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Dutch designers forge bonds in Shanghai


ON the occasion of the visit of Dutch fashion labels to Shanghai, the first Sino-Dutch Fashion Dialogue CROSS kicked off in the city on Tuesday. Co-organized by the Netherlands Consulate General in Shanghai, RNW Media and Donghua University, CROSS helped the best of Dutch and Chinese fashion form ties through engaging dialogues.

“Since I have been in China, I noticed that throughout China there is a noticeable shift to the creative sector,” said Anneke Adema, Consul General of the Netherlands in Shanghai. “I hope this dialogue will make more people familiar with Dutch fashion: sustainable, comfortable, innovative in crossing borders and with a twist. And I hope it will also help in creating sustainable ties between Shanghainese and Dutch creative minds.”

Adema said that the consulate sees many opportunities for Dutch fashion brands and has decided to organize an event at Donghua University to explore options for the fashion industry.

“I hope this seminar, and the presence of the Dutch companies of the mission at CHIC fair this week, will make more and more people familiar with Dutch fashion,” she said.

Representatives of fashion brands and legal experts gave speeches and panel discussions featured experts from both China and the Netherlands.

“Designer brands are a relatively new concept for the Chinese market despite the fact that the country is very mature in clothes manufacturing,” said Wen Chen, winner of the 2015 China Fashion Designer Top Award, the Golden Thimble.

The Dutch fashion delegation included representatives of 20 renowned Dutch brands such as technology-pioneering luxury bags and accessories brand Carat23, fashion label MAYN founded by award-winning designer Maja Prodrug and Jow Junior, a children clothing brand. Dutch designers gave their insights about the fashion industry at the seminar, and some shared the same opinion that typical characteristics of Dutch fashion can be described as comfortable, innovative and with a twist. Furthermore, Dutch fashion labels give high importance to sustainability.

“People might ask why Dutch design is strong while Netherlands is just a small country,” said Esther Megens, designer of Dutch brand Astor Fashion. “The fashion departments in the Dutch design academies train well-educated and forward-thinking young conceptualists. The Netherlands is becoming an international stage for the fashion industry, with good initiatives and facilities.”

When it comes to fashion, architecture and daily appliances, Dutch design has been popular in China. The seminar and the CHIC fair are taking place in a season when Dutch elements are well promoted in the city — the annual tulip festival with 2.1 million individual plants is under way at Daning Lingshi Park in Jing’an District.

“The creative industry makes lives better and economies stronger, and is the stream engine of the 21st century,” the Netherlands’ King Willem-Alexander said at the sixth Asia Europe Meeting in 2014, underlining the crucial role of the creative industry.

In 2015, revenues of China’s fashion market hit 113 billion yuan (US$17.47 billion). A passion for high-quality fashion products has changed the rules of the game in China’s fashion market as customers now have an increased demand for innovation and personal expression.

A growing number of international brands have chosen to develop offline and online retail markets alongside each other. Renowned Dutch fashion brand C&A has opened its online store on Tmall.com and will open 100 physical retail stores in 25 big cities in China by 2017.

China’s growing fashion market is incubating more possibilities. Andrea Fenn, founder of Fireworks, provides marketing services for foreign brands in China, says that a brand needs to choose appropriate channels as well as a suitable approach to reach consumers.

“With the rise of the Chinese middle class, these consumers are adept at using social media and other various online platforms,” Fenn said, suggesting that foreign brands can make use of their consumption habits to build a better sales model, whether online or offline. Localization is very important for a brand to enter a foreign market, she said.

The seminar was held at Donghua University. The multi-disciplinary university offers majors in Fashion Design, Textile Engineering and Material Science.