The Fashion Brands That Appeal Most to the Chinese Consumer – WWD

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The Fashion Brands That Appeal Most to the Chinese Consumer – WWD

Has the fashion industry reached an inflection point? In its most recent 2022 Fashion IP 100 ranking and 2022 Global Fashion IP White Paper, researchers from the Fashion Exchange have revealed a monumental shift in the mindset of the Chinese consumer. The white paper also offers perspectives about the growth, importance and impact of fashion brand collaborations.

The 2022 Fashion IP 100 ranking, in its fourth year and done in partnership with CBNData, shows a reshuffling of the top brands while the whopping 43-page white paper, titled “Old World and New World: China’s Fashion Consumption in 2022,” presents deep insights into what’s driving brands and market growth in China. The white paper is a must-read for anyone looking to do business in China.

But first, this year’s top 10 brands.

Coming in at number one was Fear of God, which was the dark horse at second place in the 2021 list. Coming in second this year was Fear of God’s diffusion line, Essentials. Researchers at the Fashion Exchange said this is “the first time that two of the top three Fashion IPs come from the same founder over the past four years since the list’s launch.”

[CLICK HERE to download “Old World and New World: China’s Fashion Consumption in 2022”]

Liu Wen’s namesake brand grabbed the number three position, and was followed by another Chinese brand, Shawn Yue’s Madness. Rihanna’s Fenty was fifth, and was followed by Issey Miyake, Justin Bieber’s Drew House, Thom Browne, Bai Jingting’s Goodbai, and Alexander Wang at number 10. Rihanna’s Fenty, Issey Miyake, Justin Bieber’s Drew House, Bai Jingting’s Goodbai and Alexander Wang all made their debut in this year’s top 10.

The Fashion IP 100 ranking list includes four categories of Fashion IPs: designers/designer brands, artists, celebrities, and influencers. In an analysis of the results, the Fashion Exchange noted that post-2010 brands “are booming, while old streetwear brands are losing traction. On the overall list, 25 designer brand Fashion IPs were founded after 2010, three of which have been on the list for four consecutive years; 13 were founded after 2015, up over 100 percent year-on-year.” The results show that while legacy brands remain well-positioned, consumers are seeking out newer ones in the market.

Other highlights gleaned from the rankings is that the list is dominated by brands from North America, Europe and Asia. However, the research showed that North America’s proportion dropped sharply while Asia shows robust growth. “Since the list’s debut in 2019, the proportion of Fashion IPs in North America has shown a year-by-year steep decline while that of Europe has fluctuated,” the report stated. “In contrast, Asia’s share has consistently grown and surpassed North America for the first time in 2022, becoming the region with the most Fashion IPs on the list. Notably, [the] Top 20 saw more Fashion IPs from Asia than North America for the first time, at 10 and 8 respectively, leaving only 2 seats from Europe.”

Within Asia, the number of Fashion IPs from China jumped 100 percent. And China, for the first time, overtook Japan.

Regarding the methodology, the 2022 Fashion IP 100 is ranked on the basis of an FX Index data evaluation system, which includes online consumption data of Alibaba platforms. “By taking into account CBNData’s consumption influence data, popularity on top 3 social media platforms (Weibo, Xiaohongshu and Tik Tok), and Baidu Index, nearly 400 Fashion IPs across the globe were quantitatively evaluated,” authors of the report stated. “The final result identified 100 IPs with top overall performances in the Chinese market in 2022.”

To put this year’s results into context, Paul Fang, founder and CEO of Suntchi, said over the past three years, “a devastating pandemic swept across the globe, accompanied by frequent black swan events. This has led to an upheaval of the world, rendering it unrecognizable to our familiar one. The year 2022 may be a turning point of China’s consumption landscape. With the release of the annual Fashion IP 100 list and Global Fashion IP White Paper, we aim to provide valuable insights and food for thought for industry insiders in the face of the rapidly changing Chinese consumer market.”

Fang and his team described 2022 as being marked by a more “complex and unstable market situation globally as a result of the rise of anti-globalization, sustained inflationary pressures, the European energy crisis, superpower games and regional conflicts.” The authors of the report noted that in the wake of the economic downturn and an array of unexpected events, “brands, corporate decision makers and practitioners around the world have become more conservative, cautious, and even confused.”

As a result, this year might be a crucial one for the industry to break away from the “old world” and seek new frontiers, the report concluded.

In addition to the ranking and data analysis, the white paper also includes profiles of the top brands as well as a “2023 Ten to Watch.” The white paper also showcases an analysis of fashion brand collaborations.

The Fashion Exchange found there were more than 1,620 collaborations worldwide that grabbed the attention of Chinese markets and the media — spanning more than 10 industries. “Using campaign influence and representativeness as selection criteria, 43 cases were chosen over four quarters to examine outstanding practices in product creativity, value creation, customer experience, promotion and communication, campaign results, and emotional resonance,” the report’s authors said. “Ultimately, the study identified 10 exemplary global collaborations from 2022 to share with readers.”

These notable collaborations included Aimé Leon Dore x New Balance, Kaws x North Face, Gucci x Palace and Rick Owens x Aēsop, among others. One key question raised by the report is around the role of collaborations in attracting new customers and staying competitive — especially as the industry seeks a new direction.

“I believe that the most valuable and attractive aspect of high-quality collaborations and brand partnerships lies in the opportunity to engage in professional exchange and intellectual collision with exceptional Fashion IPs from different fields,” Fang said. “This intellectual stimulation and crossing of industry perspectives enables business leaders and decision-makers to break out of information silos and self-imposed limits, constantly broaden their horizons and enhance their cognitive capabilities.”

[CLICK HERE to download “Old World and New World: China’s Fashion Consumption in 2022”]

Exclusive: Executive Q&A Paul Fang

WWD: What was most surprising about this year’s Fashion IP 100? What were the key takeaways? We are interested in knowing the reasons why Fashion Exchange has been releasing the annual list and white paper since 2019 and the core values it holds for global designers, artists and other Fashion IPs.

P.F.: The biggest change and surprise on this year’s list came from the major reshuffle in the top 10 of the overall ranking. A total of five Fashion IPs made their debut in the top 10 in 2022, and the top three spots changed hands this year. Meanwhile, Fashion IPs from Asia, especially China, show robust growth and performed better than in the previous three years. As the saying goes, flowers don’t bloom every day, which directly reflects the changes in the times and the demands of Chinese consumers.

China is the world’s largest fashion consumer market, with a large population and developed social media. However, many excellent designers and other Fashion IPs are not well-known or familiar to the market. Therefore, we have expanded the selection scope to a global dimension. The reason why Fashion Exchange insists on releasing the annual list and the white paper is twofold. On the one hand, it can serve as an indicator of global Fashion IPs influence in the Chinese market, and help them understand the degree of Chinese consumers demand for them. On the other hand, we also hope to introduce more global Fashion IPs with different positioning and styles to more Chinese consumers, enterprises and brands.

WWD: We have noticed that some famous Fashion IPs have not made it to the list, which might differ from the general perception. What are the reasons behind this?

P.F.: First, in 2017, when the “Fashion IP” concept was first introduced by Fashion Exchange, a definition was provided. We define designers/designer brands, artists, celebrities and influencers as Fashion IPs. To be specific, luxury or fast fashion brands and commercial brands are not included in the list. And for artists, celebrities and influencers in our list, they will need to have certain popularity, but also need to have been in the leading position of a brand or show independent design ability by having led the development of a product collection.

Secondly, the FX Index of the list is comprehensively calculated from three dimensions: consumption influence, local search engine popularity, and social media popularity which includes Weibo, Xiaohongshu and TikTok. This means that if a Fashion IP fails to optimize local search engines’ SEO, and operate social media channels, or establish online stores such as Tmall and WeChat Mini Program, or offline sales channels such as shopping malls, it may become a key factor affecting its comprehensive value performance in the list.

We have also seen many Fashion IPs with low overall scores because they failed to operate social media channels effectively or failed to establish official stores on e-commerce platforms, which is a pity.

WWD: With streetwear in particular, do you see that segment as simply maturing? It’s still a strong segment of the market, or is it losing its traction in China?

P.F.: Streetwear has been popular in China for about seven to eight years now, and it has become very common in the daily outfit of many young people in China. While it may be too early to determine if this trend is still strong or on the decline, what is certain is that this trend is changing, as Chinese consumers are beginning to seek streetwear that is more creative and design-oriented, rather than just a logo T-shirt. They crave more creativity and experience in terms of fabrics, craftsmanship and cultural narrative from streetwear.

WWD: We have noticed that Fashion Exchange has been seeking out designers and brands from different countries around the world, and engaging in and managing cross-industry fashion collaborations and partnerships. Could you share more about this business segment, and what specific significance does it have for designers, artists and other Fashion IPs?

P.F.: In 2017, we noticed that besides luxury, fast fashion and commercial brands, people were not familiar enough with many designer brands with outstanding design, creativity and imagination. If we could help these designer brands matching and collaborating with brands which share similar brand positioning and target consumers, especially those with a strong influence in the Chinese market, it would be a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Over the past few years, we have worked with many designer brands from the U.S., Europe and Japan in collaborating with Fortune 500 companies and leading Chinese enterprises in various industries such as fashion, sports, 3C, food and beverages, etc. Under our strict management system, these collaborations have achieved significant market buzz and sales performance for both parties, while expanding their target audience.

Currently, Fashion Exchange holds a leading position in this niche market segment in China. In the complex and vast Chinese consumer market, high-quality collaborations not only enhance brand awareness and attract new customers for both parties, but also provide surprising and desirable products and related consumer experiences for consumers in different subcultures.

WWD: What should brands and designers consider as they look to enter or expand in China?

P.F.: After three years of the pandemic, I believe it has brought significant changes to any country, including China. With its vast territory, China has four to five different levels of consumer markets, each corresponding to different levels of purchasing power. As a result, the consumer market in China is particularly complex. After experiencing the special period, consumer psychology and expectations have changed into a diversified trend. Therefore, it is necessary for global brands and designers to re-examine the Chinese market, not to view it with the same mindset during China’s high-speed growth period.

To find a “new map,” it is necessary to see the multipolarization trend of Chinese consumers and segment the market accordingly, in order to provide good products, create a good consumer experience, and develop creative interactive activities. Today’s Chinese consumers are not only savvy shoppers but also want to be lifestyle experience seekers and brand participants.

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