This past Friday, three young American design teams presented their collections at the Ming Dynasty City Wall. The event was sponsored by a Silas Chou, an industry businessman from Hong Kong, through the CFDA/Vogue's fashion fund. Part exploratory mission, and part formal introduction to the market, the selected designers attended events hosted by Gary Locke US ambassador to China, and Vogue editor in chief Angelica Cheung.
The event was initiated and inspired by a lunch Anna Wintour had with Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, where they were attempting to articulate their entrance into the growing market - a challenge for many brands and designers. "They [the Chinese consumer] are not as familiar with the American labels. They're much more familiar with European high-end labels", Mrs. Locke indicated. The challenge of navigating a high-growth economy of significant size, when European luxury labels are quickly expanding is a daunting task for smaller luxury labels. Designers can connect with global markets through e-commerce, digital content and social media - but giving the Chinese customer the opportunity to interact, touch, feel the clothing directly is a challenge.
It was the designer(s) behind Rag & Bone, Marchesa, and Proenza Schouler who headed to Bejing as part of the initiative. Although each of the brands have exposure to the Chinese customer in China through Lane Crawford and a small handful of other retailers, it was an excellent opportunity for additional business contacts and partnerships on both sides. "We're exploring and talking. To open something in China, you need a local partner, so we're sort of testing the waters, " Hernandez told WWD. From that perspective, the event seemed to be worthwhile.