10 Shanghai Fashion Week
For proving that even during a global pandemic, the show (and the sales) must go on
A model in red vinyl shorts strutted to the center of a digitized coliseum at Chinese designer’s Angel Chen’s VR-infused show. Italian house Pinko had fashionistas in tailored coats sauntering through a hologramladen neon cityscape. Womenswear brand Lily showcased its signature tops against a simulated sun-drenched catwalk.
With China’s retail industry screeching to a standstill in February as the coronavirus spread, the team behind Shanghai Fashion Week made the difficult decision to postpone the big event from its original date in late March. And then, in a burst of creativity, organizers pivoted to a virtual extravaganza, producing the first entirely digital fashion week on nearly the same short timeline as the planned IRL event. Powered by Tmall, the online marketplace of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, the showcase combined livestreamed runways with teleshopping. An AR-fueled app allowed viewers to make purchases from their smartphones, with a “see now, buy now” feature.
Crafting a digital experience isn’t an entirely new concept for the teams behind the event. The concept was first proposed in 2018, says Ricky Xie, general manager, women’s fashion, Tmall Apparel, Hangzhou, China. “We and Shanghai Fashion Week were able to give a quick response since the outbreak of the pandemic because of all the work we have done in the past two years.”
Anyone with an internet connection and a customer account with Tmall had access to the shows of more than 150 designers and brands. Diane von Furstenberg presented her collection alongside a lineup that included Private Policy, H&M, Net-a-Porter and rising Chinese talent like ShuShu/Tong and Babyghost.
“Users have greater needs for interaction in cloud broadcast, and some of them may want to buy while they watch,” says Xie. So the event’s app allowed viewers to comment, react and ask questions, as well as make purchases. The event’s streams garnered 11 million views and helped generate more than US$70 million in combined sales.
While Xie isn’t ready to call Shanghai Fashion Week a complete success, he does see one big plus: Instead of designers showing off their wares to the fashion cognoscente and media, anyone could make it past the velvet ropes—and actually buy the product. “Young people get hyped up without having to step out of their home. And the stereotype of fashion week shows being superior and lacking interaction is also changed,” he says.