April 18, 2021

Shanghai Offers a Hopeful Glimpse of Post-Pandemic Fashion Weeks

Forget the occasional Zoom or WhatsApp glitch; the toughest part about interviewing a designer, retailer, or editor in Shanghai is that you’re living in two completely different worlds. In the States and Europe, we’re just now easing out of lockdown, considering a few spring purchases, and cautiously planning for in-person shows in September; meanwhile, Shanghai is booming. Fashion spending has grown rapidly in China since 2020, and Shanghai just finished its second post-pandemic Fashion Week—its busiest ever.

There were 100 runway shows on the schedule at Shanghai Fashion Week’s Xintiandi show space and Labelhood’s emerging designer platform; highlights included Shuting Qiu, Susan Fang, Yueqi Qi, Shushu/Tong, Ponder.er, Yuhan Wang, and former Loewe and Kiko Kostadinov designer Louis Shengtao Chen’s solo debut. In between the shows were just as many presentations, showrooms, trade shows, and exhibitions. Most attendees wore masks, but Shanghai effectively stopped the spread of COVID-19 last March; even without a vaccine (China is expected to start distributing them in July), the risk of transmission remains low. Just flipping through the photos of the packed front rows is surreal; here in the West, our fashion experiences have been limited to our laptops.

The energy in Shanghai isn’t just down to China’s swift response to the virus. With international travel discouraged, Chinese spending is being redirected to local designers and stores. “Chinese designers have really benefited,” Labelhood’s founder Tasha Liu, who also runs a store for new labels in the French Concession, explains. “The people who typically travel and spend money with luxury brands in Europe are finding that Chinese designers live up to that quality, so the pandemic really brought them to the forefront.”

Liu is seeing that trend even with China’s youngest shoppers. Most designers at Shanghai Fashion Week stage two shows: one for buyers and editors, and one immediately afterwards for consumers and students. When consumer tickets became available on Labelhood’s website (at no charge), Liu said all 6,000 were gone in a matter of three minutes. It was the most consumer interest they’d received in any season.