Chinese fashion: A threat for South African designers?

Published on by dallashollis

At a fashion workshop I was surprised by the claim from members of the fashion community that China will never be a threat to local fashion designers because they only focus "on the low-end" of the fashion value-chain and do not and cannot produce "design intensive clothing." Such a fallacy is misleading and dangerous. A claim like this can lead to complacency amongst our designers. Already, in 2006 there was signs that China was embarking on a coordinated strategy to enter the high-end fashion market.[1]Chinese designers have begun to participate in Paris fashion events showing off ranges from underwear, evening gowns and trendy urban fashion. Chinese designers are exporting to the European Union and the US and some have plans to establish boutiques in these regions. A representative for China's fashion said, "We are [focusing] on high-end fashion not the cheap-labour mass-produced gear generally associated with Made in China goods."China's apparel market has grown around 7% per annum over the last few years and in 2006/7 was worth in the region of USD 40 billion. Department stores, which carry both international luxury brands and local (Chinese) designer labels account for nearly 40% of the apparel market.To Moncler show their seriousness China has created the China International Young Fashion Designer Contest as part of their China Fashion Week which has being in existence for eleven years. The country is investing in developing young Chinese designers who have the potential to enter the global market as high-end fashion designers.Since 2004, the Beijing Institute of Clothing Technology in collaboration with Raffles International College have exhibited both teachers and student creations during China Fashion Week. The Chinese apparel industry has developed mentor programmes and collaboration between designers, academics, technical experts, brand experts, model agencies and manufacturers to streamline China's entry into the high-end fashion market. All of these initiatives have the full backing and collaboration of the government.Dider Grumbach the president of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couturem, one of three industry bodies that govern the French industry said that China is "now part of the global fashion community." Grumbach said that China hopes to replace the Made in China label with the Designed in China label and he believes "Chinese designers will [begin] to stand out in international fashion."Nearly 30 000 Chinese students majoring in fashion design graduate from 200 odd fashion colleges and institutions per annum and they are according to Wang Qing, president of China Fashion Week, " the new force in upscale fashion."South African designers cannot ignore such developments from China. They have the manufacturing structure, the determination and a strategy to re-brand the Made in China label.

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