A Look into the Trends Shaping the World’s Most Exciting Fashion Market
December 14th, 2023 (Shanghai) – No market moves quite as fast as China. The speed of innovation and evolution is as impressive, as it is challenging for brands. There’s no doubt that China is redefining the fashion industry on its own terms – and setting its own new standards.
McKinsey China Chairman Joe Ngai has recently reiterated his confidence in the market saying: “The next China is only China” – we’re excited about 2024 as well. Here’s our perspective on the trends shaping the world’s largest fashion market and what brands can do to stay relevant in the Year of the Dragon:
1. QUIET LUXURY, BUT WITH A LOCAL SPIN
Quiet Luxury in China has taken on a local spin: a concept combining the traditional values of understanded luxury with elements that are distinctly Chinese in nature. It represents a shift away from overt displays of opulence and extravagance – instead focusing on subtlety, authenticity, and cultural relevance. We expect this to accelerate in 2024. A number of China’s talented designers are embracing the trend: for example Bing Xu, Ian Hylton, Jacques Wei, Samuel Gui Yang are tapping into “Chinese old money style” one of the popular hashtags on Douyin (China’s tiktok). For more on this check out Zhang Tianwei’s well balanced article in WWD Chinese Old Money Style, Explained.
As Gillian Gu, Gusto Collective’s Head of Fashion in China, adds: “Creating local relevancy remains a top priority for brands going into 2024. Operating within an ever complex and crowded market is a challenge, and the brands who will thrive are the ones who understand the need for cultural resonance to connect with a hugely sophisticated consumer.”
2. BEST IN CLASS GLOBAL EVENTS
Shanghai’s SS24 Fashion Week was a testament to the quality, diversity and innovation of China’s fashion capital delivering a world class fashion week. Western brands need to pay attention and explore opportunities during these occasions. The periphery of events and activations around the official Fashion Week agenda are also key. The Spring/Summer 24 edition, which took place last October saw Stella McCartney close Shanghai Fashion Week, with Stella there herself. She also held a sustainability exhibition, and spent time with fashion students in the city, sharing experience and knowledge.
It’s simple: You’ve got to be in China to win in China.
3. THE RISE AND RISE OF LOCAL BRANDS
Local brands are going in one direction only: that is up. In 2024 – Chinese fashion brands will continue to gain prominence, challenging the status quo for the fashion industry. They are nimble, fast, innovative, and most importantly, they are Chinese.
They understand how to navigate the digital ecosystem and platforms and connect to a young generation of well-educated and China proud consumers. Expect more surprising and excited collaborations as Western brands look to create relevance by tapping into these local brands.
4. A NEW TYPE OF SOCIAL COMMERCE – IS THIS THE END OF ALIBABA DOMINANCE, AND PUSHY SHOPPING FESTIVALS?
Single’s Day 2023 provided some fascinating insights. But the key question is, have shopping festivals hit a plateau? For many years there has been such a pressure around shopping festivals, so much hype and so much frustration for brands trying to maintain their DNA without becoming too “discounted”. It seems all that could be changing.
According to a survey by BAIN & COMPANY, only 1 in 4 shoppers planned to increase spend during Double Eleven, compared to a year ago. Concerns about a slowdown in the economy are there, with half of respondents are not actually “excited” by such festivals.
Alibaba no longer dominates. Emerging social media platforms are eagerly disrupting the old guard. Shopping online is about entertainment today – and the likes of Douyin, Kuaishou and Bilibili and offering new ways for brands to connect with younger consumers. Providing good deals year rounds definitely takes the shine off shopping festivals.
5. OFFLINE ON TECH STEROIDS
Everyone knows that China is hyper connected, yet, paradoxically, physical experiences are more important than ever. They key is how to link the two. The bar is set so high for offline activations in China, there is no other market which comes even close to replicating the creativity, innovation and lavishness of these luxury brand pop ups and events. Throw out the play book and take risks. It’s not just about commerce, it’s about entertainment. Take NARS for example: Shiseido Travel Retail partnered with China Duty Free Group to launch an online-to-offline campaign, leveraging Web3 a to boost awareness of its NARS exclusive travel collection.
Gusto Collective created a metaverse world through a WeChat mini program, where consumers could engage with two metahuman AjA and MonoC. The metahumans, created and managed by Gusto Collective, brought the journey “alive”, playing with consumers who could then redeem products at the offline pop-up in Hainan.
To conclude, in 2024 – the Year of the Dragon – China’s fashion industry will be characterized by a dynamic interplay of digitalization, changing consumer preferences, local brand recognition, and a growing focus on creating unique and memorable experiences for customers. Brands who are bold and brave – and that can connect with Chinese consumers on a personal and cultural level will be well-positioned for growth.
Contact us at Gusto Collective for advice on how we can help: firstname.lastname@example.org