Timed to coincide with China Fashion Week, The China International Clothing and Accessories Fair (CHIC) was held this past week at the massive New China International Exhibition Center on the outskirts of Beijing. Established in 1993 and sponsored by the China National Garment Association and The China World Trade Center Company (who also own malls in Beijing) CHIC is the biggest clothing trade fair in Asia, attracting over 650 exhibitors and over 100,000 visitors each year. The exhibition is divided into different categories including: men’s wear, women’s wear, casual wear, kids’ wear, leather/fur, and an overseas pavilion etc.
CHIC is heavily targeted to Chinese brands and the atmosphere always boarders on pandemonium as hall after hall of apparel brands vie to wow and dazzle with their intricate display booths, models and (all to often) blaring music. Of the Chinese brands present, none would be recognizable overseas and many have origins in Chinese 2nd or 3rd tier cities where a clothing manufacturer or factory owner has decided to launch their own fashion brand. Some foreign brands under licensing agreements such as Ed Hardy and Disney were evident at the show, as was the all too obvious IP infringements and almost complete copying of some international brands designs, logos and marketing style (albeit under a different Chinese brand name).
Attendees at CHIC come from a wide range of industries and may include manufacturers, suppliers, interior decorators or just normal Chinese looking for a day’s entertainment and interesting photo opportunities. Most important for foreign brands wishing to enter China is the chance to meet with Chinese distributers, however qualifying potential distributers can be a real challenge. In China fashion brand distributers can be a mixed bunch and have a multitude of backgrounds. Its not uncommon for a rich business man who owns a coal mine or factory in a third tier city to buy an international brand’s distribution rights in China so that his mistress has something to keep herself busy with.
For foreign brands looking to enter China CHIC may provide a cost effective platform. The big foreign pavilions at this years CHIC included South Korea, Italy and France who’s pavilions were organized through their national trade departments and featured small booths for brands from varying fashion market segments. Meanwhile the Japanese pavilion seems to get smaller every year. In an interesting move American brands attending CHIC this year did so through ENK International (one of the largest fashion trade fairs in the USA) , who had a contingent of 11 brands.
The Maosuit has been attending CHIC for the last five years and although the event is still not too user friendly (lack of reasonable eating facilities, traffic problems, and almost too big for its own good) each year it is improving and becoming more ‘international’. CHIC’s size and prominence in China as well as its ability to partner with foreign trade departments will likely see it grow into a important event for international fashion retailers seeking a first step into China through Chinese partners.