Roni Ahn & Yeon You, Document Journal 2020

China’s progressive fashion future thanks to innovation and sustainability efforts

Key takeaways

  • Retail in China goes beyond e-commerce and large-scale malls: innovation is infused into each aspect of the retail process to transform consumer experiences while shopping.
  • Fashion becomes more democratized each year, and recently, Chinese designers are collaborating with esports channels to explore new avenues of digitalization.
  • Sustainable fashion is now a growing wave in China as more and more designers focus on ethical sourcing and durable practices to appease shifting consumer values.

China is known for its thirst for innovation, pushing the boundaries of what we think possible. The case is no different for fashion. Beyond technology itself, part of what fuels this penchant for all things novel is social media and different influencer eco-systems within China, who give a platform to new technologies, emerging Chinese designers, and foreign brands looking to get a foot in the door. E-commerce channels have provided Chinese consumers access to international luxury brands, despite competition within the market being intensified by emerging domestic brands with strong growth momentum.

That is indeed the overall thematic of Chinese fashion at the present moment: digitalization and shifting values, notably in sustainable fashion, have given rise to a range of innovations in fashion in China, so let’s have a closer look. 

Chinese retail is undergoing major innovation 

Around the world, retail seems to modernize each year with new features, new platforms, and new experiences. But fashion retail is on an entirely new level in China, blurring the boundary of shopping and exhibition: today, Chinese retail is much more immersive and experiential. For example, in the newly-opened SKP-S department store, brands can convert retail spaces into various futuristic museums. Designed by South Korean brand Gentle Monster, the concept is one of questioning “what lies in the future, and what will future humans value and pursue.”

SKP-S department store with Gentle Monster

And in Pudong, the commercial building dubbed Shanghai Times Square has been transformed to deliver a more theatrical experience to shoppers. To achieve this, Japanese design studio Nendo relocated escalators, straightened the central passage, rearranged the atrium, and more, all to create a revolutionary experience for shoppers. And according to the studio, the inspiration behind the renovation was indeed theatrical: “Theaters are also generally designed so viewers in any seat have a good view of the stage, and here too, the structure is deliberately tiered to draw the eye.”

The digitalization of fashion in China

Since 2018, fashion brands have increasingly been seeking cross-sector collaborations. Video games have admittedly been a surprising mix of universes, with a growing list of brands working closely with popular games. Louis Vuitton’s feature in League of Legends, for example, was one of the first to offer digital outfits for in-game avatars.

Jackson Wang for Givenchy Super Elle August Edition

Today, luxury brands collaborating with esports isn’t so unexpected: last year, BOY LONDON and Levi’s launched collections with DNF and QQ Dance respectively, two of the most iconic games by Chinese digital giant Tencent. Even more, Givenchy collaborated with the virtual boy band The Futurer from the ultra-popular Chinese online game The Glory of the King for its Chinese Valentine’s Day collection this summer. As a testament to how well the crossover of fashion and gaming is working, the limited edition Givenchy collection then went on to take the cover of Super ELLE’s August edition.

China’s push for sustainable fashion 

Consumers all around the world care more than ever about the environmental impact of their purchases, encouraging brands to have a more eco-friendly approach. This shift in values is mostly pushed by millennial and Gen Z consumers, who present an important customer base for fashion brands in particular. In this way, brands are adapting more and more to their audiences’ desires, particularly as a result of the pandemic. Corporate social responsibility initiatives during the outbreak have been paid decent attention, which has played an even more crucial role in consumers’ purchasing decisions. According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer Special Report, 82% of Chinese respondents recently started using a new brand due to their compassionate response to the outbreak.

Curious about the Chinese fashion market and its trends this Winter ’20 & ’21?

As a result, local designers in China are leading the “Go Green” trend: for instance, ICICLE infuses 100% organic or recycled materials into modern and innovative designs, and materials such as linen can be directly linked to the growing awareness about sustainability and the focus on eco-fashion. In China this Spring 2021, Heuritech forecasts that linen will grow in visibility by +32%  for women compared to Spring 2020, a considerable nod to the sustainable fashion movement in the country. JNBY, another eco-conscious brand, has put a particular focus on linen for many years now to convey modern yet qualitative oriental aesthetics.

It’s clear that the world is becoming increasingly tech-driven as we move forward, and the fashion industry is no exception. China joins this phenomenon through its innovations in retail and cross-channel collaborations between fashion and video games, but also through its use of technology advancements to create a more sustainable industry. Heuritech’s report with Luxurynsight, titled Fashion in China, digs up the answers to these changes and their manifestations as fashion trends.

About the writer: Mélanie Mollard, Fashion Content Manager at Heuritech

Mélanie writes about the fashion industry and its many features through the lens of applied data and trend forecasting technology.

Questions or feedback? Email us at info@heuritech.com

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