In early February, as the full force of the Covid-19 epidemic was hitting China, the Shanghai Fashion Week was one of the first events to be postponed, to an indefinite date. It was officially set to begin on March 26, but it then decided to adopt an unprecedented online-only format: from March 24 to 30 it is being broadcast live on Tmall, the leading website of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, as well as on its live-streaming shopping site Taobao Live. A first in the history of fashion.
Last week, the organisers published the calendar of the Shanghai Fashion Week (SHFW) for the Fall/Winter 2020-21 season, announcing a programme with over 150 labels and designers from around the world, among them Diane von Furstenberg, and scores of emerging Chinese designers like Yirantian, Shushu/Tong and Angel Chen.
This unusual fashion week will also feature the possibility of buying products on a see-now, buy-now basis. Viewers will be able to “buy some of the items seen on the catwalk shows – and pre-order new looks from the fall collections – in real time via their smartphones,” indicated the organisers in a press release. This will give the opportunity to the labels showing during the week “to present over 1,000 items from their latest collections, and sell their products to the more than 800 million monthly active users on Alibaba’s e-commerce sites.”
A way to test a new format and also to help fashion labels, commercially hit by the Covid-19 emergency, find a new clientèle and hike up their sales again on the web.
“China’s fashion industry and consumer market have matured in the course of the years and have entered a new era of creative energy and unlimited opportunities,” said Xiaolei Lu, deputy general secretary of the Shanghai Fashion Week, also known as Madame Lu.
How the shows are going to be staged is unclear
Few details are available on how labels are actually staging their shows, and where. However, Mike Hu, the head of Tmall’s fashion, luxury and fast-moving consumer goods division, underlined how this experience is only possible thanks to present-day technology: “For this edition of the Shanghai Fashion Week we have adopted some of Alibaba’s most advanced technology solutions in order to offer a new, high-quality experience to consumers.”
To stage the event, Tmall has drawn on Alibaba’s store digitalisation savvy, and more besides. Tmall indicated it has integrated into a single high-tech solution a variety of tools, like live streaming, short videos, the DingTalk instant messaging app and the Tmall Flagship 2.0 e-shop technology.
The goal is not to stop here but to carry on, improving Tmall’s capabilities also for the other leading fashion weeks, in Paris, Milan, London and New York. To launch their products, “instead of holding a traditional two-hour press conference, labels will be able to interact with consumers over a longer period of time, from teasers and sneak previews to live broadcasting and post-show interviews, reaching an audience of thousands, potentially millions of people rather than a few hundred spectators. This will allow labels to exceed the physical constraints of geography and time in engaging their customers,” said Hu.
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