China represents one of the biggest markets in the world for the fashion industry. This could be because, unlike every other country, China has three fashion capitals, not just one. When you think of a fashion-forward country, you automatically think of the city that’s centered around fashion – Paris for France, London for England, New York City for America, and so on. In China, fashion isn’t only located in one place, you can find it in Guangzhou, Beijing, and most importantly, Shanghai. The fashion industry has undergone such tremendous change in the past decade and is continuing to expand at an exceptional rate. Each of these cities offers something unique to China’s fashion industry.
Guangzhou has hundreds of different wholesale markets for various products. This city is famous for its fabric, garments, leather, and electronics. Guangzhou also serves as a distribution center for traders in south of China and the whole world and is one of the coastal cities open to foreign investment. It has grown rapidly as a financial center, administrative center, and export center in the Guangdong Province. Thousands of African business men and women can be seen in the major wholesale areas buying export goods. Guangzhou also holds the biggest international textile and apparel trade fair in China, called the SpringFair CantonTex. It’s one of the best one-stop procurement platforms for yarns, surface accessories, textiles and apparels in Asia. If visitors to China want to go shopping for inexpensive fabrics, clothing, computers, and thousands of other products, Guangzhou is a good place to visit!
As the capital of China, Beijing has been known as the more laid-back, cultural center of the country, where it’s very controlled and government-centered. All the media in China is based in Beijing, including fashion media and events. Condé Nast and other large publishers are headquartered here. In 1997, China Fashion Week was established in Beijing, which proved to the world that it was not only ready to embrace the fashion industry, but that it was becoming pivotal in the innovation of fresh new trends. This isn’t the only reason why fashion media has hugely centered around Beijing. There are many celebrities, photographers, designers and other creatives based in the capital – this is common as it is the capital of China. People in Beijing are more likely to be more avant-garde and display a much edgier fashion sense. They represent their identity through fashion rather than just trying to fit in. Much of Beijing’s fashion sensibilities have emerged out of Beijing’s collective artistic and cultural consciousness.
Recently, Shanghai has been named the top fashion capital in Asia. Shanghai is the business center of China and the Mainland headquarters of almost all foreign fashion and luxury brands. Located half-way between the two, Shanghai is the most convenient place for brand executives who travel perpetually across China to visit stores, factories, Chinese partners, and more. One of Shanghai’s biggest contributions to the Chinese fashion industry is Shanghai Fashion Week, which insiders praise for having a more curated selection of designers, when compared to Beijing’s China Fashion Week. Shanghai Fashion Week is becoming more and more prominent, while the spending power of its citizens is also increasing. They tend to spend twice as much when shopping compared to New Yorkers. High-end retail chains, including Lane Crawford and Galeries Lafayette, have recently entered the Chinese market in Shanghai. Shanghai is also the origin of various national trends thanks to its openness, international atmosphere, and innovative spirit. It is also the primary trade centre of China as well as regional center of huge global brands and fashion houses, including Plaza 66, Nichole Zhang, Ermenegildo Zegna and many more.
One could say the general population is better dressed or even more fashion conscious in Shanghai. This reputation started as far back as the 1930s when Shanghai was considered the ‘Paris of the East’. That said, Shanghai fashion tends to be more mainstream and logo driven. Whereas Beijing, again, represents their identity through fashion rather than just trying to fit in. Guangzhou is home to hundreds of different wholesale markets for various products that cater to the fashion industry. Both Beijing and Shanghai hold Fashion Weeks annually. The official China Fashion Week is in Beijing and the article, Tale of Two Cities by Women’s Wear Daily, gives great insight into China’s dueling fashion weeks. Each city brings something unique to the Chinese fashion industry – which is why there are three fashion capitals, not just one.
Written by: Jessica Manno