August 25, 2010

China's Burgeoning Fashion Scene

"Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world." -Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon was way ahead of his time when he stated this quote some 200 years ago as it is slowly unraveling into a reality today. Having recently passed Japan as the second largest economy in the world, China introduces itself to the world as a new economic superpower. And although the country is still far from developed, experts say that China will pass the United States as the world's biggest economy as early as 2030. 

So as more Chinese are becoming millionaires, it is only natural that there is a fast-growing demand for luxury goods and upscale fashion. And because so many Chinese went from nothing to everything, most of the wealthy are all about showing off their riches and dressing in garish head-to-toe designer looks. As
Wang Deyuan, the owner of one of the top ad agencies in southern China shares with Times, "You have to show you have money, otherwise no one believes that you're rich." 

So it is no wonder that the more discrete, sans-logo luxury items are not appealing to the Chinese market. A Louis Vuitton worker reports that the new epi leather collection lacking any obvious LV logos was not a popular purchase for the Chinese. Though these pieces all cost more than 10,000 yuan (US $1,476) and therefore considered high-end, the most popular items were rather the older designs that had a prominent LV logo. A Clerk at the Gucci store at Shanghai Times Square also explained that the "Techno Horsebit" series, which doesn't have any obvious logos, hasn't had many buyers either.

Clearly, the meaning of understated elegance has not yet infiltrated the wealthy Chinese market, leaving major fashion brands having to decide if they need to create different collections for the Chinese market, as it is apparent that most Chinese shoppers do not have the same mentality as the European or the North American.

 However, we can expect that in the next several years, there will be a growing number of the upper class that will mature in their taste level and opt for a more sophisticated, refined sense of style. And we see this already in a small, but growing number of young, fashion-forward Chinese men and women creating the future of Chinese fashion whether it is through their own clothing line, a fashion blog, or street style photography. And while we are aware that this is still a very small percentage of China, we can expect that this subculture will only expand as China continues to rise in economic wealth.

So who are these Chinese bloggers and fashion designers? Take a look of our favorite picks of established and rising talents of China today. 

photo via: Stylites

Stylites, a two year old blog by Nels Frye, is a source of information for readers across the globe on the current style and pop culture trends of China. Frye's photos have appeared in Chinese Vogue, Grazia, Beijing Walk, The Beijinger, and several other publications. He likes to describe his blog as "a document of what Beijing pedestrians wear, think, and do."

photo via: I Am Small Fry

With over 10,000 hits per post, Sammy of I Am Small Fry is one of the most popular posters on Wodeyichu, a fashion community site where young Chinese women can share their personal style and wardrobe. Her broad collection ranging everywhere from Comme des Garcon, Alaia, to vintage Celine makes her a top fashionista in the Chinese fashion blog scene.

Fossilized Seed by Erica Ji is another popular blog with an interesting feature of introducing local Chinese designers and is therefore valuable in helping domestic designers build recognition in their homeland as well as overseas. She also highlights global fashion trends and uploads her personal style for her readers.

Although European brands dominate the high fashion scene in China, there is a growing number of domestic brands names fighting to gain visibility both in their homeland as well as in the international community. While the first China Fashion Week held last fall of 2009 was not so well received in the fashion world, here are a few creative talents we spotted that have a lot of potential.

Shoes by Guo Pei, Photo via: Trend de la Creme

An acknowledged leader of haute couture in China, Guo Pei is a designer for the country's top celebrities and upper class. Her Beijing-based store, Rose Studio, opened in 1997; and since then, it boasts more than 1,000 regular customers who buy up to 30 to 40 dresses a year.

photo via: White Collar

As a pure local brand of Beijing, WHITE-COLLAR has been in the business for 12 years and is one of China's most successful domestic fashion brands, with increased profits every year. Rather than focusing so much on profit-making, Zhenyu Dong, the General Manager of WHITE-COLLAR, works on building customer loyalty, brand identity, and aiming toward building Beijing into one of the world's fashion capitals. WHITE-COLLAR was also chosen to close China's first ever Fashion Week held last November 2009.

photos via: Yatzer

Li Xiaofeng is a Beijing artist who creates sculptural clothing pieces made from traditional Chinese ceramics. His most recent collaboration is with Lacoste, featuring a limited edition polo shirt that features a fractured digital print of photographed porcelain shards. 

photo via: Not Just A Label

Famed for her innovative performance at the annual graduate CSM exhibition show showcasing white garments that illuminate in the dark, Vega Zaishi Wang, a recent graduate of Central Saint Martins, opened her first store in Jianwai Soho last week. Integrating technology into her designs, Ms. Wang brings an innovative sense of style to the Chinese fashion scene.

Whether or not Beijing or Shanghai will become one of fashion's capital, we are excited to witness the burgeoning fashion scene in a country with such rapid change and growth. Though this is all we have for you today, we will be keeping our eyes open with what's going on in the other side of the globe, and you can expect to see another update on the latest Chinese fashion news soon.

August 18, 2010

August MBF Favorite Picks

With all that's going around in the world, and not to mention in such accelerating speed, we decided to dedicate this month's favorite picks on all things educational. From the details of Fashion's Night Out to research in cellular technology, we cover a broad range of subjects. So come take a look, be informed, and share your thoughts!

It's World Tap Water Week. And to kick it off, Do The Green Thing presents "the best, the worst, the silliest, the strangest and the downright amazing things about the wonderful world of tap." Check out their website for more. 

via: Newsweek

If you were born today, which country would provide you the very best opportunity to live a healthy, safe, reasonably prosperous, and upwardly mobile life? Considering the aspects of education, health, quality of life, economic competitiveness, and political environment, Newsweek releases a special survey of the top 100 best countries to live in right now.

The Story of Cosmetics examines the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in our everyday personal care products, from lipstick to baby shampoo. Produced by Free Range Studios and hosted by Annie Leonard, the seven-minute film reveals the implications for consumer and worker health and the environment, and outlines ways we can move the industry away from hazardous chemicals and towards safer alternatives. The film concludes with a call for viewers to support legislation aimed at ensuring the safety of cosmetics and personal care products. (Find out more here.)

Fashion's Night Out is less than a month away and their newly updated website has been revamped with details of every event so you can start planning your evening now!

"Full Signal talks to scientists around the world who are researching the health effects related to cellular technology; to veteran journalists who have called attention to the issue for decades; to activists who are fighting to regulate the placement of antennas; and to lawyers and law makers who represent the people wanting those antennas regulated."(Read more here)

Above: Mindmeister offers visual representations of concepts and how they relate. An effective way to organize the results of a brainstorming session, Mindmeister gives your team a tool for sketching and sharing their ideas and plans. (via: Information Week)

With now hundreds of apps available for our disposal, it's not always easy trying to figure out what apps we actually need and can live without. Information Week breaks it down for us and picks 15 of the best Google apps for businesses. From project planning to invoicing, take a look and maybe one of these can help your everyday tasks run a little bit smoother.

photo via: NY Times

And for all you iPhone users, take a look at Shopkick -- the first mobile app that gives you rewards and offers simply for walking into stores. It currently works with Best Buy, Macy's, American Eagle, Sports Authority and major malls in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and some stores in Miami, Dallas, and Minneapolis. The download was finally released this Tuesday so go check it out!

photo via: Slashfood

For all you New Yorkers out there, you may have noticed the bright blue letter grades A, B, or C popping up in a few restaurant windows. The grading system is the latest health initiative by Mr. Bloomberg and based on an evaluation of cleanliness and food safety practices. The Health Department conducts unannounced inspections of restaurants at least once a year. For more about how they score a grade and to see the results for each of the 24,000 restaurants, visit the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene homepage.

photo via: Care

Pakistan is experiencing the worst flooding in recorded history with more than 1,400 people feared dead and 5 million homeless. Help is urgently needed. We would like to end today's picks with a short compilation of organizations that provide direct assistance to those in Pakistan.
  • UNICEF United States Fund has distribution of clean water as their top priority, as the water supply for hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis has been polluted. 
  • CARE USA is responding to the disaster by providing tents and other emergency supplies to displaced families. The organization is also supporting several mobile health clinics treating the sick and wounded in flooded communities.
  • UK-based nonprofit Concern Worldwide is providing food rations, clean water, and hygiene kits.
  • Oxfam is working to bring water, sanitation, and hygiene projects to devastated communities in northwest Pakistan.
  • Save the Children is providing plastic sheets, hygiene kits and other supplies to children and families in flooded regions.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can help, the Huffington Post has an extensive list of ways to support Pakistani families affected by the floods. 

August 12, 2010

Overcoming Obstacles Through Creative Strategies

To some, the recession may be a distant memory of the past, but to most retailers, the effects of it's sting remains painfully present. As unemployment is still high, house values are low, and banks continue to be less reluctant to lend to consumers, the majority of people are shopping with caution.

And while many retailers in return have slashed their prices for the bargain hungry, a few have risen above the norm and put their creativity at the forefront of their business strategies to bring back their business. Today we highlight three brands that have taken an unordinary approach in response to today's market and show that you don't always need to resort to lower prices in order to stay afloat.

image via: NY Times
1. Luxottica 
The $6.6 billion Italian-based eyewear company with retail outlets including Sunglass Hut and LensCrafters experiments with a concept store that makes eyewear shopping a full on event. Their first store Eye Hub opened three weeks ago in Hawthorne, Australia with hopes of building ten to fifteen more in the United States, China, and Britain, over the next three years.

Costing two to three times as much as a regular LensCrafters store in the US, the Eye Hub functions beyond a traditional retail store and is more like a live research and development lab. Customers are first greeted by the concierge who then gives a short lesson about the store from a Web home page. From there, they are asked how they would like to interact with the store. From the initial entrance at the store to the final purchase, everything is all about having a personal experience.

image via: NY Times

For those who are looking for sporty eyewear, there are wind machines, treadmills, and machines that stimulate glare on snow or water so customers can actually test out the products in specific conditions. There are also 41 touch screens that function as both mirrors and cameras so people can not only just see how they look in photos, but also send them out to Facebook or other websites to ask for a friend's advice before making the final purchase.

Similar to the Apple stores, the Eye Hub has something like the Genius Bar where a section is designated as a center for eye problems and prescriptions. There are also salespeople walking around the store who can make your final transactions so you don't necessarily need to wait in line at a cash register to make a purchase.

Experimenting with new ideas during today's economic state is rare, making Luxottica stand out against the crowd. But will this new shop encourage customers to buy a product and not just visit for the experience? Only time will tell. (source: NY Times)

photo via: Financial Times

2. Hermès
Famed for its Kelly and Birkin bags, the Hermès brand takes an unusual move with a launch of a new brand in China in September. Shang Xia, translated as "up and down" in English, would remain completely separate from the main Hermès line and would be branded as completely Chinese.
Florian Craen, the Hermès managing director in North Asia, describes, "it is developed in China with the Chinese team, based on Chinese craftsmanship and broadly made in China."

This is an interesting approach to getting into the Chinese market. According to Shaun Rein of China Market Research group in Shanghai, most Chinese consumers do not want made-for-China products. Studies have shown that shoes, handbags, and jewellery that are of foreign design sell much better than local market products. Perhaps for these reasons, Shang Xia will start by selling home products such as tableware and furniture with a traditional Chinese theme. Whether or not they will expand to fashion remains unknown. The growth of the company will be determined by how it sells in the market. (source:

3. Nike+
With the technological innovations of today, many brands have began interacting more with the web to promote new marketing campaigns and advertisements. Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media have been the biggest influencers of change for brands today. However, Nike has taken this idea to a whole new level with Nike+, integrating digital technology into their actual products. Nike+ uses digital sensors integrated into running shoes to measure, analyze, and share performance data. It also has a program for iPods made especially for runners who like to listen to music during their workout. Since its launch, it has sold 2.5 million Nike+ kits. Not only has this been a financial asset to Nike, but has created a deeper relationship between its brand and their consumers.

video via: YouTube

More recently, at the start of the last World Cup, Nike also launched a new football boot called the Mercurial Vapor SuperFly II. It came with an access code for Nike Soccer+, a digital coaching program available via web or any smart phone. Players can log in and watch instructions given by world-class players and coaches. As the Nike Soccer general manager states, "you are not just buying a boot, you are buying a total game improvement package." Nike represents the new, modern product of today. The brand is no longer just about the product, but the total experience, and incorporating the experience into a wider community. Nike is already way ahead of the game and their success is a lesson for all brands seeking ways to adapt to the changing times. (source: Business of Fashion)

August 2, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Berlin's Premium and The Key.To

Here at MBF Trend Consulting, one of our hopes is to be more transparent about the fashion industry and let you in on all the inside scoops. So with that said, last week, Manuela Fassbender, the Creative Director and Founding Partner of MBF Trend Consulting, flew to Berlin to check out the latest fashions showcasing at Premium and The Key.To. With a film crew on board, we want to share with you what's next in the industry, particularly in the eco-fashion movement. With exclusive interviews from the show organizers and presenters, this clip is something you don't want to miss! Check it out and let us know your thoughts!

Part 1

Part 2
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