China at New York Fashion Week

On September 27, 2011 by Timothy Coghlan

Chi­nese Model He Sui in the Ralph Lau­ren fash­ion Show at New York Fash­ion Week

Its been a rather hec­tic Sep­tem­ber for the Mao­suit, with two vis­its to the United States and lots of run­ning around China in between. From Sep­tem­ber 8 through 16 I was in New York for Fash­ion Week and the asso­ci­ated indus­try events, meet­ings and shindigs that make up the biggest week in Amer­i­can fash­ion every year.

On the first day in New York my excite­ment kept the jet­lag at bay dur­ing L2 Think Tank’s China Clinic. The clinic out­lined the mas­sive oppor­tu­ni­ties for pres­tige brands to do busi­ness in China and made my mind bog­gle how under­de­vel­oped China’s lux­ury indus­try still is even though its soon to be the biggest in the world. My next post will be ded­i­cated to L2’s recently released China Dig­i­tal IQ study.

There is much bet­ter analy­sis of the design trends and what was hap­pen­ing dur­ing New York Fash­ion Week than I myself could pro­duce on other media and so I wont delve into any of that. What I was on the look out for in New York was how China was accounted for and rep­re­sented, and how Chi­nese were involved in the events, shows and happenings.

The first thing that caught my atten­tion when flip­ping through the offi­cial pro­gram was how many Amer­i­can design­ers are descen­dant from Chi­nese ances­try includ­ing: Anna Sui, Derek Lam, Phillip Lim, Vivi­enne Tam and Vera Wang just to name a few.

The sec­ond Chi­nese ele­ment I noticed at the shows was the amount of Asian mod­els, of whom I pre­dict a fair share were Chi­nese. As I don’t attend fash­ion week every sea­son its dif­fi­cult to tell if the num­ber of Asian mod­els is on the increase, (appar­ently it is), and whether or not its done for polit­i­cally cor­rect rea­sons or to appeal to Asian con­sumers and buy­ers. I would say it’s the latter!

There was a rel­a­tively small con­tin­gent of Chi­nese media mak­ing the rounds of the shows who tended to be the younger twenty some­thing edi­tors and con­trib­u­tors to Chi­nese ver­sions of inter­na­tional mag­a­zines such as Elle and GQ etc. Some high pro­file blog­gers such as Han Huo Huo were also invited to selected shows. It was encour­ag­ing to see these young fash­ion­istas enjoy­ing all the glamor and excite­ment that goes along with their first time at New York Fash­ion Week. For­go­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties of obtain­ing visas to the US, it’s a safe bet that Amer­i­can brands will con­tinue to tout Chi­nese Media to their shows as the Chi­nese mar­ket con­tin­ues to grow.

The issue of Chi­nese Nation­als obtain­ing visas to travel to the US came up over and over again with dis­cus­sions with the big US retail­ers. As I men­tioned in this post from the Magic fash­ion trade show a few weeks ago in Las Vegas, there are severe imped­i­ments for Chi­nese want­ing to travel to the US. To be granted a travel visa, Chi­nese cit­i­zens are sub­jected to an in per­son inter­view at the US Embassy in Bei­jing or other con­sulates around China. Cur­rently the wait­ing list for an inter­view is around three months. This is detri­men­tal to the Amer­i­can fash­ion indus­try on two accounts. Firstly, indus­try pro­fes­sion­als such as media and buy­ers who didn’t plan at least three months ahead sim­ply can­not obtain visas in time to gain admit­tance to the coun­try for fash­ion week. Sec­ondly, and per­haps even worse is that the mas­sive amounts of Chi­nese now trav­el­ling over­seas are choos­ing visa friendly coun­tries like Japan, France and the UK to go and spend their money.  (See this post about Chi­nese tourists shop­ping en masse and lin­ing up at Gal­lar­ies Lafayette in Paris). The big US depart­ment stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Good­man and Barney’s etc are there­fore miss­ing an easy wind­fall of tourist dol­lars. Under­stand­ably the US has its con­cerns around immi­gra­tion and national secu­rity and, yet with their econ­omy in dire straits, one would assume the polit­i­cal pow­ers that be would be try­ing hard to resolve this issue asap and get Chi­nese spenders in the doors of their biggest retail stores.

The Amer­i­can design­ers show­ing at Fash­ion Week who have well estab­lished busi­ness in China include: Ralph Lau­ren, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hil­figer, DKNY and Marc Jacobs.  Other design­ers such as Tom Ford, Bad­g­ley Mis­chka, Phillip Lim and Tory Burch are  just begin­ning their foray into China and can use their fash­ion shows to attract Chi­nese media atten­tion for their brands. Ports 1961 – a Hong Kong based brand even showed as part of Fash­ion Week. Pre­sum­ably, by show­ing in New York Ports is try­ing to appear ‘inter­na­tional’ and con­vince a large per­cent­age Chi­nese con­sumers that they are a for­eign, and there­fore a more desir­able brand.

Designer Phillip Lim’s Spring Sum­mer 2012 Col­lec­tion at New York Fash­ion Week

An Asian Model in the Marc by Marc Jacobs Fash­ion Show

Chi­nese Media Swarm­ing Over Chi­nese Model He Sui After the Y3 Fash­ion Show

Chair­man Mao at the Lin­coln Cen­ter in New York for Fash­ion Week

Ralph Lauren’s Chi­nois­erie Col­lec­tion Inside His Madi­son Avenue Store

Blanc de Chine Flag­ship Store on 5th Avenue

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