It is no secret that the pandemic has had a significant impact on all businesses, and the fashion industry is no exception; major shows have been postponed and millions of designers, seamstresses and factory workers have been furloughed or made redundant across the globe. The effects of this devastation can be felt across the entire industry.
However, as Belgian Fashion Designer Raf Simons aptly states, ‘the fashion world doesn’t know the word stop’. China is recognised for its global innovation, so perhaps it is no surprise that, despite taking a hit, Shanghai is paving the way for the future of fashion shows. In 2020, Shanghai Fashion Week partnered with Alibaba’s Tmall and became the first ever fashion week to become fully digital. This allowed emerging designers to reach a wider audience (11 million views), and brands to host live-stream sections before showcasing their collection. These advances have been carried through to Shanghai Fashion Week’s democratised 2021 lineup which features a mix of both virtual and physical events. The emotion and atmosphere of a live show returns, providing an exciting experience for both its live and virtual audiences.
During the pandemic, factory closures caused delays in production, major events were cancelled, and the unstable economy raised concern around sales. Yet in the face of these major setbacks, independent designers have remained resilient. Angel Chen, for example, said that ‘this will be the chance to bring some more innovation into the fashion industry’. Indie brands have used this time to launch video campaigns, strengthen their brand’s e-commerce and tie these digital tools into their showcase. Shanghai Fashion Week is an important appointment for Chinese talents. It provides a strong platform for emerging indie designers, exposing them to international media and buyers, allowing them to showcase their creative vision and fresh designs. It is clear these new artists have approached their challenges with positivity and open minds, and now their work ethic is paying off.
Alongside embracing digital, organisers of Shanghai Fashion Week appear to be making an effort to go green(er), hosting sustainability events and shifting towards more durable practices. Thanks to consumer influence, many designers are facing up to their social and environmental responsibility. Over 40% of the brands featured during the event are eco-conscious, and designers have used this platform to raise awareness of ethical issues in fashion. It was also announced that Xiao Xue, Elle China’s former editor-in-chief, will be an ambassador for SFW, where she will be supporting Chinese brands and promoting eco-friendly production methods. Tackling the fashion industry’s carbon footprint is no mean feat, but by putting sustainability under the spotlight during the most important fashion week in Asia, brands are driving the industry towards more earth-centred solutions.
If there’s one thing that we can take away from Shanghai Fashion Week, it’s that the fashion industry is always ready to adapt. After all, the nature of fashion is to reflect the fluctuating changes in our culture and society. Shanghai Fashion Week has embraced digital tools, addressed increasing environmental concerns, and helped new Asian talent to recover from the pandemic. It shows that if you approach difficulties with creativity and innovation, they have the potential to become opportunities.