What Are China’s Latest Fashion Trends? Urban Renewal and Cultural Revival

The economic statistics in March are usually seen as one of the most important indicators for the economy’s trends throughout the year in China since they not only directly reflect current conditions, but also indicate future trends to a certain extent.

The government work report of 2024 delivered at the annual NPC and CPPCC sessions set the expected target for GDP growth in 2024 at 5 percent (the figures for 2022 and 2023 were 5.5 percent and 5 percent, respectively), a figure that was seen by analysts outside of China as cautious about the overall outlook for the year ahead.

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Economic growth is key to the fashion sector. After all, the fashion consumer market rises and falls with changes in disposable income. Taking the fashion industry as an example, on the one hand activities in the month of March centered around women, with the 114th International Women’s Day as the main theme running through the marketing and sales. On the other hand, taking fashion as a pivot point to try and revitalize the industrial economy, cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen welcomed events such as the fashion weeks in Shanghai and Beijing and the upcoming May 5 Shopping Festival. At the same time, the five industry exhibitions of fabrics and accessories, apparel, home textiles, yarn and knitting, which comprise the Spring Exhibition 2024 of CNTAC attracted global buyers to in Shanghai last month.

The performance of the upstream and downstream sectors of the industry in March showed revived retail sales as an economic barometer, while the fashion weeks were the setters of future trends.

Empowering women sets sail again in the Chinese market

At the beginning of March, fashion executives that have operated in the Chinese market for a long time returned to Shanghai for an event that traveled through history. Executives from Kering, L’Oréal and Cartier, as well as many female Chinese entrepreneurs, joined together in the “Women for the Future” forum. It was held in the same place that hosted China’s first international conference for women’s empowerment 127 years ago.

Opened to visitors in 1885, Zhang Yuan in Shanghai was the largest public activity center for citizens in Shanghai at the end of the Qing Dynasty, and is known as “the first public space in modern China.” On March 8, under the joint promotion of Zhang Yuan, Shuofeng Culture and the parent company of WWD China, Chinamind Next Interculture Group, the space welcomed female leaders in the fashion industry.

The “Women for the Future” event jointly promoted by Zhang Yuan, Shuofeng Culture and the parent company of WWD China, Chinamind Next Interculture Group.
The “Women for the Future” event jointly promoted by Zhang Yuan, Shuofeng Culture and the parent company of WWD China, Chinamind Next Interculture Group.

Jenny Lan, president of North Asia and China public affairs at L’Oréal, shared her personal experience in the workplace — the process and method of pursuing ideals as a woman engaged in the beauty business. At the same time, according to her, L’Oréal has implemented many projects to empower women in China, among which is “Write Your Future,” which provides online courses and popularizes workplace skills for Chinese female university students. It has been held for three years and has covered more than 3,000 universities and colleges in China, benefiting more than 150,000 female students.

Jenny Lan, president of North Asia and China public affairs at L’Oréal
Jenny Lan, president of North Asia and China public affairs at L’Oréal

There also are “Glamorous Career, Beautiful Life,” which cares for women in difficulty and helps them acquire a skill and achieve career success. It has been held for 10 years, establishing a total of 69 on-site training sites in China and helping more than 10,000 women; the “Young Women Scientists in China” program, which is 20 years old and has shared with the public the stories of 204 Chinese women scientists working in science and technology.

Wingee SIN, global program director of The Cartier Women’s Initiative, shared how the award has empowered women entrepreneurs over the past 17 years by driving change and focusing on supporting early-stage, for-profit, women-led, mission-driven companies, providing financial, social and human capital support to help them grow and lead their businesses.

Wingee SIN, global program director of The Cartier Women’s Initiative
Wingee SIN, global program director of The Cartier Women’s Initiative

Cai Jinqing, president of Kering Group Greater China, also shared the French company’s efforts in empowering women via video conference. According to her, women account for 64 percent of employees and 58 percent of managerial roles in Kering. Women In Motion has in recent years become a platform for changing perceptions as an important project for Kering to empower women.

In the consumer market, fashion retail complexes have also launched activities and discounts for women. For example, at the high-end sector, Beijing SKP has launched activities that are comparable to shop celebrations, with a combined discount rate of nearly 30 percent off for members. Others include Dennis David City in Zhengzhou, which offers a 30 percent discount and five times shopping credits. In Chengdu, Taikoo Li creates the season’s looks for different women’s lifestyles from a wide range of categories such as apparel, fragrances and beauty products.

On the brand side, To Summer, a Chinese fragrance brand acquired by L’Oréal, used “Freedom and Imagination” as the theme for its second shop in Shanghai to build what was called “a study room for a female writer,” which urged women to construct a more intellectually sophisticated and deep spiritual world. Aesop, meanwhile, withdrew all the products from the shelves of its three shops in Shanghai and Guangzhou, transforming them into libraries of women’s literature and dividing them into six categories inspired by the tiny moments of women’s growth, including moments of epiphany, moments of grandeur and moments of bravery.

A tide of fashion weeks: Cities are leveraging fashion exhibitions to push the industry into full gear

Beijing and Shanghai, the two major fashion cities in China, ushered in China Fashion Week and Shanghai Fashion Week as in previous years while Shenzhen, after many years of close collaboration with Milan, ushered in Shenzhen and Milan Lifestyle Week for the first time. As a new attempt at cultural exchange and industrial cooperation, Shenzhen hopes to attract international buyers and introduce international up-and-coming brands to build a diversified industrial strategy. The aim is to use fashion as a “stabilizer” that links cities, revitalizes the economy and promotes employment.

Shanghai Fashion Week fall 2024 with the theme of “Innovation Fostered by China” focused on the themes of “New Chinese Style, new environmental protection, new movement.” There were various forms of fashion shows and presentations, forums, fashion trade fairs, showrooms and other displays and exchange activities. China Fashion Week, on the other hand, took “empowerment” as its theme, focusing on Chinese aesthetics, intangible heritage innovation, Chinese-style trans-boundary creations, sustainability, digital intelligence fashion, IPR, etc., covering more than 130 activities, including fashion shows, trend releases, trade shows, themed exhibitions, high-end forums, professional competitions and so on.

Shanghai Fashion Week had the theme “Innovation Fostered by China.”
Shanghai Fashion Week had the theme “Innovation Fostered by China.”

This year’s China Fashion Week aimed to promote the popularity of important industrial agglomerations in China. It launched Shandong Day, Xiamen Day and the Northern Clothing Day for the first time to promote these cities and places. Brands from the Pearl River Delta Bay Area, the Yangtze River Delta, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai were the main participants in this season fashion show. At the same time, China Fashion Week joined hands with Shengze in Jiangsu Province, the Silk City in China and the Cashmere Capital (Qinghe in Hebei Province) and other important industrial clusters, showing the results of trans-boundary cooperation between sources of origin and Golden Peak award-winning designers, local brands and designers.

Prior to this, Chic2024 (spring) held in early March with 1,398 brands and 1,250 exhibitors participating had already welcomed international pavilions and brands from 19 countries and regions around the world.

Editor’s Note: China Insight is a monthly column from WWD’s sister publication WWD China examining industry and consumer trends in that all-important market.

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