Since the outbreak of Covid-19, Shanghai Fashion Week has been met with challenges, with the showcase going digital last year and experiencing delays this spring.
Perhaps as a result of this, this season, the fashion gala took on a fearless personality, with in-person events, shows, and parties happening at several different locations around Shanghai.
With more than 100 unique shows, Shanghai Fashion Week was more crowded than ever and brimming with excitement. Here are five key takeaways from this season’s showcase:
On October 12, at Shanghai Fashion Week’s central hub in Xintiandi, audiences had difficulty knowing where to look. They could watch the shows underway or gawk at the celebrities who flocked to the event, including actresses Sun Li, Jiang Shuying, and Zhou Yutong, as well as model-turned-designer Lv Yan.
View this post on InstagramA post shared by @hanhuohuo
A post shared by @hanhuohuo
The DNT show, in particular, was a hit, at least on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, where the hashtag ‘Jiang Shuying dragged to the runway by Han Huohuo while watching the show’ (#江疏影看秀被韩火火拉上台走秀#) began trending. At the time of writing, the hashtag had been viewed more than 200 million times.
Han Huohuo is the designer behind the label DNT (short for ‘DONOTTAG’), and he is also a fashion KOL with over 10 million followers on Weibo. DNT currently has more than 1 million followers on Taobao and is known as a “Tao Brand” — a term used to describe brands that built their customer base on Taobao.
The appearance of DNT at Shanghai Fashion Week shows just how popular Tao Brands have become. In particular, the appearance of Jiang Shuying, an actress with over 20 million followers on Weibo, gives a sense of the star power that Han Huohuo’s work attracts.
This season, DNT is not the only Tao Brand to make waves. As state-backed Chinese media outlet Jiemian reported, Tao Brands like Unawares and ATTEMPT, among others, have all made appearances during fashion week, with some, like TUYUE and Anno Mundi, staging fashion shows as well.
Masha Ma, who has lived in Paris for years, recently returned to Shanghai. She kicked off Shanghai Fashion Week on October 8, with her brand MASHAMA making major waves at Xintiandi.
Ma is one of a slew of talented designers who have recently decided to focus more on the Chinese market.
For example, another brand, PRONOUNCE, a long-time participant at London Fashion Week, followed up a brand showcase in London last month with a show at Xintiandi.
The Milan- and Shanghai-based menswear brand PRONOUNCE at Shanghai Fashion Week’s Xintiandi venue. Image by Wang Junjie
One prominent reason for Chinese designers’ increased focus on the Chinese fashion market is that the Covid-19 pandemic has put their travel plans on hold and halted aspirations to take on global fashion capitals like Paris and Milan.
On the other side of that coin, however, the pandemic has been a stimulus to local business, as Chinese visitors have spent more money at home amid quarantine and travel restrictions. More to the point, they are hungrier for designs by homegrown brands, as Masha Ma told Jing Daily.
Graduates such as Ruohan Nie, Lin Zhu, Cai Jiaen, and others from international fashion schools in London, New York, and elsewhere have also returned to Shanghai.
To that point, young New York-based brand Refuse Club, which was founded by Yuner Shao and Puzhen Zhou in 2019, made their debut this season in Shanghai, while another New York-based brand, Private Policy, joined the fashion week schedule again.
The ongoing pandemic has left a heavy indent on the creativity of fashion designers.
Many of the stories that we have heard come out of the fashion industry describe experiences of extensive lockdowns or self-quarantine periods, a process and isolation which has inevitably become an inspiration for creativity within the sector.
The designer’s reflection on solitude during quarantine inspired RUOHAN’s latest season. Image courtesy of RUOHAN
Some of these designers have also taken inspiration from the length of time they have been separated from their homes, with the idea and concept of ‘home’ providing the general vibe for this season’s Shanghai Fashion Week.
Zhong Zixin presents the runway as home. Image courtesy of Zhong Zixin
Additionally, some designers have also felt the pain of being separated from their loved ones, whether by distance or, in some tragic instances, death.
Guangzhou-based designer Ban Xiaoxue asks how we deal with loss, separation, and passing through his show. Image courtesy of Ban Xiaoxue
These difficulties have left their mark on the designs we saw during the fashion week, with romance, nostalgia and unabashed emotion exuding from the runways at several shows this season.
For example, the layered all-white gowns and genderless dresses from BAN XIAOXUE’s runway show highlighted a feeling of hope and romance.
Similarly, designer Ruohan used her experiences and emotions to craft a show around the theme, ‘A Solitary Place,’ presenting a bright, cheerful scene to audience members.
Shanghai is the center point of mainland Chinese fashion, and the pull of the city has attracted luxury brands — and designers from greater China — to stage alternative shows in the city.
As HYPEBEAST China reported, Shanghai Fashion Week has become an outpost for designers from Taiwan and Hong Kong.
With sponsorship from Fashion Farm Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Hong Kong, 20 Hong Kong labels were present during Shanghai Fashion Week.
View this post on InstagramA post shared by RADII (@radii.china)
A post shared by RADII (@radii.china)
The dynamic fashion scene in Shanghai also provided Hong Kong-based creative duo Alex Po and Derek Cheng with the inspiration to establish their own menswear label.
They launched their brand PONDER.ER in 2019, and it debuted at Shanghai Fashion Week this April. This season, PONDER.ER presented an exhibition at Labelhood’s Showcase.
In addition to PONDER.ER, Taiwanese designer Peng Tai also staged a show during this season’s Shanghai Fashion Week. Peng showed audiences the modernity of traditional Chinese heritage, using Chinese herbal medicine as a dye.
The question of sustainable fashion is on everyone’s lips. As more sustainable brands appear and enthusiasm for this approach rises with consumers, concerns linger about how sustainable fashion can truly be.
While it is hard to answer that question, for now, Shanghai Fashion Week has indeed committed to the cause.
With workshops, forums, and exhibitions highlighting the topic, Shanghai Fashion Week’s schedule was packed with sustainable fashion-centric events.
Right after opening night, on October 8, Shanghai Fashion Week’s ULIO Space allied with canU, a newly launched platform that promotes sustainable fashion, and offered a series of events bringing attention to sustainability.
The platform canU, founded by the former fashion director of GQ China, Mr. Cui Dan, also revealed on its WeChat Official Account that they plan to launch a biannual publication soon.
Similarly, we saw a perspective shift from designers, many of whom experimented with new materials and new design approaches.
SUSAN FANG’s bag is made from a plastic bottle. Image courtesy of SUSAN FANG
Prominent among designers digging into the issue of sustainability is Susan Fang, a designer that we previously spotlighted, who collects waste bottles and waste textile materials and transforms them into bags and dresses.
Meanwhile, Ruohan has put her own spin on design methodology, with her interchangeable designs making the best use of materials to make her fashion pieces sustainable.
Cover image courtesy of SUSAN FANG
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