In 2015 Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a new ten-year economic plan called ‘Made in China 2025’. This plan is modelled, in-part, after Germany’s Industry 4.0 plan and is focused mainly on technology and robotics. A wider part of this initiative is the rebranding of Chinese industries from imitators to innovators. What does this have to do with the fashion industry? Well, it’s news to no one that China is infamous for their knock-offs. Simply search Beijing’s ‘Pearl Market’ and you’ll find hundreds of Youtube videos dedicated to finding and bartering for the best designer knock-offs China has to offer.
That reality has been shifting in China over the last ten years. There is a new generation of designers creating clothing for the insatiable and growing Chinese market. Initiatives like this one, which are only tangentially related to the fashion industry, help the global perception of China’s fashion goods shift from low quality clothes and high quality knock-offs to China as a new creative fashion hub. China’s designer fashion market is a Blue Ocean ready for fresh talent to wow the awaiting consumer.
As China’s fashion industry grows, the West can take note. China’s lateral movement into the open world allows for innovation not tethered to current practices or traditions. Chinese talent who in past have moved west to practice their skills are now staying in the mainland and flourishing in hubs like Shenzhen and Shanghai. These Creatives are starting their own labels and magazines. They’re designing for a Chinese consumer base that is ready to embrace and curate niche brands and smaller designers.
New projects like Rouge Fashion Book (a bi-annual coffee table fashion book) and established fashion houses like EPO Fashion Group (Home to Mo&CO and Edition) alike are able to find a home in southern China. Companies like EPO have been around for over a decade, but they’re recently getting the recognition they deserve. They play an important part in the rebranding China as a place for creativity and innovation.
In addition to designers, Chinese editors and influencers are also making a stand in defense of Chinese creation. Leaf Greener a former editor for Elle China and founder of a WeChat based magazine, LEAF is among many whose work displays China as a place of creativity not just consumerism. As she covers fashion weeks around the world, she continues to defend China among them as a cutting edge player in the fashion world.
We’re almost to the halfway mark of Made in China 2025 and what do we have to show for it? I can’t speak on robotic technologies, but we can see the fashion insiders of the West paying more mind to the rising giant in the East. More and more western publications are covering events like Shanghai Fashion Week. The Business of Fashion dedicated almost nine pages of their 2018 State of Fashion (only a 45 pg. document) to addressing China and the overall Asian market. The public won’t be far behind these insiders as they realize their favourite brands are not only being made in china, but also designed in China.
Indeed, China based brands continue to grow in popularity both in China and in the West. Additionally, as events like Shanghai Fashion Week continue to grow and gain global attention, so will other Chinese designers and labels. Personally, I look forward to watching as the Chinese creative community shows the world what this part of the East has to offer. Enriching their designs with Chinese culture and tradition juxtaposed with a fresh perspective that remains unbound to the lines the West has been drawing within for the past hundred years.
A day is coming when ‘Made in China’ will mean something much different than it does in the west today, and that day is coming soon.