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Chinese designers and brands are increasingly turning towards China as their primary target market. This underscores a significant change as China’s fashion narrative evolves. Rather than remaining solely known as the largest consumer market for luxury goods, China is fast becoming a hotbed for new and world acclaimed talent. While top-tier talent has taken time to develop, this welcome shift reflects the nation’s constant evolution and increasing heft in global fashion.

Shifting gears

China and its designers are making headways across the world. From local acclaim to the world’s top fashion runways, homegrown talent is finally getting the love it deserves. This marks a significant change in attitudes towards the Middle Kingdom’s shifting role in fashion. For one, it no longer simply serves as a place for foreign brands to make money. Despite the record numbers, Chinese consumers are falling in love with “国潮” (heritage hip) and local designers. There are a few reasons for this, namely:

  • Western brands have over-saturated the market, making exclusivity meaningless
  • Ongoing cultural faux-pas from foreign brands (hint hint D&G)
  • New and more discerning audiences who cannot be simply put in boxes (“logo maniacs”, “streetwear addicts” etc.)
  • Shifting local economics where consumers are purchasing more locally
  • Likewise, one macro shift is China’s own confidence and passion for homegrown products

China and the fashion DNA

Over the last decade, China absorbed foreign brands and ideals. However, younger consumers are pushing back as they assert their identities more readily. New trendsetters mix affluence and tech-savvy to voice opinions, express their individuality and reinforce their willingness to live their personal ideals. Rather than relying on external, foreign signifiers, patrons mix and match broader styles to assert their identity. Indeed, social currency is less about Chanel bags and more about deeply held personal style choices. Not surprisingly, local designers communicate similar ideals in their works and methodologies.

 

Instead of seeking foreign recognition to return to their home markets, fashion houses prefer to build a reputation locally before expanding outbounds. Just as Japanese brands broke the international mold in the 80s, so too can Chinese visionaries in the coming years. Though the road ahead looms, local acclaim can push the movement over the edge and into the mainstream.

Changes matter

To an extent, China’s rise in fashion will open doors for other nations and cultures to flourish. After years of being labeled as the world’s (cheap) manufacturing hub, “made in China” takes on a new meaning. It’s no secret that the world’s best fashion houses already manufacture there. It may be instead time to celebrate these capabilities for what they are: world- leading and innovative. As ideals of beauty, taste and luxury transform to a point of constant flux, other designers may see this as a golden opportunity to shine. Who knows what this can mean for Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. Ultimately, fashion and consumers win when more projects see the light of day.