US Fashion Trade Shows and China
Last week Maosuit was fortunate enough to attend the Magic/Project (fashion) trade shows in Las Vegas. What is collectively known as Magic is actually no less than eight fashion trade shows spread across different product categories including shoes, street wear, high-end denim and other designer labels etc., making it the largest fashion trade fair in the USA. Magic is held across multiple venues and centered around the Mandalay Bay Hotel where their massive convention center and casino/hotel is overrun by fashion industry people for four days of meeting, seminars and of course parties.
As usual, Maosuit was on the look out for links between the China and US fashion worlds. Apart from the Sourcing section of the trade show which featured multiple manufactures from China the first thing I noticed was a real lack of Chinese visiting the show. This is largely in part due to the non-existence of fashion buyers in China as highlighted in this previous post Buy or Die, The Future Of Chinese Department Stores. In comparison there were a lot of Japanese at the show proving that Magic is known in Asia and can draw sophisticated international clientele.
After speaking with organizers it also became apparent that visa restrictions on Chinese nationals entering the USA are very prohibitive. In Beijing it takes up to three months wait for a Chinese to secure the mandatory US embassy visa application interview in order to travel to the USA. Planning an international trip three months in advance is too impractical for most people working in any industry and so why would you bother? With the US economy in dire straights right now, I would have thought the US Commerce Department would be doing more to facilitate business and fashion exports to China for US brands.
During Magic, the China Chamber of Commerce organized a seminar titled: The Fast Changing Chinese Apparel Market. The seminar featured three speakers who unfortunately (in my opinion) all missed the mark on what the audience had hoped to gain from the seminar. The speakers tended to focus on China’s growing economy and showed lots of graphs and statistics to prove the booming fashion market in China. Telling this to a room of fashion industry executives was a moot point. Anyone worth their salt in the fashion industry already knows that China is where the action is right now and they would love to get their brand into China. What they don’t know is how to do it! Therefore, I believe the seminar should have focused on market entry strategies and ways to get started in China including such simple things as how to set up a business entity, how to find a partner/distributer and how to navigate logistics, customs and luxury goods duties etc in China. I covered this exact topic in a recent article published on The Business of Fashion website – How Can Emerging Fashion Brands Get a Leg Up in Chinese Retail.
In speaking with fashion brands about China during my three days at Magic it was apparent that there is massive interest in China. However, for the brands that don’t have large international businesses, (even though they are multi million dollar business in the US), how to do business in China remains a mystery. I feel it will still take several years until you start to see large amounts of Chinese buyers and select shops visiting trade shows like Magic and Project to bring the brands into China. What this means for US brands wanting to enter China is that they will have to be pro-active and get things started on their own by visiting China and self educating, a process that will take time and money, yet if done right can also yield a massive pay off.
Sincere thanks to Advanstar for inviting me to Las Vegas and taking great care of me.