Chinese love of fashion reaches runways of Paris
Updated: 2012-03-06 08:10
By Agence France-Presse (China Daily)
Chinese celebrities, including Huo Siyan (left) and Lin Peng (center), at an event on Thursday during Paris Fashion Week. [Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images]
Chinese stars dot the front rows, a new designer from the country joins the runway calendar and its retailers scout the city for talent: China's love affair with style is on full display at Paris Fashion Week, an event held twice a year in the French capital.
Outside the Rodin Museum on Friday, paparazzi gathered together following a show presented by the high-fashion company Christian Dior SA. They pored over a company release, matching names to the faces of the Chinese celebrities they had just photographed.
Although little known in Paris, these young women - the actresses Huo Siyan, Li Xiaolu and Lin Peng - were clearly the stars of the day.
Their presence was an indication that the high-end fashion industry is increasingly turning toward China, which is home to more billionaires than anywhere except the United States.
According to the consulting company McKinsey & Co, the value of the country's luxury market is forecast to increase to $27 billion by 2015 - one-fifth of the world total - up from $10 billion in 2009.
"It is a country that is passionate about fashion, like all emerging (economies) where appearance is of the utmost importance," Didier Grumbach, head of France's fashion federation, said at a "China in Paris" cocktail party last week.
"Ten years ago we didn't have any Chinese citizens in our industry," Grumbach said at the gathering as he introduced some of those who are working to develop the fashion business in China.
One of them is William Zhao, chairman of the COPAIS industrial group, which is setting up a chain of designer stores in China.
Zhao said he is looking in Paris for designers that are not as well known as the five European brands - Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Armani - that now hold leading positions in the Chinese marketplace, according to the consulting company Bain and Co.
"I think it is just the beginning for the luxury industry in China," Zhao said. "We are targeting the richest 10 percent of the population, and these people want novelty."
China, meanwhile, has become more eager to be conspicuous in the design world.
"China doesn't have the equivalent of Japan's Yohji Yamamoto or Issey Miyake," Grumbach explained. "They want to promote the work of designers who could be built up into national brands."
For the past four seasons, fashion consultant Christine Zhao has used the "China in Paris" initiative as an opportunity to fly Chinese designers into the world fashion capital.
Three of the designers so far are working in Paris showrooms, she said, noting she believes that "for social and economic reasons, people are paying a lot more attention to fashions coming out of China".
Designer Masha Ma, who trained at Central Saint Martins school of fashion and showed her work at three seasons of London Fashion Week, was invited to take part in Paris Fashion Week and hold a show in the city on Wednesday.
"I'd like to contribute to changing the notion of low-grade 'Made in China' products," she said. "I think it's an approachable goal."