwai founder, the Chair of the Fosun Art Foundation, and the founder of the Chinese fragrance brand To Summer.

This new cohort’s influence over Gen-Z fans is evident, and SHFW celebrated its youthful spirit. The packed schedule attracted a variety of idols and KOLs, including Wang Nanjun, Han Dantong, and the band AKB48 Shanghai, among others.

But the show wasn’t all IRL. The brand ZI II CI IEN debuted Bilibili’s virtual artist, “Azi,” who walked the runway for the knitwear star alongside live models. It was the perfect example of how Shanghai Fashion Week nonchalantly integrates AI into real life.

Here, Jing Daily has evaluated how brand collections resonated with the Chinese audience through a range of parameters.

Methodology:

  • Model representation: evaluates representation of Asian models on the runway.

  • Digital impact: evaluates Chinese netizen reception and engagement on leading social media platforms, including Weibo, WeChat, and Xiaohongshu.

  • KOL & celebrity visibility: consider the star power associated with the brand through strategic KOL and celebrity partnerships.

  • Special brand efforts: consider special programs or efforts on a brand’s part to speak to the Chinese audience. Company or brand contributions toward the ongoing virus crisis are also considered.

  • Design context: a qualitative assessment of how the brand’s collection will speak to the Chinese audience based on current trends and preferences.

  • Brand history: considers existing brand history in China, including overall presence, social reach, number of stores, earning trends, and brand missteps.

MASHA MA

Brand History: One of the most prominent Chinese designers, Masha Ma, established her brand in 2008 after working at Alexander McQueen. The designer is well-known in China, and her personal Weibo account has over 742,400 followers. The brand is currently stocked in over 12 multi-brand stores across the country and sells on WeChat Mini Program directly to customers.

Influencer Impressions: With fashion KOLs @ElephantKingdom and @Hubing and press outlets @miniBazaar, @Wonderland, and @Elle posting about the show, viewership reached an impressive number. The presence of celebrities Shang Wenjie and Wang Nanjun further amplified the reach.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. Inspired by the French Romanticism group Bousingot, who was first to promote gender-neutral ideas (“one is not born a woman, one becomes one”), Masha Ma created a genderless style to present the innate attitude of female strength. A crystal gown weighing up to 55 lbs attracted the attention of netizens. Some questioned whether it was too heavy to wear, while others found the “bling-bling” dress extremely graceful and expressed a willingness to purchase it.

The Verdict: This was the first time MashaMa presented its collection in China, and the brand used much effort to promote the show, including inviting former Vogue chief editor Angelica Cheung, asking Cici Xiang to walk the runway, as well as livestreaming with one of the most renowned and influential anchors, Viya, on Weibo and Taobao via a “see now buy now” strategy. Overall, from both awareness and sales perspectives, the show was a success for this independent designer.

REINEREN

Brand History: After finishing her studies at Massey University in New Zealand, designer Qian Ren went to ESMOD in Paris to further her knowledge and skills. In 2012 she founded her own label, REINEREN, to create a new code of elegance for empowered women. The contemporary brand owns three stores in China at Lafayette and Joycity in Shanghai and Beijing. Its Weibo account enjoys over 14,000 followers.

Influencer Impressions: With fashion influencers like @Tracey @了不起的Crystal, @_SarahXU_ , and idol band AKB48 Shanghai attending and posting about the show, the brand garnered impressive traffic through its Weibo official account.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. The modern and effortless collection was presented in a palette of bright colors shifting from ocean blue to faded green, highlighted with silver metals and black leather. The youthful collection was widely appreciated by KOLs and netizens alike.

The Verdict: REINEREN kicked off Shanghai Fashion Week with her collection Summer Escape. The show gathered influencers and fashion icons to boost online brand visibility through their massive followings. Worthy of note: The collection was made from sustainable fabrics via the use of lyocell fibers.

YES BY YESIR

Brand History: Ye Qian founded his independent fashion brand YES BY YESIR in 2013. This talent applies the “West for the East” concept to his designs, using French tailoring techniques to outline the contours of a contemporary Chinese woman. The label owns 11 stores across China, hosted by the most prestigious department stores like K11 and Times Square Shanghai.

Influencer Impressions: With celebrities like @Han Dantong, fashion KOL @闫闫_Mystic, and fashion press @Yoka时尚网, @SinaFashion and @SohuFashion posting about the show, its runway livestream reached nearly 60,000 views.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. Described as a visual gala by netizens, the YES BY YESIR Spring 2022 collection called “The gift of nature” paid tribute to Italian contemporary artist Luciano Ventrone. For this season, the designer aimed at creating a wardrobe for China’s youth by using bright, colorful tones, flowery prints, and black & white contrasting dresses.

The Verdict: Not only was the show a visual delight, but it was also highly engaging for participants. Guests were given white gloves as an entrance ticket, and they found a huge pair of white hands clapping in the middle of the stage upon entry. The designer invited his guests to clap if they felt “YES” (excited, happy, or even surprised). Meanwhile, the hashtag created by the label #ClapIfYouFeelYES# reached 10 million views on Weibo.

ZI II CI IEN

Brand History: Founded in 2017 by the designer Zhichen, this eponymous brand specializes in knitwear, aimed at changing the usual impression of knitwear through daring silhouettes and bold colors. In China, the brand is stocked at over 40 multi-brand stores, including Labelhood and Lane Crawford, and nine online retail outlets.

Influencer Impressions: Thanks to coverage by fashion press @MadameFigaro and @SinaFashion and promotion from @ShanghaiFashionWeek and the fashion KOL @了不起的Crystal, the show successfully reached a broad audience.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. Netizens enjoyed the dreamy journey this designer offered the audience. The collection, titled “The World is Spoiled,” presented experimental silhouettes, bright colors, and girlish aesthetics. In particular, its gigantic hats won over many viewers.

The Verdict: This season, the brand partnered with virtual artist Azi, created by China’s Youtube-equivalent platform, Bilibili. The virtual idol appeared on the runway stage as a model and walked the show with live models, dressed in a tailor-made design by the designer. Yet more effort promoting the show through its official account to engage with its loyal followers would have been nice. Its Weibo profile does not mention the virtual idol partnership or any collection details.

YIRANTIAN

Brand History: A graduate of the London College of Fashion, Guo Yirantian established her eponymous brand in the UK in 2014. The designer label is best known for its exploration of different tailoring techniques, fabric blends, and asymmetrical shapes. In 2016, Guo ventured into jewelry. The label is stocked at over 14 retailers, including Lafayette, Labelhood, and LOOK. The designer’s official Weibo account has 144,300 followers.

Influencer Impressions: With fashion bloggers like @不正经时尚手册 and fashion press @i-DChina, @miniBazaar, and @iWeekly posting about the show, social reached an impressive number of netizens.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. “Micromorphology” was the theme of the season, with YIRANTIAN investigating women’s relationships with their organic selves. The designer treated the garments as living parts of the human body that fluctuate with body movements via the creative use of flowy textures like satin with lace. “Stunning” and “romantic” were the adjectives most used by netizens. The flower-shape glasses hanging from the ceiling along the stage were another attraction for fashion KOLs and netizens, who were keen to share the set on Weibo.

The Verdict: One day before the event, in collaboration with fashion incubator Labelhood and photographer Leslie Zhang, YIRANTIAN and three other Chinese designers presented a limited collaboration capsule called “Romantic China” in an immersive theater. This initiative helped the brand further amplify its social reach.

YINGPEI STUDIO

Brand History: YINGPEI STUDIO is a Shanghai-based womenswear brand founded in 2014. The brand draws inspiration from retro aesthetics, reinventing them with a modern touch. The label is stocked in over 15 retailers across China. Its Weibo official account enjoys 16,200 followers.

Influencer Impressions: With fashion bloggers like @茜茜姐妹_China, @依然Toujours, and @SuperRenee and fashion press @iFashion, @网易FashionChannel, and @Vogue posting about the show, social reached an impressive number of netizens.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. YINGPEI STUDIO invited soprano Yi Liga to perform during the show presentation. On its stage, named “The Cutting Moments,” the brand placed nine hanging glasses that fragmented guest views of the show. In fact, the designer encouraged them to pause and observe things from multiple perspectives. A purple satin dress and a fluorescent orange shirt were two favorite netizen looks.

The Verdict: Fashion blogger @FashionModels launched a draw ahead of YINGPEI STUDIO’s show, gifting the show tickets to ten lucky followers that reposted the designer’s runway announcement. The initiative helped the brand promote the show to a wider audience, and the show’s live video has received over 61,000 views thus far.

OUDE WAAG

Brand History: Founded in 2017 by designer Jingwei Yin, Oude Waag quickly earned a reputation as a rising force in China’s fashion industry. The brand is currently under the umbrella of China‘s top fashion incubator platform, Labelhood.

Influencer Impressions: With fashion KOLs like @柯白蓝 and media outlets @Super世界青年 and @KIND_Magazine posting about the show, social reached a remarkable number of netizens.

Netizen Reaction: Overall, very positive. For this season, OUDE WAAG continues with its exploration of the female body via superior draping and tailoring techniques that were widely loved by netizens. The choice of colors and designs were all praised, as well.

The Verdict: The brand has yet to establish a stronger presence in the Chinese market. Given its current popularity and netizen reactions to its collection, it is time for the label to further promote itself by leaning on KOLs and celebrities to garner traffic and awareness.

DIDU

Brand History: Established in 2018 upon graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, DIDU’s garments are characterized by their hyper-feminine, subversive, and futuristic aesthetics. This emerging talent is backed by local incubator platform Labelhood.

Influencer Impressions: With fashion KOLs like @CherryGun and @Mr. Jiliang and fashion press @i-DChina and @SuperElle posting about the show, the brand garnered significant traffic to its account.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. The fashion show’s seats and its handbags made from ice attracted the attention of netizens, who found the idea extremely innovative. But some negative opinions found the tactics unnecessary and not comfortable for the guests and models. Meanwhile, the brand also released its fashion film in collaboration with the American pop star Grimes. The celebrity was a great fit with Didu’s brand image, which was greatly appreciated by netizens.

The Verdict: In the collection, titled “Last Dance of Life,” the designer imagines Earth’s doomsday from drastic climate change as an attempt to warn people to pay attention and repair the planet. Didu’s concept and aesthetics are unique and bizarre, but the brand enjoys a loyal following. Moreover, the label is favored by celebrities and magazines. Therefore, it has a lot of potential in the Chinese market.

COMME MOI

Brand History: Founded in 2013, COMME MOI was created by renowned Chinese supermodel Lü Yan. The brand has over 3000 UGC posts on Xiaohongshu and 57,000 followers on its official Weibo. It has offline boutiques in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Hong Kong in China’s Tier-1 cities and is stocked by multi-brand stores like Dongliang, D2C, and Galatea Wan.

Influencer Impressions: COMME MOI portrayed an elegant, chic, and sexy female image of independence and self-confidence this season. The black-and-white tones also impressed local fashionistas.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. The show was livestreamed via Tencent Video, Taobao, and Poizon, reaching broader audiences across various social platforms.

The Verdict: COMME MOI collaborated with the luxury watchmaker IWC to release the brand’s Fall/Winter 2021 collection Moi et Noir on October 9, inviting brand partners such as actress Sun Li, tennis athlete Li Na, and independent musician Liu Min. These extensive celebrity endorsements, along with its significant partner IWC, elevated brand awareness in the local market.

RICOSTRU

Brand History: Manchit Au, who graduated from the Fashion Design Institute of Milano Marangoni Institute, founded RICOSTRU in Guangzhou in 2011. In 2017, Au was selected by Giorgio Armani and held a fashion show in Armani/Teatro, the exclusive show space of Armani Group in Milan, popping up on Milan Fashion Week schedules soon after. The brand has offline stores in top shopping hubs like Xintiandi and BFC Financial Center in Shanghai.

Influencer Impressions: The show’s concept of “East Machina,” which envisioned a futuristic spectacle with Chinese cultural references, was positively reviewed by fashion influencers. Meanwhile, the show received media coverage from SuperELLE, Vivi, and Sina Fashion.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. @WAANI_婉妮 described this season as a female warrior heading towards the future. Though its avant-garde concepts impressed netizens, some commented that the brand’s collection would be difficult to match with everyday looks.

The Verdict: Cyberpunk culture has seen surging popularity among younger Chinese generations, and RICOSTRU owns a loyal following in the local market. So, it is capable of launching stand-alone brick-and-mortar stores and online boutiques, which is rare for Chinese independent design brands, also proving its ability to expand its sales channels.

BANXIAOXUE

Brand History: International Woolmark Prize Asia 2012/2013 winner, Ban Xiao Xue, established his namesake brand in 2012. With an extensive offline retail footprint in top-tier and lower-tier cities, BANXIAOXUE has engaged in shaping China’s local fashion landscape for over a decade.

Influencer Impressions: Though this series received limited media coverage, it achieved social traffic by inviting trainees from the idol reality show Youth With You and fashion KOLs to participate in the show.

Netizen Reaction: Overall neutral. As mentioned, the show featured a large number of KOLs. However, engagements were driven by their social followings instead of the brand itself. Meanwhile, netizens barely commented on the brand.

The Verdict: As a brand that has operated for nearly a decade, BANXIAOXUE needs a clearer brand identity to impress sophisticated Chinese shoppers. In particular, its brand story should be more unique and consistent to drive organic traffic on social platforms.

SUSAN FANG

Brand History: Susan Fang, a Chinese girl who grew up in the United States and Canada, founded her namesake womenswear label in London after graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2017. With growing attention from both international and domestic markets, the brand is known for its dedication to techniques and sustainability.

Influencer Impressions: “AIR LOVE” was the theme for this season. By exploring inner and external mentalities, the designer aims to remind women that they cannot forget self-love in the process of pursuing love. The designer painted roses, fruits, and vegetables on more than 50 kinds of prints, guiding the audience into a dream-like runway — a strategy that received adoration from audiences.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. The brand’s fairy tale-like image has already won over many Chinese female fashionistas. And thanks to the coverage of fashion media outlets like Madame Figaro and CIQI — as well as the support of P&G China and UGGs — the show’s video received 16,600 views on Weibo.

The Verdict: The highlight of this season was the brand’s collaboration with P&G China to make handbags from recycled plastic bottles under the theme, “Beauty of Remodeling.” This initiative allowed the brand to reach a broader audience but also showcased its commitment to sustainability.

JACQUES WEI

Brand History: Jacques Wei, an independent designer who graduated from Atelier Chardon Savard in Paris, founded his namesake fashion brand in 2019. Last October, the brand debuted in Shanghai Fashion Week with its Spring/Summer 2021 collection. Though the brand is very young, it has built strong brand awareness by creating hero products. The label is stocked by more than 20 multi-brand stores in China.

Influencer Impressions: Though the brand’s official account holds a small number of followers, many fashion influencers posted the video spontaneously on their social channels and shared their appreciation of the show.

Netizen Reaction: Very positive. Weibo users who watched the presentation video said the collection promoted women’s power with a retro-modern aesthetic, reflected through the combination of feminine gauze skirts and tough, shoulder-padded blazers.

The Verdict: Jacques Wei took the pulse of today’s contemporary Chinese woman, who is looking for a balance between modernity and nostalgia, femininity and masculinity. With the theme of “Black Orchid,” the brand reinterpreted Oriental floral and animal prints with a modern twist. In addition to its designs, this business strategy bets on hero products fueling rapid growth.

SAMUEL GUÌ YANG

Brand History: Samuel Guì Yang founded his multidisciplinary design studio between London and Shanghai after graduating from Central Saint Martins with an MA in fashion in 2015. The label’s stockists in China have included multi-brand stores like Dongliang, Labelhood and notSHOWROOM.

Influencer Impressions: Staged at a heritage Maison in Shanghai, the presentation received a positive reaction from attendees. Many fashion insiders at the show spontaneously shared the video on social platforms.

Netizen Reaction: Few impressions from netizens. Though this season has been well-received by fashion influencers, it was barely communicated to the general public. The brand’s official social channels on Weibo and WeChat did not share anything about the show, either — a missed opportunity to connect with followers.

The Verdict: With a low-key communications strategy, Samuel Guì Yang owns a weak social following compared to other Chinese designers. Still, the label’s recent collaboration with Chinese fashion brand ICICLE can potentially help it to reach a broader audience. Overall, it has room to improve in terms of brand awareness.

Deepmoss

Brand History: After graduating from Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London in 2013, designer Liu Xiaolu founded deepmoss in Xiamen. With 7,000 UGC posts on Xiaohongshu, the brand holds strong awareness in the local market.

Influencer Impressions: Supported by local fashion powerhouse Labelhood, the brand’s latest presentation received extensive media coverage from NOWRE, KIND_Magzine, and Wallpaper. Meanwhile, the show’s concept, “The Poseidon Ballroom,” was well communicated to audiences.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. The previous Deepmoss collaboration with top livestreamer Li Jiaqi introduced the label to more young Chinese consumers. According to the comments below its runway snapshots, netizens loved marine elements like sea horses and shells from this season.

The Verdict: Though Deepmoss has a healthy social following and brand awareness, some complain that the brand lacks creativity and newness, as its silhouettes from each season are similar. Therefore, it is still unknown if the brand can maintain its long-term desirability among Chinese shoppers.

SHUSHU/TONG

Brand History: As one of the leading homegrown designer brands, SHUSHU/TONG, co-founded by Jiang Yutong and Lei Liushu in 2015, has nearly 20,000 UGC posts on Xiaohongshu. This July, Estée Lauder collaborated with the brand to launch a special gift box to celebrate Chinese Valentine’s Day.

Influencer Impressions: Drawing inspiration from the renowned Japanese manga series “Aim for the Ace!,” SHUSHU/TONG’s runway presentation attracted a huge following from local fashion insiders. The combination of girlish and sporty elements and its pink setting were the highlights of this show.

Netizen Reaction: Overall positive. The majority of netizens had positive reactions to the show. However, some pointed out that this season was designed for skinny girls (a complaint often thrown at the brand). As such, this lack of body inclusivity drove controversial arguments against the brand.

The Verdict: As one of the most successful Chinese designer brands, SHUSHU/TONG has gained recognition from the mainstream market, thanks to editorials and celebrity endorsements. Meanwhile, it also became a promising partner for brands looking to connect with Chinese Gen-Z consumers.

Reported by Lisa Nan, Wenzhuo Wu, and Gemma A. Williams