Designers finding their ways to buyers online as Shanghai Fashion Week postponed

Designers prepare to meet buyers online as businesses close and shows are "postponed indefinitely".

Photo from CFP

Photo from CFP

By ZHOU Fangying


The Shanghai Fashion Week which was supposed to open on March 25 has been postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but designers are as busy as ever. 

When they learned that their neighborhood was going into lockdown, Fiona Lau and Kain Picken decided to quarantine in their studio. After three weeks of shacking up with a seamster, the collection was ready.

Fashion Week is a make-or-break occasion. Decisions are made in showrooms, where buyers mingle with designers around racks of clothes. Labels have moved showrooms online since the announcement that Shanghai Fashion Week was postponed indefinitely. Missing out can mean missing an entire season.

GUAN Lin, owner-designer of Short Sentence is far from heartbroken. “To get the samples out, I lived in a hotel for two weeks with a team of seamstresses,” she said.

Moving the showrooms online means nothing without the show itself, which requires a lot more work. The clothes look different on screen and designers find it hard to talk to many people at a time.

Typically, designers talk to groups of buyers, pretty much standing in a circle. It is something that, so far, live streaming cannot reproduce.

Designers are not movie producers. They have enough specializations already without being experts in camera angles and lighting, according to SHAO Yuner, owner of the label REFUSE CLUB. “Every live stream session lasts two hours. I do four a day and am exhausted,” she said.

And it is very much a tedious slide show of one item at a time, whereas previously, buyers would rummage through the racks to find what they needed.

Brick-and-mortar shops  - boutiques and labels with their own stores – have it no easier. Short Sentence has a retail store in a hipster neighborhood. Footfall has dwindled from several hundred a day to less than 10 a month. Sales in March were 80 percent of usual and that was only because they tried “everything.” The shop is now closed, but the staff are online every day.

LMDS is in one of the most expensive parts of Shanghai. Even before lockdown, owner YANG Xiao had switched to reservations only. His team keeps up with customers on social media. His landlord, a state-backed developer, waived a few months’ rent in 2020, and he hopes to get help this time too. The tone in the neighborhood is generally upbeat but almost everyone is counting on rent waivers.